TOWN SQUARE MALL: PARKERSBURG, WV
Daniel Westfall's Commentary
User submitted April 9, 2012
Downtown Parkersburg was the victim of a mall taking away some of their big business department stores. When Grand Central Mall in nearby Vienna, WV was built and opened in 1973, they made JC Penny and Sears two of their anchors (still existing today). JCP and Sears were two stores that were big standalones in downtown until they moved into this new mall thus the start of the decline of downtown Parkersburg. Interestingly, GC Murphy would open at the mall, but retain it's downtown store until the franchise went under in the early/mid '90s.
In an effort to bring back fleeting shoppers back to downtown, Town Square Mall was built and opened circa 1983. It would include a 3 screen movie theater, an upscale restaurant, local Jewelers D.J. Wingrove, and a 4 story parking garage. It reminded me of a micro sized version of the Charleston Town Center just a 90 minute drive south of us on I-77. The only other real tennant this mall would get would be a greeting card store. The restaurant changed hands and names a couple of times, the greeting card store closed, and the jewelry store moved out. The only place that would do good business was the movie theater. They validated parking to where you could park for free in the garage if you went to the movies, and one of the local radio stations offered 99 cent movies during football season on Monday nights. The theater would expand to 6 screens taking the space of the greeting card store.
What I've discovered in the movie business is that unless it's a weekend, you only show the movie to a handful of people on the weeknights. Not good for business. Around 1995, they were bought out by Regal cinemas, the same company that owned the theaters in Vienna's Grand Central Mall. Town Square would then start showing second run movies for a cheaper price and getting the name "Cheap Movie Theater." But when you were taking a date out, it was a great deal. While the first run movies at Grand Central were pushing $7, you could wait a few weeks and see the movie at Town Square for around $3.50. They did reasonable business, but this wasn't good enough as the last remaining mall tennant would close it's doors around 2000.
The mall was remodelled and became a call center for one of the local telemarketing companies. The company would go bankrupt and close leaving the original mall empty. The building was purchased by the city of Parkersburg around 2006 and remodelled to house the property tax offices, and Family court rooms which your's truly was divorced at (2008) and remarried at (2010).
While this seemed like a good idea, it never got a chance to take off. It could never compete with the Grand Central Mall. The cinema did take away from the last movie theater in downtown, the Smoot. The Smoot was later reopened as a play and production theater and still exists today. The remaining tennants in downtown were several blocks away and had all vacated by around 1990. The inability to attract big name stores partly due to it's size kept this mall from taking off. The parking garage stopped allowing free parking for the theaters which was probably the crushing blow for them. It is now part of a bygone era in downtown Parkersburg retail history.
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