Chess King, J Riggins & Merry-Go-Round: 10 Classic Mall Stores That Are Gone Or All But Gone

I love the `80s
I love the `80s

It's Christmas shopping time, so chances are you've got a mall in your future.

And chances are that mall won't be anything like it was.

Back in the day, every mall seemed to have at least a few of the same stores in it. They may have been stores you never actually saw anyone buying anything in, or they may have been wildly popular, but nowadays they have either disappeared from the mall landscape or have become increasingly hard to find.

Whither there goest, Chess King? Let's see, in a look at ten classic mall stores.

10. Chess King Where the allegedly well-dressed young man of the '80s went to stock up for the school year. The chain began in 1968 by salesmen from Thom McAn (remember them?) and eventually grew to 500 stores across the nation.

But, like a-ha and the Flock of Seagulls, it got stuck in the `80s and was left behind. The last store closed in 1995.

Chess King, J Riggins & Merry-Go-Round: 10 Classic Mall Stores That Are Gone Or All But Gone

9. Contempo Casuals The Chess King for girls? Maybe. We weren't into the scene at the time. But Contempo Casuals was a mainstay in malls across America. Until, that is, it was acquired by Wet Seal in 1995. By 2001, all remaining Contempo Casuals stores were under the Wet Seal name.

8. Sam Goody & Camelot Music For teens, a mall's music store was key. (Note to todayz kidz: Yes, a brick-and-mortar outlet filled with vinyl, cassettes, eventually CDs and large stand-up displays of KISS used to exist.)

These generally were not the atmospheric beloved stores with employees having encyclopedic knowledge of whatever genre you were looking for, but they were key places to browse, eye the opposite sex and get kicked out of for not buying anything after an hour or two.

Both Sam Goody and Camelot were absorbed into FYE a couple of years ago.

Chess King, J Riggins & Merry-Go-Round: 10 Classic Mall Stores That Are Gone Or All But Gone

7. Hickory Farms The determinedly folksy Hickory Farms -- red-and-white barn-like stores, etc. -- used to be unavoidable at malls, it seems.

The stores were filled with the kind of food you send to acquaintances or somewhat-distant relatives as gifts, without ever eating yourself. (Including if you received it as a gift.) Cheese logs, summer sausage, picnic baskets filled with straw and preserves -- it's a wonder the stores don't survive.

They live on online, though, and in the holiday season some malls get kiosks, just in case Aunt Rose is jonesing for the Savory Cheese Collection.  

Chess King, J Riggins & Merry-Go-Round: 10 Classic Mall Stores That Are Gone Or All But Gone

6. Babbage's Yes, a game store named after the 19th Century inventor of the first mechanical computer -- the kids will relate!!

This was where you went for your Oregon Trail and Asteroids and everything else that was soon to be rendered obsolete by the next generation of products.

Some stores still live on, owned by the GameStop corporation, but when a gaming store doesn't yield a Web page when you Google its name, it's pretty much thrown in the towel.

5. Miller's Outpost If Miller's Outpost was still around and had enough cash for big-time commercials touting their jeans and work clothes, those ads would be voiced by Sam Elliott. Oh, they were citified enough to be in your malls and whatnot, but don't go thinking these clothes weren't expected to get some grease or horseshit on them. Unless, of course, they were being purchased by people in malls.

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4. J. Riggings How the mighty have fallen. Once a mall staple, now the Internet, at least to the degree we wish to spend time searching the matter, yields no firm conclusion on its name. We swear it was J Riggins, no period and no "g"; wiki lists it as "J. Riggings" in its list of defunct U.S. retailers, and variations of the two abound.

At any rate, it was a safe shop to get some clothes as you got out of your teens, for those occasions where you had to look more presentable than in T-shirt and jeans.   3. Spencer's Gifts The store that triggered this list. Guy we know wanted to get a certain something, was told he could find it at Spencer's Gifts. No problem, right? You couldn't open a mall without a Spencer's Gifts. It was in all the building codes.

But finding one didn't seem as easy as it used to.

They still have four stores in Houston malls and the chain still describes itself as "the mall destination for entertainment, excitement and fun."

But a lot of their business has gone online. Or maybe they were never as prevalent as they seemed back in the day.

2. County Seat We're taking interoffice crowdsourcing at its word that teens used to shop at County Seat. The Dallas-based chain once had 750 locations, so someone had to be shopping there. Alas, at some point they stopped doing so, and by 1996 the chain filed for bankruptcy.

Chess King, J Riggins & Merry-Go-Round: 10 Classic Mall Stores That Are Gone Or All But Gone

1. Merry-Go-Round And so we come full circle: Merry-Go-Round, at one point, owned Chess King.

According to BloggingStocks:

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Merry-Go-Round was the darling of Wall Street and the suburbs where [my friend] Jessica sold $70 rayon shirts for minimum wage plus commission. Its 536 stores comprised Merry-Go-Round, Dejaiz, Cignal, and Chess King, the latter an acquisition made a few years before its demise.

One blogger called the apparel "faux upscale" and wrote of the chain's merchandise, "the cheesiest, sleaziest, ugliest and most eye-searing '80s clothes you could possibly find. Velcro closures? Check. Mesh designs? Check. Excessive use of leather? Check. Odd-colored thick v-neck sweater vests? Check."


We're probably missing a lot more, especially from the '70s. Let us know.

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