Monday, October 05, 2009

A Sunny Saturday at Bayshore Mall

Autumn is the sunniest time of year here on the California North Coast, and this Saturday was very sunny--but the warmth of the sun was cut by the occasional cold breeze, so clearly this was one of the last summery days of the year.

So people were out, everywhere we went on our errands--including at Bayshore Mall in Eureka. As chronicled in a local cover story, it's much beleaguered these days. But on Saturday it was humming. At first I thought it was because the one new bright spot--a new department store--was opening, and sure enough, there were long lines at Kohl's checkouts. But people were out everywhere--at Costco, Eureka's only Big Box, and at the small yarn shop in Arcata where clerks said it was the busiest day they could remember.

People were in a good mood, too. I saw shoppers at Costco coax a young woman with only two items ahead of them in one of the long lines. There seemed to be differences, though. The yarn shop saw its known clientele--just more of them in one day than usual. Costco shoppers were friendly and chatty, but it was all about the stuff. The mall was more of a social center. Shoppers in the stores, but in the mallways there were the teenagers in groups, the couples of all ages, families.

Perhaps the biggest difference, though, was the age and race mix at Bayshore Mall. The fastest-growing segment of Eureka's population is Mexican, and there were a lot of Spanish-speakers at Costco, too, but even more ethnic and age variety at the mall. Native American kids from Hoopa, wearing identifying shirts. A junior high age Latina in a t-shirt that said, "To the haters, thanks for all the love."

This is a big difference from the first days of shopping malls in general, when they were almost exclusively white. Now the greatest variety of ethnic groups, ages, incomes, etc. is most obvious at Bayshore Mall.

I haven't been to Bayshore Mall at Christmastime in a few years, but someone who had said that it was even busier this Saturday. One is tempted to see a counter-trend of optimism to the continuing upward climb of the California unemployment rate, but maybe it's more pent-up demand. Or just a sunny Saturday afternoon.

I don't know that it says much about the future of the mall, either, but clearly this mall isn't dead yet. It's still a place people like to go and to be.

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