A Moorestown Mall Mystery
There's an easy solution to the mall's problems: Hello Kitty.
Even though I read the newspaper every morning before I go to work, there are many stories that I miss completely. I guess I could blame it on the fact that I am usually called away from my reading at least twice per morning to locate lost water bottles, misplaced gym shorts or to find out why the dogs are barking at the closet.
I was stunned to discover, for example, that I had missed Boscov’s Famous Doily Event. I am guessing that you were unaware that such a mind-boggling event was taking place right on the other side of Route 38! While we, the un-doilied Mo’town masses were toiling away, unadorned, there was a plethora of lacy little thingies, marked at 49 percent to 85 percent off the ticketed prices, being offered for sale! There were doilies for every occasion, as long as one had only three surfaces (“Limit 3 per customer”) that needed that extra special oomph that only a doily can provide.
I did not make this up. I may stray from the truth from time to time, but apparently there are enough doily denizens out there to warrant a Boscov’s "event." I will be ready next year, if and when doilies are doled out again. In the meantime, I will have to make do with antimacassars and sadly, so will you.
We often make the perilous journey across Route 38 to eat at one of the many alcohol-free establishments that dot the Mall parking lot. My son wondered why Nixon Drive was named Nixon Drive, as opposed to Mason Drive or the more fitting Boring Mall Drive. I was flabbergasted that he did not know of Mo’town’s brush with Tricky Dick Nixon and was more than happy to tell him how I was part of that historical moment.
I am sorry to say that the Moorestown Mall has always been the ugly stepsister in our family of local malls. Built in 1963 and only a few short miles from the Cherry Hill Mall, our mall has always suffered in comparison. When we moved to town in the early '90s, the mall was a post-fire ghost town. There were rainy, wintry days when the “wooden playground” was not an option. I figured out pretty quickly that the mall was a great place to let the boys run. There was so little foot traffic that I could just let them rip and watch them as they ran towards Macy’s.
But back in 1968, perhaps in an attempt to drum up interest and excitement in the mall, presidential candidate Richard Nixon gave a speech in front of what was then Gimbels and is now Boscov’s.
In those days, I considered myself some sort of tiny rebel. I didn’t like Nixon and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have liked me. Two of my older friends were going to protest at the rally, and I begged to go along with them. From where we stood with our peace medallions and silly signs, practically hugging Route 38, candidate Nixon was the size of a peanut. I can’t remember much else about our protest, nor do I remember the mood of the crowd. We stopped at Burger Chef afterward, eating our 15¢ hamburgers and French fries, so proud to have been there, making fun of the man who would be our next president.
Even though early management tried to make the Moorestown Mall an exotic shopping destination, with large bird and monkey cages, it just couldn’t compete with the more glamorous Cherry Hill Mall. They had Bamberger’s and Strawbridge & Clothier, we had Gimbels and John Wanamaker. I believe that both malls had a Harvest House cafeteria, since they were still the rage in dining. Cherry Hill had “A Shop Called East,” we had something called “Ginza,” and both malls had a Woolworth’s, where only the most stern sales-matrons prowled the make-up counter, ready to pounce on light-fingered teenage girls coveting Tangee lipstick.
Because we lived closer to the Cherry Hill Mall than the Moorestown Mall, we rarely came to the boondocks, which is what it felt like to visit the Moorestown Mall. I remember one trip to the Mo’town Mall. We were walking past A.C. Moore, which in those days, was in the mall, near where Boscov’s is today. My mother shook her head while looking at all the unpainted gew-gaws in the window and said, “That store will never last. Who wants all that stuff anyway?”
I didn’t mean to give you my flawed history lesson, but even then, the Moorestown Mall was an also-ran. Today, it is really trying to be a destination rather than a convenience. All one has to do is drive by the Cherry Hill Mall on a weekend to know that this is never going to happen. Whereas one mall is thriving, its parking lot filled to capacity, the other mall is like a net catching the overflow. The big mystery is “why?”
Obviously, if restaurants were allowed to serve libations, the mall would thrive, but since martinis will not be coming to our mall any time soon, I have a great idea. We need tourists and the disposable income they bring, not to mention the almighty hike in ratables a theme park would bring. Why not turn the Mo’town Mall into a Hello Kitty theme park? Who better to represent Moorestown than a cat without a mouth? A cat that can’t voice opinions other than the popular party line?
There is already a Hello Kitty theme park in Japan and a similar park planned for China. And according to Mr. Phil Hettema, the design firm in charge of the new park in China, “Hello Kitty is not unlike Mickey Mouse, who takes on a million different personalities. There’s even a Goth Hello Kitty.” We already have a population of Goths that skulks through the Mo’town Mall on weekends. Can you imagine their delirium when Goth Hello Kitty is there to validate them?
Talk about a win-win situation!