Chess King, J Riggins & Merry-Go-Round: 10 Classic Mall Stores That Are Gone Or All But Gone

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I love the `80s
It's Christmas shopping time, so chances are you've got a mall in your future.

And chances are that mall won't be anything like it was.

Back in the day, every mall seemed to have at least a few of the same stores in it. They may have been stores you never actually saw anyone buying anything in, or they may have been wildly popular, but nowadays they have either disappeared from the mall landscape or have become increasingly hard to find.

Whither there goest, Chess King? Let's see, in a look at ten classic mall stores.

10. Chess King
Where the allegedly well-dressed young man of the '80s went to stock up for the school year. The chain began in 1968 by salesmen from Thom McAn (remember them?) and eventually grew to 500 stores across the nation.

But, like a-ha and the Flock of Seagulls, it got stuck in the `80s and was left behind. The last store closed in 1995.

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9. Contempo Casuals
The Chess King for girls? Maybe. We weren't into the scene at the time. But Contempo Casuals was a mainstay in malls across America. Until, that is, it was acquired by Wet Seal in 1995. By 2001, all remaining Contempo Casuals stores were under the Wet Seal name.

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8. Sam Goody & Camelot Music
For teens, a mall's music store was key. (Note to todayz kidz: Yes, a brick-and-mortar outlet filled with vinyl, cassettes, eventually CDs and large stand-up displays of KISS used to exist.)

These generally were not the atmospheric beloved stores with employees having encyclopedic knowledge of whatever genre you were looking for, but they were key places to browse, eye the opposite sex and get kicked out of for not buying anything after an hour or two.

Both Sam Goody and Camelot were absorbed into FYE a couple of years ago.

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7. Hickory Farms
The determinedly folksy Hickory Farms -- red-and-white barn-like stores, etc. -- used to be unavoidable at malls, it seems.

The stores were filled with the kind of food you send to acquaintances or somewhat-distant relatives as gifts, without ever eating yourself. (Including if you received it as a gift.) Cheese logs, summer sausage, picnic baskets filled with straw and preserves -- it's a wonder the stores don't survive.

They live on online, though, and in the holiday season some malls get kiosks, just in case Aunt Rose is jonesing for the Savory Cheese Collection.


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62 comments
leslie.ledonne
leslie.ledonne

I was a manager for J Riggings, Merry Go Round & Chessking/Silvermans ... Great Times!!!!!(in big box retail now) but career started in early 80's at No Name stores...anyone remember them??!! 

remyarcher
remyarcher

Chess King and Oak Tree! They sold all the silk and rayon clothes with the baggy pants lol for guys who wanted to dress like Shai and Silk, Color Me Badd haha

cange30
cange30

Oh, and don't forget the clothing brand Skidz...

cange30
cange30

I remember Merry-Go-Round, Chess King and County Seat clothing stores in Philly.  Z Cavverichi, pegging your jeans and BUM Equipment sweat shirts.  City Blue was big in Philly as well as Record stores Sound of Market St. and Funk-O-Mart Records. Sam Goody and other retail record stores were the place to get the hottest vinyl and cassettes. 

Sean
Sean

I still own a black leather jacket that I got at Merry Go Round!

dleyberg
dleyberg

I worked for J. Riggings and Silverman's both young men's clothing stores. Just a year or so ago we had a J. Riggings store in our mall here in Raleigh, NC but it is now closed. Silverman's liqudated and morphed over to American Eagle Outfitters. I worked for AEO when they first started as a District Manger. At the time of their birth we were into the camping and hiking scene. I remember selling hiking boots and tents. Boy have things change for AEO.

justjkm222
justjkm222

I lived for Chess King and Jeans West, how could Jeans West not be there???? Of course i was from Florida so every mall there had a Burdines, one of the best places to buy your Z. Cavarucchi's (sp?), could there have been more pleats???? Man i MISS my youth!!!!!!!!!!!

kcirvtx
kcirvtx

Let's not forget Kinney Shoes, So-Fro Fabrics, Morrow's Nut House and Merle Norman.  And every mall had a cafeteria (Wyatt's, Picadilly, etc) , at least one Hallmark, a Things Remembered and some sort of tobacco shop.

asifford
asifford

Wow this has taken me back... I also recall  Mr. Bulky Treats And Gifts,  A&W rootbeeer, Nettie Lee, Brooks, Ormonds, Hess,  Afterthoughts, And Most recent Carlton Cards And Rave.....  These are just a few that we all miss and wish the malls could be that deverse again.  Not just Teen Stores. Something for everyone. 

shatzislattery
shatzislattery

Anyone mention Camelot Music? It was down the hall from Merry Go Round at the Salem Mall.

Panavia99
Panavia99

Except for Hickory Farms and Spencer's I never heard of these places.  I never got into the mall experience, the nearest one was 25 miles from home.  But remember Montgomery Wards?  MW & Sears was a staple of rural life until 1990 or so. We ordered everything from the big catalog and picked it up at a little outlet in town or trekked to the mall to pick up.MW had the best sturdy tools and equipment.  Still using a MW all metal heater purchased in 1975!  We used the same pump for 40 years.I still live in the country and still order most things via catalog or online.

Khalil McMillan
Khalil McMillan

Maybe not so apropos per this column...but a Holiday fave spot of mine (in LA - Los Angeles not Lousiana) was the various Laser Tag/Arcades...

Danno
Danno

You guys have to remember Oshmann's (sp?) Super Sports. There was one across from Memorial City Mall, and one in Sharpstown. We'd walk to the one across from Memorial City Mall and play basketball for hours after hanging out at the mall. There would be like full 3 on 3 games going on and some 11 year old shooting around between possessions. (That would be me)

Honorable mention goes to Electronics Boutique, where the world was exposed to the Motorola Bravo Plus and Bag Cell Phone without having to go to Houston Cellular. The lengths we went for our electronics fix in the pre- Best Buy days.

One more: Incredible Universe. No, it wasnt attached to any mall, but they built that mega store from the ground up (HCC-Central now) and seemed to be filled to the gills every weekend. Seemed like they went under as soon as they stopped giving away free barbeque on Saturdays. Go figure.

justabob
justabob

What about that candle store...maybe called Candlewick?  Not sure, every mall had one of those.  Also Lerners...not sure what happened to them.  Speaking of stores, how about Weiners!  They weren't in malls but when they closed I no longer had a go to place to purchase my mom, aunt and grandma the faux velvet, floor lenght, sip front robe with two pockets to put the prehistoric kleenex!

ajcolvin
ajcolvin

Chess King.  Bought my first 3  Kenningtons there, in Sarasota, Florida when they were new. You were nobody without a Kennington, dude. And puka beads.  Right on! Kenningtons now sell at vintage online stores for $70.00  -- used!

Justin_S_Davis
Justin_S_Davis

I've got a couple that I remember from Greenspoint Mall.

) Sansabelt:  SO MANY SLACKS.

) Wurlitzer Organ stores:  There was ALWAYS a smarmy-lounge-singer-with-a-combover-and-a-shit-eating-grin kinda dude sitting right at the entrance to those places, playing "hip" cover songs on the organ.  I distinctly remember one guy rocking out to KISS.

Greenspoint Mall also had two unique features.  One was the giant fountain-slash-xylophone, where water would fill up pipes and they'd rise and fall and sound just like windchimes.  It also had that giant 15'-20' tall geometric pyramid-thing that was like a Buckyball.  You could climb around inside it, go down its slippery slides, or jump/fall off the very top and break your arm.  Oh, the days before insurance and lawyers!

Oh, yeah.  While Greenspoint had KB Toys, Deerbrook (and I think Willowbrook) had Toys By Roy, which was the coolest of the mall toy chains.

MallRat
MallRat

The House of Jeans.  Because when you think of jeans, you think of The House of Jeans,  That's right, The House of Jeans.  (This was their jingle, btw.)

Darth
Darth

Mr. MusicAthletic Attic

We had those at the Galvez Mall (Galveston)

Jarod Frank
Jarod Frank

Anyone remember the Holograms store at Deerbrook Mall? I'm guessing there might have been others at other malls, but that's the only one I ever saw.  Probably early 90s actually.

MASSMURDERMEDIA
MASSMURDERMEDIA

is jeans west still around?...  i remember hank hill working there before he hired on at strickland propane...

how about the sharper image?...  i haven't been to a mall in some time...

Monica Fuentes
Monica Fuentes

good friend Cary just reminded me of the first place i ever smelled incense...WICK N STICKS

Dustin Kalman
Dustin Kalman

Don't forget Gadzook's and remember when every mall had one of those places you and your friends could record your karaoke version of popular songs? I hope none of those tapes still exist. I could wax nostalgic on the Galleria for days. 

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I have a theory that the reason Hickory Farms closed was because they never moved new product. People would just keep re-gifting the same cheese log year after year.

Corey
Corey

Hastings, Judys, Deck the walls, Doctors Pets, The wild pair.

Chris
Chris

wow! I forgot about DJ's.. Also I bought a rayon purple suit from Attivo once.   Anyone remember McDuff's Electronics?  I worked at the Baybrook Mall store for about 8 months before it was shut down on my freakin' birthday!

laurenmacqueen
laurenmacqueen

I was just waxing nostalgic over Miller's Outpost a few days ago. I still own an Ernest P Worrell "KnowWhatIMeanVern?" t-shirt from there circa 1985. I could see Craig Hlavaty wearing it un-ironically. It's an Adult Small, Craig, what say you?

Jarod Frank
Jarod Frank

Aladdin's Castle, Hastings, K B Toys, and Orange Julius. The last OJ was at West Oaks, but that closed.  Now the closest one is in Round Rock I believe.  I hit one up in Ohio last year.  It holds up.

Bob
Bob

I miss the Waldenbooks and B Dalton Books that used to be ubiquitous in mall but not longer. Then again, I haven't set foot in a mall in about five years. So really, I can't have a legit beef!

KAC
KAC

DJ's. The girls all dressed like sluts and were really friendly. Worked like a charm for me as a teenager. God knows how much Girbaud and Guess crap I bought because of 'em.

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Classic Mall Stores?  Start with Foley's ...

shatzislattery
shatzislattery

Sorry, didn't see it was in the article! Someone emailed me just the last page...oops.

Bill
Bill

Wicks - N - Sticks!

Justin_S_Davis
Justin_S_Davis

I was in an argument just the other day about that exact same store.  I remember it being open in the mid-80s (85/86), and closing a few years after.  But a buddy insists it stayed open well into the 90s.

Clay Wisner
Clay Wisner

Center Stage! We had piles of the modified Tascam mixers from those places (reclaimed after their demise) at LD Systems back in the day. Finally sold them for $5 each if I recall. I believe LD did the original installations as well, but it was before my time there.

Skippy
Skippy

Bought a Sanyo rack stereo system from McDuff's back in 1989-90. Damn thing still works. Of course, I use it in the garage now.

Chris
Chris

I had the Miller's Outpost board game as a kid. 

Jen in NY
Jen in NY

I think I would have gone the rest of my natural life without ever thinking again of "Rings and Things" if it weren't for you!  Thanks for the laugh.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Man, over the holidays I came across an OJ in the Denver airport! I hadn't had one in a long time, but I passed. Who knows what was even in that shit.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan

There used to be a Waldenbooks in the Shops at Houston Center downtown. When I was working downtown, I would go there every couple of weeks or so and buy manga volumes or copies of Shonen Jump for my kid. I do remember a B. Dalton and Waldenbooks at Pasadena Town Square when it first opened.  I want to say there was a Millers Outpost there too.

What about Leewards?     (I think that is the name? Sold supplies for knitting, embroidery, etc. )

Csand2311
Csand2311

had to have been open in the 90's--went there in college (early 90's)

Ksripp
Ksripp

Aladdin's Castle still exists in some places; There are also a few Hastings I know of - but not in malls.

Figgy Jones
Figgy Jones

that's funny, I went to one in Estes Park, CO a few mos ago, mainly bec the lines were out the wazoo -- and my first job was at an OJ. Apparently Dairy Queen has bought them out. And they don't taste nearly as good as they did on the Jersey shore back in the day.

But y'all forgot Casual Corner??

mollusk
mollusk

Orange juice, crushed ice, and malt whizzed in a blender.  Pretty innocuous, really.

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