Lewis Bozard's Commentary

Posted March 29, 2006 (user submitted)

Bush River Mall was located on Bush River Road at I-26 in northwestern Columbia, South Carolina. At the time the mall opened in 1977, it was in a prime retail corridor. I recall the days from my childhood when Bush River Road was congested with bumper to bumper retail traffic on Saturdays before the momentum moved in the early 1990s a few miles farther out to Harbison Boulevard with the opening of Columbiana Centre mall. Dutch Square Mall, Kmart, Boozer Shopping Center, Sam Solomon/Service Merchandise, and Circuit City were all located on or near Bush River Road in the 1970s. Bush River Mall was originally anchored by Kroger Sav-On and Richway, with a total of 225,000 square feet. Bush River Mall had an indentical twin across town in Decker Mall, which appeared almost exactly the same with the same two anchor stores and which opened at the same time. The Kroger Sav-On was the first ?supercenter? sort of store I ever saw. It was a version of Kroger supermarket that added housewares, cosmetics, a pharmacy, a florist, office supplies, and other goods not normally found in a grocery store of the time. Richway was the discount store concept of Rich?s department store, based in Atlanta. The Richway store at Bush River included the chain's distinctive green and orange raised skylight wedges atop the roof.

The two anchor stores were joined by a single hall that included tenants such as a General Cinema theater, Sounds Familiar local music store, Peanut Shack snack bar, the Santee Shoppe (local store), an arcade, a jeweler or two, and several clothing stores. The design and furnishings were plain and basic, with a white tile floor, tan walls, and a few planters and benches scattered sparsely throughout the hall. The mall was not huge and I never saw it packed with shoppers, but it held its own through the 1980s. At some point the mall entrance to Kroger was closed for some reason. In the early 1990s Kroger made its exit when a newer store opened two exits west on I-26 at St. Andrews Road. Burlington Coat Factory occupied the old Kroger space. Part of the mall stores were reconfigured to accommodate a new Ben Franklin Crafts that opened from the parking lot. Richway became Gold Circle in 1986 along with the rest of the chain. In 1989 it was reincarnated as Target, which remained in place until around 2000, when Target relocated several miles west to the popular Harbison Blvd. Before Target closed, it was the lone holdout in the mall. The mall entrance was sealed off in 1998 when the mall portion was closed, having been home in its last days to only Ben Franklin and a branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Even before Target closed, the old mall portion began to be an eyesore, with weeds growing along the sidewalk and in the parking lot, and the building not being maintained. For several years after Target?s departure, the mall sat abandoned, home to skateboarders and tractor-trailer trucks. It became a vandalized eyesore. In 2005 plans were announced for redevelopment of the site as a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The mall was demolished in early 2006, ending Bush River Mall once and for all. However, its legacy lives on in Wal-Mart, which promises to bring new life to the tired Bush River Road retail corridor.

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