Deperately Seeking, Shoes?

Surely anyone who has seen the 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan remembers the jacket. After all it did pretty much hold the “key” to the entire movie. But don’t forget it was Susan herself that decided the boots were indeed worth trading the jacket for.

Madonna Boot
“The Boot” – Available exclusively at Bakers Shoes.

By the time the movie was released the Madonna craze had already begun and thankfully for us pieces could be found in the local shopping malls. Frederick’s of Hollywood was seeing an increase in the sales of the Merry Widow, the longline bra that Madonna frequently wore. Baker/Leeds, a leading shoe store popular with high school and college aged shoppers, was also able to jump in on the trend by introducing “The Boot”. Cause what else would you call it? Each store was given a limited stock of boots, and when those were gone stores were able to take individual orders. The boots were produced in Missouri so it really wouldn’t take too long before your order was ready. But for some teens that was not satisfactory. Just like Susan they wanted their boots now.

madonna seeking susan
“Susan” is desperate for these boots.

Surprisingly to this day it seems the poor boot is the least sought after. It might cost you several hundreds of dollars to get your hands on The Boot originally sold at Bakers/Leeds, but it will cost you thousands to get one of the promo jackets briefly sold through MTV. Julien’s Auctions has auctioned off a movie worn jacket for over $250,000, and even one of the earrings was able to fetch $12,500. Yet when one half of the original movie worn boots went under the hammer, the right one, the left was donated to Hard Rock Cafe, it sold for just over $5,000. The (original) Boot deserves a little more than that if you ask me.

The Halle Brothers – Belden Village Mall

In 1970, after a hiatus of nearly 15 years, the Halle Brothers decided to return to the Canton, Ohio market in grand fashion, with an anchor store at the brand new Belden Village Mall. After over a year of extensive market research the Halle Brothers would determine that the Stark County area was already being more than adequately served by a number existing of full-line department stores. They needed a plan. Something different.

Halle Brothers Belden Village
Exterior entrance to Halle’s at Belden Village Mall from the company’s 1970 annual report.

So the Halle Brothers came up with “The Shop Concept”. With this new concept the Halle Brother’s would buck the notion of being a traditional department store selling items such as sporting goods, camera’s and toys, and focus strictly on higher end fashions and offering only quality merchandise from select lines. In this way the Halle Brothers thought they could better serve the needs of area residents.

The Halle Brothers also realized there would be other retailers already offering similar lines of merchandise at comparable prices. They would attempt to overcome this hurdle by stressing innovation in merchandising techniques and offering high quality service.

Halle's Belden Village
Halle’s Interior entrance at Belden Village Mall Grand Opening.

Now that the company had their business model, they needed someone who could bring their innovation into reality. They brought in Rudi Baumfield of Gruen and Associates. Rudi was somewhat a legend of retail design at the time, he was the man who designed the first enclosed two level shopping mall in the United States as well as designing more than a dozen Joseph Magnin stores on the west coast.

Belden Village Canton Ohio
What’s Happening at Halle’s in Belden Village Mall.

Rudi’s plan would feature wide aisles, bright colors, and subtle lighting. There would be thick carpeting throughout the store with the exception of some small surfaces in the men’s department and at the entrances, which were covered in black tile. The various departments would be recessed from the main aisles and be decorated in their own distinct manner, giving the illusion of small shops rather than a department store.

Halle Brothers Belden Village
A showcase of the Rudi Baumfield designed store featuring the artificial skylight as a centerpiece.

The store would feature a stunning 20 X 116 foot artificial skylight in the center of the sales floor. The skylight consisted of four colors of plexiglass arranged in randomly rising and falling four-sided pyramids almost looking like an optical illusion.

Halle's Belden Village
Closeup view of the pyramid like optical illusion skylight.

In addition to being one of the most appealing retail outlets in the area, the Halle Brothers also stressed that one of the most important factors to running a successful operation was the quality of service. And they would make sure of this at their Belden Village store. Out of a near 700 applicants for jobs, they selected only the top 120.

Complaint Department – Merry Go Round

The Merry Go Round store at Rolling Acres Mall definitely had a rather long rap sheet with mall management. In this early complaint, a written warning was finally given from Vivian Poe, the Mall Manager to store employees after multiple verbal warnings were ignored about playing the music too loud.

Rolling Acres Mall Complaint
Written warning from the desk of Vivian Poe.

Through exhaustive research I was finally able to track down the image below via a Merry Go Round Alumni Facebook Group which shows two of the possible perpetrators working at the store in question. The photo was taken near the date of complaint so these two must be considered suspects.

Two Merry Go Round store employees at Rolling Acres Mall in the early 1980s showing signs of obvious guilt and remorse.

In these girls defense they were probably just doing what they were told. There have been many studies on the volumes and genres of music played to retail shoppers. Some studies say that loud music disorients customers, while others say certain types of music makes a customer spend more money. There’s even a theory about how playing music loudly keeps certain age groups out of the stores which would otherwise detract from the target customers experience, which makes perfect sense as I never noticed the loud music when I was younger, but now an older age I steer far clear of these stores.

Blueprint Archive – Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall

Today’s entry to the Blueprint Archive is this lovely sign drawing from Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall. The mall, which was developed by Jacobs, Visconsi & Jacobs would open in 1977 and the Lerner Shops would follow suit shortly after opening in 1978.

architectural drawing euclid square mall
1978 sign drawing for Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall

In the 1970s Lerner Shops had already established themselves as a major player amongst women’s fashion retailers. At one point they were even America’s largest chain of fashion specialists. Held in high regard amongst multiple generations of shoppers, Lerner Shops would offer all of the newest styles to complement any occasions, from¬† daytime versatile to nighttime alluring, customers knew they could find the look they were after at Lerner.

Lerner Storefront
Though not the Euclid Square store, This image from a 70s Rapid-American Corporation (majority owner of Lerner Shops) annual report shows what the finished storefront may have looked like.

The Euclid Square Mall store would eventually move from space B-252 to the A-156 location where it would remain until closing in the early 2000s.

After its days as a Lerner, the store A-156 would go on to become the Euclid Beach Boys Event Center and Museum which featured memorabilia from local amusement parks Euclid Beach, Geauga Lake, and Chippewa Lake.

Lerner euclid square mall
Store A-156 – Lerner at Euclid Square Mall marked for doom in its final days during the malls demolition.

Higbee’s – Randall Park Mall

In the early 1970s Edward J. DeBartolo was quickly becoming one of the biggest single developers of shopping centers in the country. Already having a strong foothold in the Northeast Ohio market owning and operating Great Lakes Mall, Summit Mall, and Richmond Mall, DeBartolo was planning for something bigger for the area. Something like maybe the biggest shopping mall that anyone had ever seen.

Ed Debartolo Sr.
The king of shopping centers, Edward J. Debartolo and son Eddie more than likely scheming on where to build the next mall.

So in 1973 construction began on Randall Park Mall in North Randall Ohio. The mall would be a massive 2,200,000 square feet and its size would unseat A. Alfred Taubman of the Taubman Company as the “Builder of the World’s Largest Shopping Center” and cement Mr. DeBartolo’s legacy as the true king of mall developers.

Higbee's Randall Park Mall Under Construction
This 1974 image from Higbee’s Annual Report shows the interior construction of Randall Park Mall from the viewpoint of the Higbee’s store entrance.

A shopping center of such grandeur would of course need some pretty remarkable anchor stores, and where better to start than with a Cleveland local, The Higbee Company. Higbee’s, already having been in the business 116 years, had truly blossomed into the area leader in full service department stores when they opened their ninth store at Randall Park in 1976.

Higbee's Randall Adventure Game
Higbee’s Randall Adventure Game featuring the many departments of the store from the Cleveland Plain Dealer Special Randall Park Mall Grand Opening section.

With the Randall Park location, the Higbee Company would look to open their fanciest store yet. A two level store of 195,000 square feet. The upper level of the store would house a complete fashion center for the entire family with departments such as The Signature Shop for men, a complete Designer Shop for women featuring many of the top brands, a Pro Shop for sports clothing, and of course the Junior Area and Student Shop for the kids.

Make a name for yourself in the Higbee’s Signature Shop for Men.
Higbee's Footwear department
Fancy footwear for the ladies from all the best brands.

On the lower level of the store you could find additional departments such as Housewares, Gifts and Gourmets, Books, Toys, and Form & Function, an all new contemporary furniture and home accessory shop which borrowed strongly from the highly successful Higbee’s Westgate Home Center.

Gifts at Higbee's Randall Park Mall
Gifts and gourmet abound on the lower level of the new Higbee’s at Randall Park Mall.

It’s easy to see how one could get caught up and make a whole day out of a trip to Higbee’s alone. There was even a restaurant, The Racing Silks Dining Room, where customers could stop and have lunch or visit The Pronto Room for a quick coffee or nibble.

Randall Park Higbees restaurant
Fine dining in The Racing Silks Restaurant at Randall Park Mall.

The Fountains of Eastwood Mall

Eastwood Mall logo
The original umbrella logo of Eastwood was meant to represent the unusual umbrella style of ceilings in the complex.

William M. Cafaro, Youngstown native and Chairman of WIlliam M. Cafaro and Associates, the firm that would develop Eastwood Mall in Niles, Ohio had already been constructing shopping centers across the United States for several years. So when it became time to bring a mall into his own backyard, he wanted something extraordinary.

main fountain at Eastwood Mall
This old Postcard depicts the main fountain with colored lighting.

And extraordinary it was. The blueprints alone for the project took ten and a half tons of paper to draw up. The transformer used to power the concourse would be the largest of its kind in the country at that time. The project would use 64,500,000 pounds of concrete, and would feature 120,000 square feet of terrazzo flooring.

Fountain Eastwood Mall Niles Ohio
Two lovely young ladies pose in front of the massive main fountain at Eastwood Mall.

But the highlight of Eastwood Mall would be its extensive fountain system. With more than 12 miles of pipe that would continuously circulate 25,000 gallons of water to the cascading fountains sprawled throughout the mall. The fountains would be considered one of the most lavish creations in the modern shopping world.

Eastwood Mall Fountain
Atlas Cement Ad from 1969, the year Eastwood Mall opened showcasing the umbrella ceilings, terrazzo floor and fountain.

The main fountain would be hailed as one of the most attractive in the nation. Powered by a 60 horsepower pump and an electronic system that would control the cycling of water jets as well as an arrangement of colored lighting to enhance ambience.

John Cafaro, Executive Vice President of William M. Cafaro and Associates would go on to say “There’s no other shopping area in Northeast Ohio or Western Pennsylvania, or any place else in the country for that matter, any more beautiful or convenient to the shopper than Eastwood Mall.”

Eastwood Mall in the 80s
The fountains were still stunning in the 1980s.

The beauty however would not last and in a 1995 remodel the fountains were completely removed and replaced with seating areas, complete with big screen televisions…

Removal of Eastwood Mall fountains
Image showing the mid 90s removal of the fountains at Eastwood Mall.

Though nowhere near as magnificent as it was 50 years ago, the mall is still owned and operated by the Cafaro Corporation and remains somewhat relevant, recently (2017) being named The Best Place in Ohio for Black Friday Shopping by USA Today.

Complaint Department – Canton Centre Mall

Once regarded as highly sensitive and top secret material, these official mall complaints are finally made public for the first time thanks to our whistleblower on the inside.

Today let’s take a look at some of these complaints straight from the files of the Canton Centre Mall Customer Service.

Canton Centre Mall Customer Service
Canton Centre Mall Customer Service Desk.

Exhibit A: Nick of Time

To insiders Alice is known as a “Buzzer Beater” aka someone who shows up at the last minute. On this particular evening in late May, Alice had to make a pickup at an unnamed Canton Centre store before 9:00 PM. Arriving at the mall at 8:50 PM she found the doors to be already locked. Thankfully there were customers leaving and Alice was able to slip in.

Conclusion: Disaster narrowly averted.

 

Exhibit B: Would You Like Fries With That?

Subject “Jamie” came to Mr. Hero on a July afternoon to order food, however the service sucked and they didn’t give her the right things. To compound issues even further, Jamie was given things that she did not want. Suggestion to hire new/smart people should be seriously considered.

Conclusion: Definite major malfunction

Canton Centre Mall Complaint

 

Exhibit C: Bad Vibes at Big Abes

Subject “Sherrie” was attempting to shop at Big Abes on the afternoon of July 13th. While in the store she was very offended by the use of profanity in the music played by the store personnel. Sherrie cited examples of the use of words such as “mother f_____, b____, pu___ and so forth”.

Conclusion: Sh__.

Greetings from Lazarus Department Store – Lima Mall

Originally built in 1965 as one of the DeBartolo Corporations smaller regional shopping centers, the Lima Mall had quickly become the areas preferred center and had already begun planning their first expansion to be opened in the fall of 1971. Included in the 262,873 square foot expansion would be the addition of 23 new stores including Foxmoor Casuals, Waldenbooks, Hickory Farms, Camelot Music, and Mary Jane Shoes just to name a few. The highlight of the expansion however would be a new anchor store, Lazarus, a Columbus based department store and a division of Federated Department Stores. This would be Federated’s sixth Lazarus branch store and second outside Franklin County (the first being at Richland Mall in Mansfield).

Exterior view of the Lima Mall Lazarus store shows the domed entrance.

Featuring three floors and totaling a whopping 165,000 square foot, the store was actually engineered accommodate for a fourth floor to eventually be added (though it never was).

The mall level of the store would house a complete fashion store featuring men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, a budget store, and a home sewing area. Children’s World, with fashion departments for infants through pre-teens would take up most of the second floor. The third floor would consist of the decorative home department, a home entertainment section, and offices. Also on the third floor located in the dome tower would be The Sky View Restaurant. With seating for 130 guests the Sky View would offer the diners a panoramic view of the countryside.

Sky View restaurant Lima Mall
Have a seat in the Sky View restaurant at the Lazarus store in Lima Mall. (Image via The Lima News Archive)

In 2003 the Lazarus store would be rebadged as a Lazarus-Macy’s and then two years later they would completely drop the Lazarus name.

In 2021 Macy’s would close up shop on the former Lazarus store ending its near 50 year run.

The Great Department Store Mini-Bike Craze

In 1959 the Michrina Brothers would deliver their first mini-bike prototypes to former Indianapolis 500 winner Troy Ruttman to sell at his car dealership. These first prototypes were known as “Lil Indians” and they would spark the craze that had little kids begging their parents for a mini-bike. Other brands would soon follow, Taco, Bonanza, Arctic Cat, and Rupp, just to name a few, and soon the major department stores would be selling their own mini bikes as well.

Montgomery Ward Mini Bikes
Advertisement showcasing the 1970 line of Montgomery Ward Mini Bikes.

Montgomery Ward’s offerings into the market included the “sassy” 323 which at only 3hp was no speed demon but certainly still looks like a lot of fun, the “lively” 424 which came with shocks and a 4hp engine, and the “swingin” 525 which packed a full 5hp, 2 speeds, and racing wheels.

Penney’s offered similar bikes, but with slightly cooler names like Big Blue, El Tigre, Swinger, and the super cool chopper inspired Duster with its high-rise handlebars and backrest.

JCPenney Mini Bike
JCPenney had a solid selection of mini bikes.

And Sears? Yeah well, Sears was Sears. Though as a kid I would have been absolutely delighted beyond belief to have woken up on Christmas to find myself a new owner of a Puncher, it’s also quite obviously the least cool of the bunch.

sears Mini Bike
The complete Sears mini-bike lineup featuring “The Puncher”.

In 1973 mini bike sales peaked at 140,000 units from over a hundred different manufacturers. There was even a new sport “Mini-Bike Soccer” which had racers from both teams merging at center field at full speed for the opening kick-off (I hope they were wearing helmets). Just a few years later in 1976 the craze was over and mini bikes fell out of favor with kids who now wanted dirt bikes. Blasphemy.

Blueprint Archive – Euclid Square Mall Site Plan

Retailers Higbee’s and The May Company, along with developer Jacobs, Visconsi, and Jacobs were looking to build a shopping center on the property of the Chase Brass Company located on Babbitt Road. However with that property currently zoned for industrial use, the decision would be left up to people of Euclid to decide if the land should be rezoned. So it was put it to a vote in 1973 with the result being nearly two to one in favor of the mall.

Euclid Square Mall Blueprint
1977 Site Plan of Euclid Square Mall shows a general mall layout flanked by its two anchors, Higbee’s and the May Company.

The mayor at the time, Harry J. Knuth, who was a long time champion of the project considered the mall “One of the greatest things that ever happened to the city of Euclid”. Richard E. Jacobs, President of Jacobs, Visconsi, and Jacobs added that the malls developers “want to prove to each resident of Euclid that the city will benefit from this development and become an even better place in which to live in the years ahead”.

Artists Rendering of Euclid Square Mall
An artists rendering of Euclid Square Malls interior shows Mr. Richard E. Jacobs vision of a better tomorrow for the city.

Mr. Jacobs was right. The Euclid Square Mall would eventually open in 1977 and pay immediate dividends in the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs, plus huge increases in income to the city from real estate tax on the new mall which helped the city avoid raising its taxes.