Rebecca's Commentary

Posted July 27, 2009 (user submitted)

I have some great memories of the Highlands Mall. It's very weird to think that it's not even there anymore.

Who can forget the bright pink soft pretzel shop located at the main intersection of the mall? My mom got us pretzels and a slurpee on nearly every trip. There was also a Waldenbooks there forever. This was the main bookstore of the Heights, and we'd make a trip up there when I needed a special book for school. It's interesting how new types of bookstores have replaced the old ones like Waldenbooks.

I remember my grandma taking me to get my haircut and one of the two salons there. I remember a Hallmark store, though I remember it to be not as thorough with inventory as the one in the Heights Plaza. There was a Kings Jewelery store where I'm sure some high school boyfriend bought me a gift or two. An old bank with 70's-style architecture, a Deb store and/or a Fashion Bug? OH! And the GNC that would always have free samples of sesame seeds or vitamin C pills.

I also remember the "fashion shows" and pageants there. Miss Highlands Mall comes to mind, and I remember a bridal fashion show. My Brownies troop attended a fair there once too. The "stage" area in the middle was great! Does anyone else remember the old water features? The water shot out from circular discs mounted on poles, which made the water feature look almost like a globe when it was running. Maybe my coins turned into wishes that came true.

Jesse James's Commentary

Posted January 8, 2006 (user submitted)

I live in an area that is considered fairly rural in Western Pennsylvania yet I'm still only a hop skip and jump from downtown Pittsburgh. It's one of the perks to living in this area that you can be within easy driving to the city and still live out in the country.

But growing up out here meant that shopping trips were limited when I was younger. We had the yearly trip (maybe two if you were lucky) to the Monroeville Mall or the Greengate Mall (which you have listed here as a dead mall) for Christmas shopping but that was really it and that 45 minute drive to either mall felt like an eternity to any little kid!

For where I lived when I was growing up, you could go to the towns of Lower Burrel or New Kensington to do some shopping on dad's payday, or you could take a trip to the Highlands Mall, which was hardly ever bustling even at its height.

The anchor store there when I was young was a Gee Bee department store. It's the only main store I can recall actually, and it's been long gone for many years. It was replaced by a Value City store, and I recall a discount grocery store was there as well, but all have moved on. The Gee Bee was fantastic though and I still to this day remember getting a Smoking Monkey toy out of the gumball machine one day (a toy you were supposed to light on fire... That's just great!) on the way out.

The mall was small, and single-level. It had the anchor store at a southern end, with one entrance into the mall's hallway. The mall then had a hall that extended straight from the anchor to its other end, and one perpendicular hallway that intersected with it to form a "T" shape.

There was never a lot of interesting stores in the mall for a kid though. No toy stores or anything like that. It was, for the most part, just local businesses. There was one restaurant in it, a pizza shop, and it is the lone surviving "original" business in this store that I am aware of. The family that runs it are Italian imigrants, speaking full Italian to each other. Girls actually frequented their place to watch the guys make the dough for the pizzas, which was kind of funny now that I reflect on it some.

For a while there was a video store in there when video rental places were at their height prior to Blockbuster, and a sportscard store as well. There's been a number of furniture stores and I believe one still is there now. I recall some failed hobby stores as well, and there was a TILT arcade which I loved to go to when I was at this mall.

The mall is located off (but not directly off of) PA Route 28, about 40 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. It is about a 30 mile drive or so. I still use this route and the exit you use to go to the mall routinely on any commutes I have to the city.

The mall is in a fairly prime location really with several communities surrounding it such as Natrona Heights, Brackenridge, South Buffalo Twp., Freeport, and other areas. THe mall's got a lot of area to it as well with parking lots that I wish the other more popular malls in the area had at the holidays.

The Highlands Mall has a breath of hope though... I read last year that amidst the building plans for the Target and Wal-Mart stores in the area, Wal-Mart is planning to put a store at the old mall, either renovating the anchor store buildings or I suppose building their own. This alone will be a huge boost to the Highlands Mall, and to the area in general which is fairly devoid of shopping save for a new large mall that opened some miles down PA route 28 just this past Summer. While that mall will be dominant in every way, the Highlands Mall will inevitably have traffic if a Wal-Mart arrives as there is no shopping similar for local trips to the store out in the Natrona Heights area.

I just hope the Pizza shop stays. It's been there so long I'd hate to see it go at this point.

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