The memory may not be as fond as our first kiss, or car, but we all remember the first shopping mall we visited. I’m sure I’m not alone in that my introduction to shopping occurred at the Salem Mall.
After being closed for twenty years, all the Salem Mall has left to offer are memories.
For some reason the Dayton Mall always seemed so far away, like halfway to Cincinnati, while the Salem Mall was within a reasonable driving distance. Plus it offered everything I was interested in shopping for at the time, which was mainly the wall posters in the back of Spencer’s, next to the lava lamps. Before the internet, such posters were the only place I could see scantily clad women.
The anchors of the mall were J.C Penney, Sears, Elder-Beerman and… any guesses on the last one? Hint, despite its name, the store didn’t rise from the dead after closing…Lazarus. One by one each of the stores began to fade away and by 1997, Sears was the only one of the four that remained. The opening of the Fairfield Mall in 1994 was a lethal blow to the Salem Mall.
The Salem Mall was finally demolished in 2006, though Sears, the only part of the remaining structure held on for much longer, before finally closing its doors in January 2014.
In its prime the Salem Mall hosted over a hundred different retailers including a Camelot Music which featured all the latest in cassette tapes; Merry-Go-Round, where I wasn’t hip enough to shop; and a Babbage’s, which sold computer games before the days of X-Box. There were a number of shoe stores, such as Buster Brown, where some of my Velcro’s were likely bought. I always tried to avoid the clothing stores, so my memories are sparse in that department but there was surely a Fashion Bug and a Chess King.
At that time it was common for movie theaters to be right within the mall and Salem Mall had its own cinema. That’s one way for parents to get a couple hours of peaceful shopping in. I probably saw at least one of the Police Academy’s in that theater. There was also an arcade in the mall, where countless hours of playing Pac-Man were logged in.
Like with most everything else in life, I associate shopping with eating, and a vital part of any mall is the food court. The Salem Mall had a spacious food court, which for a time resembled a block in almost every city with a McDonalds, Arby’s, and a Taco Bell. What I remember most though was the Baskin Robbins, as it was the only one in the area. The Salem Mall also housed several stand-alone restaurants, including an MCL Cafeteria. With a wooden frame and a stained glass window, I remember feeling as if I was dining in first class whenever we went to MCL. There was also a Four’s Company, which served bar & grill type food, a Pizza King (Cassano’s), and an Upper Krust.
Hope the Salem Mall brings back some memories for you, maybe it’s even where your first kiss occurred!
Below - watch a Salem Mall TV commerical from 1985.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.