Remember ye olden days before internet shopping was a thing and you had to buy your JNCO jeans and Steve Madden sandals at the mall? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the most ’90s of times. Tragically, most of the era’s best stores are out of business now, so we’re rounding ’em up in one list in the name of nostalgia.
The fact that we lived through a time when you had to go to a physical store in order to watch a movie shakes me to my very core. What even is a VHS tape?
FYI, there is actually *one* remaining Blockbuster on planet earth. It’s in Bend, Oregon, but it’s basically a tourist attraction at this point.
Behold: the bleakest, most cursed image you’ve ever seen. Why must the “EVERYTHING ON SALE!” signs be in those terrible colors?!
Toys “R” Us
I guess toys weren’t us, because this beloved childhood store declared bankruptcy in 2018. What happened to the youth?!
Toys “R” Us
But like a phoenix rising from the ’90s mall ashes, Toys “R” Us is planning to reopen some stores later this year as an “experiment.” You have our attention....
What was a trip to the mall without forcing your mother into KB Toys and manipulating her into buying something (preferably Pogs (opens in new tab)) for you? A failure, that’s what.
A.k.a. the cool-kids-only store where you bought all your clothes until your mom deemed you old enough to shop at The Limited. In case you need a refresher...
...this is the kind of fashion we were dealing with. So many sporty tees even before athleisure was a thing.
Truly, my brain can’t even process all the things happening in this photo. But I’m pretty confident I owned and proudly rocked that purple fluffy scarf.
Nineties real ones know what a huge deal it was to graduate from Limited Too to The Limited. I mean, it basically was a rite of passage in your journey to becoming an adult (by which I mean...entering eighth grade).
One of the great joys of life was going to Linens-n-Things so that your parents could buy linens and then begging them to buy you an expensive trapper keeper (opens in new tab) while you were there (which I guess is what they meant by “n-things”).
Hello, and welcome to the most depressing photo you’ve ever seen. It’s not exactly a shock that Mervyn’s—once a mall staple—closed down. I mean, it looks like a place lonely people go to weep quietly. But still! Shopping there with your grandma was pretty chill!
Say it with me now: L-O-L. Poor Miller’s Outpost was big in the ’70s and ’80s, but it just could never be as cool as The Limited in the ’90s no matter how hard it tried.
And trust: It tried hard.
Miller’s Outpost later rebranded to Anchor Blue, and for a while, its jeans were a genuine ’90s vibe.
Okay, so technically, 5-7-9 is still around. But not in the way it was when we were kids, when you couldn’t even enter a mall without being drawn to the siren call of its funky (by which I mean absolutely unacceptable) font.
RadioShack used to be in every neighborhood in America and it was *the* place to get those clear plastic landline phones. Then it filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and things (read: the few remaining stores) have never been the same.
Have! You! Ever! Seen! An! Image! More! Wholesome!
Fact: The best part about a trip to the mall was heading to Sharper Image with your friends and trying out every single one of its massage chairs.
*Rare picture of me at the mall in 1990.*
A.k.a. the place where you bought your very expensive soccer cleats that you wore approximately three times before dramatically quitting the team. Also, head to the next slide for the most ’90s image you will ever lay eyes on.
Remember when people bought CDs? Yeah, no, me neither.
But in all honesty, Tower Records was a cool place, so R.I.P.
Here’s another iconic spot to buy music that simply couldn’t stay in business once everything moved over to the internet and the only people still buying CDs were your grandparents.
This was basically the original Five and Dime. Meaning that everything there was dirt cheap, making it a great place to spend your allowance.
Say it with me: WE MUST PROTECT THE MEMORY OF DELIA*S AT ALL COSTS. No other store was more important to ’90s girls, for reasons including...
Exhibit A: ITs INcredIBlE uSE oF FoNT.
Exhibit B: The store’s very specific taste in jewelry, including this necklace of a Yoo-hoo (????) bottle cap. (P.S. hAnG oN, sIsTEr!)
I honestly barely remember this store due to how incredibly basic it was, but nevertheless, it persisted. Until it didn’t.
Otherwise known as Express, but for dudes. Sadly, Structure became Express Men in 2001, ruining #MallMemories in the process.
In case it’s not clear, this store sold software, etc. But more important, it was the home of GameStop, which was the place to buy video games at the mall.
This might not come as a surprise to you, but Software Etc. leaned in super hard to nerd-dom.
Before Foot Locker was in every mall in America, we had Kinney Shoes. And I mean that literally: The company actually rebranded into Foot Locker!
Sidenote: I would fully wear these as an adult woman in 2019. They're cute.
You can’t talk about ’90s shoe stores without mentioning Wild Pair, the sacred place where you bought all your ugliest platform chunky heels.
Wild Pair, I’m living for your advertising drama.
So, Chess King was a men’s clothing store, and I think we can all agree that its advertising strategy was a blatant cry for help. Understandably, it died a mall-store death in ’95.
Merry Go Round
Like Chess King, Merry Go Round only made it midway through the ’90s before we, the people, were all “NOPE, BYE” and rejected it. For an explanation as to why, please see: this picture.
Aw, B. Dalton was so fun to browse around in! But with the rise of internet shopping, mall bookstores just didn’t have a chance. Which brings us to...
...another absolute favorite of our collective mall-trolling childhoods that simply couldn’t survive Amazon. We’ll miss you, ole bud.
Sam Goody was insanely successful...until it wasn’t. But during the store’s heyday, it was responsible (opens in new tab) for a whopping seven percent of all U.S. record sales.
Honestly, I just feel lucky to have lived through an era where a candle store named Wicks’n’Sticks was an actual thing and not the setting of an SNL skit.
Remember Fashion Bug? It was a plus-size clothing store that made super cute items in a range of sizes—in other words, it was a size-inclusive gem.
If the name isn’t clear enough, this is where Cool Kids™ shopped when Hot Topic was busy. A great place to buy your JNCOs.
Otherwise known as the place where you’d jump on mattresses while staff glared at you. FYI, Sleepy’s was acquired by Mattress Firm in 2015, so now all former Sleepy’s stores go by the name “Mattress Firm.”
Wet Seal clientele included kids in middle America (hi) who wanted to dress like they were from a ’90s teen TV show set in Southern California.
Where all your “alternative” friends who listened to Nirvana shopped. You (I) were too scared to go in there.
Mehera Bonner is a celebrity and entertainment news writer who enjoys Bravo and Antiques Roadshow with equal enthusiasm. She was previously entertainment editor at Marie Claire and has covered pop culture for over a decade.
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