Benton & Zach Stokes' Commentary

Posted January 6, 2010 (user submitted February 1, 2009)

Hickory Hollow Mall, located in the Nashville suburb of Antioch, Tennessee, is a 1.1 million square foot enclosed shopping mall. The mall opened in 1978 with three anchor stores - Castner-Knott, Cain-Sloan and Sears - and 137 other tenants. Original retailers located in the mall included national stores such as B. Dalton Booksellers, The Gap, Kay Jewelers, Thom McAn and Hallmark as well as local and regional stores including Family Booterie, Kirkland’s and The Tennessee Coffee Company. The mall also had many family-oriented stores including a movie theater and an arcade. Hickory Hollow was the city’s fifth mall and its largest at the time.

Hickory Hollow was designed with two complete levels and atrium-style glass and steel ceilings. The food court, called The Food Garden, was large and landscaped with multi-leveled seating and greenery. Restaurants included Chick-Fil-A, Swiss Pretzel, The Cookie Store, Swensen’s Ice Cream Factory and Tater Junction. There was a glass elevator and water features in the center court and at the Castner-Knott and Sears ends of the mall.

In 1982, Hickory Hollow added JCPenney and 24 stores in a $10 million dollar addition. Then in 1991, the space once occupied by Cain-Sloan, a local department store which had been bought by Dillard’s, was converted into 30 smaller shops and Dillard’s built a new $25 million store, including a parking garage. The Castner-Knott store, a favorite local anchor, was purchased by Proffitt’s in 1998 and was extensively remodeled. Proffitt’s sold its Nashville stores in 1991 to Hecht’s. More mall renovations followed in 2002 and 2003, including a children’s play area and a remodeled food court. In 2006, the Hecht’s store was converted to a Macy’s.

Also in 2006, JCPenney left the mall and relocated to an outdoor lifestyle center called Providence, 20 minutes away in Mt. Juliet. The anchor space was then occupied by Steve & Barry’s. However, smaller retailers were beginning to leave the mall during this time due to a decrease in traffic and an increase in crime. Also, competition from newer and newly renovated malls in the area began to pose a threat. Opry Mills, a ‘shoppertainment’ venue on the former Opryland site, a theme park that closed in the mid-90s, became a larger, more exciting place to shop. Also Cool Springs Galleria, Stones River Mall and the Mall at Green Hills attracted shoppers away from Hickory Hollow with new retailers, restaurants and entertainment.

In 2008, Linens & Things began closing stores nationally and shuttered its Hickory Hollow store. The Dillard’s store began liquidating in May and finally closed in December 2008. Steve & Barry’s closed in January 2009. To date, smaller retailers including The Gap, Rack Room Shoes, The Shoe Department, Waldenbooks and Express have pulled out of Hickory Hollow. Big box retailers outside the mall have closed their doors as well, including Circuit City, Toys R Us, Pier 1 Imports, JoAnn, Michael’s and Office Depot.

Theories for the decline of the mall are numerous. Many site the change in demographics in this part of Nashville. Antioch and its surroundings have become more ethnically diverse and less affluent as the rebirth of the midtown area has driven its residents here. Gang activity, shoplifting, muggings and murder have become a deterrent to shopping at Hickory Hollow, especially since 2006.

As a former employee of a store here, I consider Hickory Hollow a dangerous place to work. It is unfortunate to see the area decline. I remember visiting the mall as a child and thinking it was an exciting, vibrant place to shop and eat. My mother spent a number of years managing the Hallmark store here, which sadly closed last year. This was a friendly part of town and the mall was a community gathering place. Now it is an eerily quiet place with little to attract shoppers. Only the east and west wings of the mall, which run from Macy’s to Sears, are mostly occupied. Retailers here include Aeropostale, Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, Bath & Body Works, Electronic Express and Buckle along with local stores with an urban appeal such as Kana Shoes, Man Alive and City Life. The north and south wings that run between the former Steve & Barry’s and Dillard’s are almost completely empty.

Rumors about the mall’s future include selling its vacant wings to Vanderbilt Health for office space, an influx of capital from some mystery investors and its demolition.

Daron Dunkin's Commentary

Posted June 3, 2006 (user submitted)

Hickory Hollow is a 2-level mall located in the Nashville suburb of Antioch, which is about 10 miles southeast of the downtown area. When it opened in 1978, it was the largest mall in the state. It had about 100 stores and 4 anchors: Sears, JCPenney's, Cain Sloan, and Castner-Knott. The latter 2 were local department stores that had downtown locations as well as stores in the other major malls at the time (Rivergate, Green Hills). I also believe Castner's had locations at Harding Mall and in a strip mall in Donelson.

My first memory of this mall was not long after it opened. I was about 5 at the time. I had wandered off from my mom when she went into one of the stores. For some reason or another, I grabbed onto the outside of the escalator railing and went up!!! This is scary, especially for a 5 year old. Fortunately, a gentleman grabbed me off of the railing before I got to the top, and ran down the "up" escalator to take me back to my mom.

Through the years, I have frequented this mall. For the most part, it has seemed to do very well. To my knowledege, there were at least 2 renovations; the first of these was about 1993, which expanded the food court area. The other I believe was in the early 2000s. Of course, the 2 local anchors changed names on account of mergers with other stores. Cain Sloan became Dillard's in about 1987. Castner's became Proffits in 1998, which then became Hecht's about 2-3 years later.

As Monty Phyton would say, "it's not dead yet". However, it certainly seems to be headed in that direction. Penney's closed in early 2006 to open a new store in Mt. Juliet. I last visited this mall before they closed, I would say that the stores were about 90% occupied. Then again, losing a major anchor is not good for any mall.

Factors that would more than likely cause Hickory Hollow to suffer in the future:

  • A large percentage of Hickory Hollow's customers come from Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and Lavergne, which is just down I-24. However, the Boro's population has grown tremendously in the last 10-15 years. As a result, the retail opportunities have also grown. M'boro's mall, while not as large as Hickory Hollow, has some of the same stores, and is being expanded as we speak. Most of the big boxes and restaurants at Hickory Hollow are also in M'boro. A second large shopping center is expected to open in about 2 years, this will have a Best Buy, Barnes/Noble, and a few other big name stores. As of now, a lot of M'boro residents prefer to stay here to shop, instead of driving all the way to Nashville. This could also take away from Hickory Hollow's base.
  • This factor is pure speculation, but with Hecht's becoming Macy's later this year, it's a possibility that they decide to close this store instead of going to the trouble of putting up new signs and everything. The same thing could also be said of Dillard's. If this occurs, and all that's left is Sears, it's pretty much down hill from there.
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