Diego Garcia III's Commentary

Posted April 24, 2011 (user submitted)

Ground was broken at the future site of the Amigoland Mall in July 14, 1972. It was a Melvin Simon & Associates property. It was a large, one story, cross shaped design. The only two-story section was the northern section of the mall where Dillard's was. The other anchors in the store were Montgomery Ward's and JC Penney's. Both Ward's and Penney's had stand-alone Auto Centers built on the property.

There were two shopping malls in Brownsville. Amigoland Mall was more popular because, at the time, the rival Sunrise Mall did not have a Dillard's. Thus, if you wanted fancier, upscale clothing, you would go to Amigoland Mall. Amigoland Mall also had a small 2-screen movie theatre, lined with crimson drapes and a wild circular light display, a McCrory five and dime store (I remember the McCrory five and dime store had pay toilets), an Aladdin's Castle Arcade, a Musicland, Zales, WaldenBooks, Gordons, Payless Shoe Source, Chess King, Oaktree, Foot Locker, and a handful of other local and national retailers. The Mall eateries included a Chick-Fil-A, a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream store, a Wyatt's Cafeteria, and a small diner in the McCrory five and dime. The eateries were not configured in a food court style; they were broken up around the different sections of the mall. The mall's architecture was very nice, and had a heavy Spanish influence. There were spanish tiles on the roof of the hacienda-style facades, the exterior walls had a sun-ray pattern on them, and the floors were a burnt orange ceramic tile that were waxed on a frequent basis. The mall also had tropical foliage scattered throughout rest/bench areas all around the mall.

The mall was located around a thriving commercial area that included a Wal-Mart, a K-Mart, one of the cities first McDonalds, and a McCoy's Lumber Supply. The 1990's also saw a Toys R Us and a Circuit City pop up along Mexico Boulevard. The McDonalds had long been closed by the 1990's, but an upscale women's clothing boutique had taken its place.

By the mid 90's, the mall started to see a transformation. Some of the national stores had begun to give way to more local retailers. The only big national chain additions would be a Footaction and a Kay Bee Toy Store. The JC Penney Auto Center would cease to exist. There were also stores popping uo catering to the 'tween crowd including Claire's. The movie theatre had been converted to a dollar cinema, and would later cease to show movies altogether, being remodeled into a Hot Topic-esque store called The Clue. Wyatt's had been long gone as well, giving way to a Chinese/Mexican/American food buffet. One of the nicest attractions brought to the mall at this time was a huge towering antique-looking Venetian Carousel right at the center of the mall.

Unfortunately at this time, another big shift began to occur in Brownsville. Rival Sunrise Mall had begun a multi-million dollar renovation and extension project that would nearly double the size of the mall. By the end of the renovation and extension project, K-Mart would close its doors, Wal-Mart would close its doors, and Toys R Us and Circuit City would relocate to sites close to the Sunrise Mall. When Sunrise Mall bagged Dillard's, that left Amigoland Mall without any anchors. Wards and the Wards Auto Center would close, JC Penney's would relocate to Sunrise Mall. Musicland, Chick-Fil-A, Zales, Gordons, and Claire's would fold, as would almost every other national chain store. The local stores, including a small sports card and collectible store would follow suit.

The mall would try one last chance to attract customers to its almost empty halls by converting part of the mall into a community/children's center. There would also be an indoor laser-tag arena where the Kay Bee Toys had been, an indoor skate park where the Musicland and McCrory's had been, and a couple of dance hall/reception halls where JC Penney had been. There were still a few eateries scattered around the mall. Towards the end of its life as a mall, the only place that would remain as a retail outlet would be a Rex Electronics and Appliance Store.

The University of Texas at Brownsville would purchase the mall and turn it into the International Technology, Education and Commerce Campus, also called the ITEC. There are now classrooms where Footaction and Zales used to be. The entire Ward's wing has been converted to the technology, drafting, and auto classrooms. The Mexican Consulate is also in the mall where a women's clothing store used to be. The rest area benches still exist, but almost every other clue that this place was once a thriving commercial center has been covered up or wiped away.

The route to Amigoland Mall still shows a street sign pointing to an alternate route to the Amigoland Mall shoppers could take when there was a freight train blocking the main route. There is an indoor flea market where the Wal-Mart once was. The old McDonalds that had changed into an upscale women's boutique is now the local Spanish Christian radio station. The landscape has changed over the last ten years. I used to work in the Amigoland Mall. I was a mall Santa Claus for two years. I used to shop in the Amigoland Mall. I prefered going there 100 times more than going to the Sunrise Mall.

I went in there recently. The ceramic tile still looks the same, but that's about it. I went in to the space where Gordons used to be. The safe, along with a counter with vendor phone numbers and credit card company phone numbers still stands. The large glass doors that used to house Dillards have been sealed shut. Peeking through the tinted glass I can see boxes and miscellaneous items stored in piles. The JC Penney loading dock and store have also been turned into dingy storage spaces. Standing where the carousel once stood, you can hear the echoes of shoppers as you close your eyes and remember the past. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have gone in there. I would rather remember the mall as it used to be rather than see what it looks like today.

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