Flashback Friday: Dayton’s Gen Xers share their favorite mall memories

Salem Mall reopening, 1981. (Dayton Daily News archive)
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Salem Mall reopening, 1981. (Dayton Daily News archive)

The shopping mall as we once knew it is nearing extinction.

Across the country, malls have reported seeing a steep drop in customers. And close to home, the Upper Valley Mall in Springfield will close in mid-June, and the Mall at Fairfield Commons has reinvented itself as a dining and entertainment venue that includes shopping.

Basically, the shopping mall is another thing that the internet has vaporized (Whut up, Amazon?). In this era of ordering anything you want online, physical trips to the mall have become unnecessary.

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It’s a shame, because, for a certain generation, namely Generation X, the shopping mall was ... everything. A meeting place. A hangout. A pre-game for parties. A place to buy the hottest clothes. The best place to get phone numbers from your latest crush. The mall, from the 1980s to the 1990s, was teen church.

So, Gen X citizens of the Miami Valley: What was your favorite mall to go to when you were younger?

Here’s a little memory refresher about three that many of us frequented: The Dayton Mall, The Salem Mall, and The Mall at Fairfield Commons.

Dayton Mall
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Dayton Mall

The Dayton Mall

2700 Miamisburg Centerville Road, Miami Twp.

The Dayton Mall, in the ’90s, was a major attraction for young people. The mall’s pluses were the video game arcade and its movie theater. The food court was also exceptional (its stores were great, too).

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The Dayton Mall was the place to go to for kids from Miamisburg, Centerville, Beavercreek, Kettering and Huber Heights. If you wanted to find out who was going to be at the hottest teen clubs of the day — The Odyssey and The Zoo — Dayton Mall was the place to do it.

Salem Mall through the years
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Salem Mall through the years

The Salem Mall

5200 Salem Ave., Trotwood

The Salem Mall was the mall that was tied in to what was really cool in the Miami Valley in the ’80s and ’90s. If you wanted to know all about the hottest weekend party, you went to Salem Mall. If you wanted phone numbers from girls or guys, you went to Salem Mall. If you wanted the coolest clothes, you went to Salem Mall.

The draws of the Salem Mall were its clothing stores and food court. Its location was perfect for kids and young people who lived in Dayton, Trotwood and the surrounding cities like Huber Heights and Vandalia.

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Sadly, the Salem Mall officially closed its doors in 2005 for a variety of reasons, including competition. Which brings us to the next mall on this list...

ajc.com

The Mall at Fairfield Commons

2727 Fairfield Commons, Beavercreek

This mall, which opened in 1993, was frequented by many teens. But it was also the haunt of many college kids, partly due to its proximity to Wright State University, as well as Central State University and Wilberforce University. In its first few years, the mall’s stores were OK, but nothing to get excited about. The Fairfield mall’s lures were its location (it was easy for people from Beavercreek, Kettering, Vandalia, Fairborn and Huber Heights to get to, which hurt the Salem Mall), and its food court, which at one time had a pretty cool video arcade.

Full disclosure. I worked at this mall in the ’90s, and spent waaaaay too much time at the food court.

Favorite mall memories

I asked a few Miami Valley Gen Xers what their favorite mall was back in the day:

Chris Corwin
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Chris Corwin

“I split between Dayton Mall and Salem Mall. Dayton Mall had the better movie theater with Cinema 1 being so big. While they both had a lot of the same stores, Salem Mall was cooler. Layout was better and they had a better food court. Salem was more the hangout destination than Dayton was. Oh, it was a sad day when that place closed.” — Chris Corwin

Nikki Webb
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Nikki Webb

“Mine was Salem Mall. It was on the bus line, and all my friends were there hanging out or working there.” — Nikki Webb

Kim Hupp-Garver
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Kim Hupp-Garver

“I would say my favorite Miami Valley area mall to go to when I was younger would be the Dayton Mall. I remember the crowds, the music stores, the smell of Aunt Annie’s pretzels and Cinnabon’s cinnamon rolls baking. That smell would hit your face as soon as you walked in. I remember standing in line to see Santa Claus on several occasions every Christmas season. I remember getting my ears pierced at the Piercing Pagoda (I think that’s what it was called) that was on the first floor. I liked going to the Dayton Mall when I was younger because it was a one-stop shop for everything that I needed for school or for summer clothes. I liked the different styles of clothing and shoes and visiting other specialty stores while I was there. I even remember seeing “Weekend at Bernies” with a friend when it came out.” — Kim Hupp-Garver

Christopher Joseph
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Christopher Joseph

“Definitely the Upper Valley Mall. We did all of our clothes and accessories shopping there. Went to Sears Optical for our eyewear and Dad got his tires. First one I hung out as a teenager on my own before discovering the beautiful Salem Mall. Didn’t venture to the Dayton Mall until older and was amazed at how huge and busy it was. I worked at Attivo there, which was a fashion store. I was one of the first people to work in the Fairfield Mall at Sam Goody when it opened. Ironically, Fairfield opening led to the demise of my childhood mall, the Upper Valley. Sad to see it go.” — Christopher Joseph

Michelle Crabtree
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Michelle Crabtree

“As a tween and young teen, I loved hanging out at the Dayton Mall with my friends. We mainly just walked around, browsed our favorite stores like Merry-Go-Round and Rave, or sat at a table in the food court snacking on Sbarro Pizza or Gold Star Chili. Every now and then, you could catch us belting out tunes at Soundtracks. Those were the days!” — Michelle Crabtree

Contact this contributing writer at grgsmmsjr@gmail.com.