Randy Barton's Commentary

Posted January 2, 2006 (user submitted)

Ashley Plaza Mall was built in 1970 in Charleston, South Carolina when a vacant space between an existing department store and grocery store in a strip shopping center was filled in and an enclosed shopping mall created. This was the first "true" indoor/enclosed mall in Charleston. The site, situated between 2 major highways in a growing suburb was ripe for development. When construction started on the mall, the site featured a J.M. Field's Department Store which was connected to a Pantry Pride supermarket. Similar to today's super centers, the stores were connected internally and it was possible to go from the grocery store to the department store without having to go outside.

Also on the site was Condon's Department Store, a locally owned department store with a location in downtown Charleston which was founded in the 1800's. This was Condon's first attempt at a 2nd store and it was meant to serve the growing population outside of the downtown area. When the mall opened, a 3rd department store was created - Edward's - also a locally owned department store which was originally founded in downtown Charleston. Edward's was similar to a small-scale Wal-Mart or Kmart. The mall also featured a 2-screen General Cinema and national tenants such as Revco Drug, Radio Shack, Thom McAn, Hickory Farms, Piece Goods Shop, Friedman's Jewelers and a mix of locally owned shops.

The mall was dealt a crushing blow in the mid to late 1970's with the bankruptcy of J.M. Fields and Pantry Pride, although these spaces were quickly re-leased to Woolco Department Stores and Red & White supermarkets. At about this time, Edward's was sold to Kuhn's Department Stores, a national chain who operated a concept known as "Big K" (not to be confused with Kmart's "Big K" stores). Kuhn's rebranded Edward's as "Big K/Edward's" and operated the store under this name for a short period of time before being bought out by Wal-Mart, who decided to discontinue the Big K stores as they were much smaller than a typical Wal-Mart. The former Big K/Edward's space sat vacant for some time and was occupied by several regionally based tenants including an unfinished wood furniture store, a mattress store and an imports store. Another blow to the center came with the announcement that Woolworth had decided to close all of it's Woolco stores. The Woolco at Ashley Plaza Mall sat vacant for a number of years before being subdivided and turned into a Brendle's Catalog Showroom and a regional clothing store known as United Clothing, which also quickly folded.

In 1981, Citadel Mall opened less than 3 miles away. The majority of the remaining tenants at Ashley Plaza Mall closed one by one leaving the mall virtually empty. It was dealt a final blow with the closure of the General Cinema and shortly thereafter by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 which ripped off portions of the mall's facade, destroyed Brendle's and the neighboring grocery store. The mall's owners, LaFrak Organization and The Cordish Company announced plans to revitalize the center and rebranded it "Ashley Landing." A colorful new stucco facade was added, new more modern storefronts and signage, and extensive landscaping.

Brendle's reopened, the neighboring grocery store space was leased by Big Lots, and Burlington Coat Factory located at the center occupying space which was configured by tearing out the individual mall stores and corridors to make one large store. Condon's Department Store closed after over 30 years at the center after a dispute with it's landlords. Today the shopping center features A.J. Wright, Dollar Tree, Pivotal Fitness (a large 24-hour fitness center), Big Lots, Burlington Coat Factory, several restaurants, and the only original tenant - CVS/pharmacy (then known as Revco). Interestingly enough, the former General Cinemas space is now occupied by a church and a portion of the former Edward's store is also occupied by a 2nd church! Although Ashley Plaza Mall is gone, the new "Ashley Landing" continues to prosper as a strip shopping center in the heart of Charleston's suburban commercial district.

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