TR's Commentary

Posted January 10, 2008 (user submitted)

Hays, Kansas, has seen a dramatic exodus in its only major mall. The property was built around 1971 and was called simply "The Mall." While Hays is the largest community in Western, Kansas, only about 20,000 people lived there in 2006. Thus Hays has always been a small town for a mall. The mall's structure and foot print is similar to Salina's Mid State Mall, already listed on your site.

The mall was anchored by JC Penney and J.M. McDonald department stores; a Safeway grocery store; and Skaggs's Discount Drug Center. Additionally, a JC Penney Auto Center was located on the parking lot. A number of smaller stores could be found in the mall's corridor. A theater was added later which has an outside entrance only.

Although the town was small, a number of other small towns in Western Kansas and seasonal residents at Fort Hays State University kept the mall booming. Wal-Mart located next door to the mall in the 1980's which helped draw traffic. The mall was near 100% occupancy as recently as 2002. The only major anchor to leave the mall through this time was Safeway which was replaced by the Fashion Bug. Skaggs's sold out to a local family which renamed the store Midwest Drug Center. J.M. McDonald evolved into Kline's.

Wal-Mart moved closer to I-70 and another principal highway. Hasting's Book Store located in part of the former Wal-Mart's space killing the mall's independent book store and major tenant. Smaller stores like Claire's and Foot Locker began shaking out. 2007 claimed two of the four anchors. Kline's Department Store announced its closing in June. The company's parent, Dunlap's, announced a nationwide store closing. Then Midwest Drug Center announced its closing in the fall of 2007. The store discontinued pharmacy operations in April selling its customer list to nearby Walgreen's. The owner's blamed the store's closure on the complexity of Medicare claims.

Perhaps the closure of these two anchors will help inspire new life at The Mall. The Mall has considerable space to fill and there is no shortage of vacant retail space in Hays with half of the old Wal-Mart and the smaller Centennial Mall in town.

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