Ken Lilly's Commentary

Posted May 23, 2011 (user submitted April 8, 2009)

Located on the outskirts (at the time) of Beckley WV, Raleigh Mall was the first mall in Southern WV, the next closest mall being Kanawha Mall in Charleston. Construction started in the 1972-73 timeframe, the construction process taking longer than normal due to the site conditions, the mall opened a few years later in the latter part of the 70’s. Sharing the property with the mall was a Kroger Grocery store, it was not connected to the mall itself but was a short distance away.

The mall was laid out with Montgomery Ward and an unknown store as anchors on each end, and a Stone & Thomas (later purchased by Elder Beerman) located in the middle of the mall right across from the main mall entrance. The interior corridor was large and spacious with skylights the full length, the décor was definitely late 70’s, a mix of bright blues and reds mixed with roughsawn wood accents stained/painted dark brown and the occasional splash of avocado green paint or tile.

Sometime after the mall’s opening in the late 70’s and before the early 80’s an additional store was built onto the mall, Murphy’s Mart. It was added between the unknown anchor and the Kroger store, however due to the anchor store location the Murphy’s Mart was only accessible via its own exterior entrance; there was no direct access through the mall.

Being the first mall in this part of the state it performed well at first, at the time the only major retail competition in the area was with the K-Mart complex across the street and the Hills’ Department store down the road, in the late 70’s this end of Beckley was mostly undeveloped compared to its current built-up state.

Unfortunately the good times for Raleigh Mall lasted only a few years, in the early 80’s two malls opened up in the region. Crossroads Mall opened up just 5 minutes down the road in Bradley; it is a larger mall with 2-3 times the retail space and features better parking and access from the highway, both are problems that have plagued Raleigh Mall since day one. Due to Crossroads being newer most of the shoppers went to it; however Raleigh managed to hold on since its anchors did not leave it for the new mall and the mix of smaller stores was not initially duplicated at the new mall. Around the same time Mercer Mall opened in Bluefield WV, giving shoppers from the southern part of the state a choice that didn’t require an hour plus drive on the then under constant construction WV Turnpike.

The 90’s saw a steep decline in Raleigh Mall, Montgomery Ward hung on until it closed for good along with the rest of the chain in the 90’s. The unknown anchor was replaced by Goody’s clothing, the Murphy’s Mart was closed, eventually replaced by Gabriel Brother’s closeout store, the late 80’s saw the Kroger store moved into the new strip mall alongside the first Wal-Mart, their empty store was taken over by BigLots.

The smaller local and regional stores slowly faded out over the years, the 2-screen movie theater managed to hang on for a while by becoming a ‘$2 movie’ theater after the opening of the Showplace Cinema’s (since demolished) down the road, once the new Marquee Cinema’s multiplex opened up in 2006 the Raleigh Mall cinema closed for good.

Even with the loss of nearly all of its stores in the last few years, Raleigh Mall has stubbornly hung on, as of late 2008 the only remaining original tenant is the Stone & Thomas/Elder-Beerman location, it is speculated that Stone&Thomas signed a long-term lease agreement back in the 80’s while the mall was still performing well. Gabriel Brothers is still in the old Murphy’s Mart location, the old Montgomery Ward location was split in half, part of it became a Tractor Supply store and the other part was to become rental office space, a project that eventually died. As a way to reuse the existing mall, various small retail spaces were gutted and combined into larger spaces for new retailers, most notably Rex Appliances and Dollar General. Goody’s moved into the strip mall near the new Wal-Mart, only to close for good when the chain was liquidated in early 2009, Rex stayed in the mall but closed as well along with the rest of the chain in late 2008. Dollar General is still there along with a Chuck-E-Cheese knockoff. . Occasionally an old storefront will house a business selling discounted items of varying quality such as golf clubs or fireplaces, these places typically last only a few months before being shuttered.

The future of this mall is bleak, however it has looked that way for the last decade and the mall is still there with no signs of closing.

Guy Parsons' Commentary

Posted September 12, 2010 (user submitted)

The Raleigh mall is located in the city of Beckley, West Virginia, in the county of Raleigh. The city is considered to be the commercial hub for much of southern West Virginia. The Raleigh Mall itself is located in the middle of the thriving North Beckley shopping center, an area that has been developing and expanding for decades, and still continues to do so.

The Raleigh Mall opened as Beckley's second indoor mall in the mid 1970's. As of today, it is the second largest indoor mall in the city with the smaller Plaza Mall a quarter mile south, and the larger Crossroads Mall about two miles north. For several years the Raleigh Mall co-existed with the other malls, seemingly not having much of an effect with each others business. But as time has gone by, things are not longer the same in present day.

Blasting first began in the early 70's for the grounds of what would become the Raleigh Mall. It would share the new plaza with a separated grocery store, which at the time was Kroger. Upon the malls completion, it was opened to the public sometime in the mid 70's. The mall was anchored by three major department stores at the time: Murphy's Mart on the south end, Stone and Thomas to the west, and Montgomery Ward on the north end. It also featured roughly thirty additional stores within the mall, as well as a two-screen cinema.

At the time, it was the area's biggest piece of retail, and the center of attention within the shopping center area. The mall was said to be constantly busy and crowded for nearly two decades. Despite the opening of the new, and considerably larger Crossroads Mall in 1982, the Raleigh Mall continued doing well. The mall's first problem came when Murphy's Mart (a store similar to K-mart) was bought out, the anchor closed in 1985. It was said to be replaced by a similar store soon after called "A-Mart". The new replacement anchor didn't last long, and was closed by the late 80's. Unable to obtain another replacement, the building was divided to accommodate a much smaller Goody's as the new permanent third anchor, which opened sometime in the late 80's to early 90's. The larger portion of the store at the time became first a closeout store of some sort, then a Farm And Fleet store until the mid 90's.

By the mid 90's the mall was still doing about as well as ever. But as the late 90's came around, the mall began to see a fluctuation of tenants, more so than ever before. By 2000 the mall had gotten to the point where it no longer held full occupancy at any time, the public appeal was diminishing. Upon the closure of it's strongest anchor Montgomery Ward in 2001, the mall rapidly lost nearly all remaining inner tenants. During the 2001 - 2004 period it kept maybe three or four different stores aside from Elder-Beerman and Goody's open. With new development in the retail area, Goody's left and relocated elsewhere in 2005, leaving Elder-Beerman as the last remaining anchor. Gabriel Brothers has occupied the larger portion of the building it shared with Goody's since the late 90's to present, but being sealed off from the mall itself, has never drawn anything into the mall.

From 2004 forward the mall saw several small changes and alterations. Some of the smaller stores within the mall have been sealed off, others left empty. Near the former Ward's many of the vacant stores were remodeled and combined into a Dollar General and a Celebration Place, both of which permanently closed from the inside and had newly constructed out-door entrances. In 2006, Tractor Supply Co. opened up on the far end of the former Montgomery Ward building, separating itself from the mall. The cinema, which had been converted to the dollar theater in the 90's, closed in 2007 when the area got a new theater and the Crossroads Mall took it's place as the dollar theater.

As of 2008 the Raleigh Mall only has two or three stores occasionally open within it, with the exception of Elder-Beerman and the stores disconnected from the mall. There has been much speculation as to why the mall diminished to nearly nothing several years back, from loosing anchors it was unable to replace, the mall maybe being too small in size or too outdated to be an attractive shopping location, to rumors that the owner began charging rent so high that no businesses were willing to pay. But no one is for sure of what really happened. The parking lots sit mostly vacant, and inside all is quiet and empty, not a person around. The directory has been stripped of all it's information. Hardly anything remains of the once thriving mall it was a little over a decade ago.

Meanwhile, the Crossroads Mall continues to do well to this day, as does the rest of the area surrounding the Raleigh Mall. There has been word going around in recent years that the mall may possibly be demolished, and that a Home Depot center is interested in the property. However, none of this has ever been officially confirmed.

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