Commentary and photographs by M. Eagle
A great place to park
The best thing about the Moorhead Center Mall located at 510 Center Ave. Moorhead, Minn., is the parking. I know this because I spent an entire evening at the Moorhead Center Mall visiting the shops and talking to people. Many people said the reason they shop at the mall was because of good parking. I thought no sales tax on clothes would be at the top of the list but no one I talked to mentioned it. My parking experience was excellent. To see the Moorhead Center Mall’s website click here.
The first thing I noticed about the Moorhead Center Mall was all the open space available for sale or lease. Overall I got the feeling that the mall as a whole wasn’t doing well. That’s not to say that some of the shops weren’t doing well because many of them had a lot of customers, Furniture for Less was packed.
The Moorhead Center Mall has many of the same stores that the West Acres Mall in Fargo has and a few are even corporations like GNC, Herberger’s and Maurices. Which made me wonder why this mall isn’t more in the public’s social conscience.
One reason has to be its location. West Acres is next to Interstate-94, whereas the Moorhead Center Mall is by the Red River almost tucked away. While it’s close to downtown Fargo it’s a pain to navigate to, but once you get there you’re rewarded with great parking.
Another reason I don’t think the mall is doing as well as it could is because city hall is located in the mall. For me it doesn’t make sense to have the center of local government in a shopping mall. The world was a different place 38 years ago and maybe back then it was a good idea, but I think the mall would be better served with a distinction between a place for government and a place for pleasure.
Finally, I think the mall would attract more people if they changed their motto. The Moorhead Center Mall’s motto is, ‘Another great place to shop.’ To me this motto concedes that there are other great places to shop but that this mall is willing to wait in line as people’s second or third choice for shopping. It’s not The choice but Another.
The motto should be more assertive. Here’s a thought, how about, ‘A great place to shop,’ or attach a rocket to the motto with some rollerskates, light the fuse Wile E. Coyote style and change it to (cue the trumpets), ‘The place to shop.’ To see Wile E. Coyote in action click here.
Why should you shop here?
I asked Scott Puffe, second-generation owner of Puffe’s Fine Jewelry, why people should shop at the Moorhead Center Mall and he said, “Many of the businesses in the mall are locally owned. They’re not big corporations. The money you spend at the mall supports the community.” Puffe also said, “The mall has easy access in and out and that it’s located in a friendly location.
Catherine Smith a worker at GNC said, “Shop here because it’s close to downtown, there’s good parking and everyone that works here is friendly and willing to help.”
According to the Moorhead Center Mall’s website, the mall opened in 1973, as part of an urban renewal project. The goal of the project was to rebuild the business district into a ‘major shopping center’ while at the same time giving Moorhead a ‘revitalized downtown.’ So have the projects goals been achieved 38 years later? Pern Canton, President of American State Bank, said it best in 1973, quoted from the mall’s website, “Two years from now you will not know downtown Moorhead…” Canton couldn’t have known how prophetic his words would be.
Being an outsider looking in, I would say 38 years after opening people still don’t know downtown Moorhead. I’m not even sure where downtown Moorhead begins. Where are the artists and the culture that exist just over the river in downtown Fargo? Downtown Moorhead and the Moorhead Center Mall need more of an identity. I was cognizant Moorhead had a mall but I had never been to it.
The only reason I ended up at the Moorhead Center Mall was because the Hjemkomst Center was closed. And thank my stars for that because apparenly everyone from the Fargo-Moorhead area already knows everything there is to know about the Hjemkomst Center. I found this out the hard way after spending five hours at the Hjemkomst Center and writing a 12th-grade level piece on it. To see the Hjemkomst Center’s website click here.
As far as malls go, the Moorhead Center Mall leaves much to be desired. Personally I will probably not go back anytime soon. The atmosphere was bland and the walkways were too narrow, think high school. There’s a template malls follow. That’s why when you go into a mall you’ve never been to it feels like every other mall. The Moorhead Center Mall doesn’t have that feeling. This mall has no ego and Donald Trump said it best, “You show me someone without an ego and I’ll show you a loser.”
For a place that could use some positive publicity the Moorhead Center Mall was less than inviting. When I tried to photograph some of the stores I was directed outside by one of the owners for fear of breaching his high-tech security. That’s why my photographs are all of the exterior. I also had a hard time getting store workers to go on record to say anything about the mall, positive or negative. I guess when you’re used to mediocrity you’re content to wallow in it.
Edited by Kristin Kirtz MSUM journalism major