Last Call: Laurel Mall

For the past several years, I’d been hearing about how Laurel Mall had gone drastically downhill. Literally—as parts of the upper level parking decks had famously collapsed.

Admittedly, I hadn’t visited the mall in probably more than a decade, since I began residing in Northern Virginia. But even friends who still live in Laurel would tell me not to waste my time there, as virtually everything we once knew had long-since vanished. Truth be told, there wasn’t much other than Time-Out that I missed significantly. But until I pressed for further information, I didn’t really comprehend just how far gone Laurel Mall actually was.

I read various blog articles about the mall’s current condition; and by “current condition”, I mean the steady and shocking exodus of nearly all retailers that began as long ago as 2001. I learned about multiple failed renovation plans, multiple ownership bankruptcies, and other sordid details. I heard stories about crime and violence at the mall. Even the mall’s own website shut down at some point. Yet, all the while, the structure remained—and remained open. Occasionally driving past on Route 1, Cherry Lane, or through Laurel Shopping Center, you could see the occasional shopper emerging from Burlington Coat Factory; or a car entering the lower level parking area. Signs of retail life, albeit faint.

This past summer, I decided to see just how bad it was for myself. In late July 2011, I drove to Laurel Mall—or what I used to know as Laurel Centre. I would have loved to walk through the skyway between the Shopping Center and (what used to be) J.C. Penney, but I knew that was also long-gone. Driving between the buildings, you can see where it once was.

The upper-level parking areas had all been blocked off.

I parked in the east side lower-level garage, and entered the mall next to what I recall being a Fujifilm 1-hour photo place in the early 1990s. Now, of course, it’s just an empty, shuttered space—much like the rest of the mall’s interior. That day, I found myself eerily alone in what was essentially a vacant Laurel Mall; literally a shell of the vibrant, bustling little shopping center I fondly remember from my youth.

I had been here in 1979, when the mall first opened. The following year, I won a Halloween costume contest right in the center of the mall. (In fact, I was being introduced the very moment that guest judge Congresswoman Gladys Noon Spellman suffered a heart attack and slipped into an 8-year coma just a few feet away).

Now, even in spite of the sealed doors, the darkened windows, and the emptiness, the mall still maintained a familiarity. Scenes such as this from an October 1979 issue of the Baltimore Sun were still palpable.

I walked through the mall that day by myself, trying to recall which empty spaces once held stores that I’d frequented. Somewhere downstairs was Spencers and Kay-Bee Toys; somewhere upstairs was Waldenbooks. Aside from Payless Shoe Source (the only remaining original tenant, to my knowledge), there were only a few generic shops open for business; places that, sadly, would probably be better suited selling their wares on eBay than paying rent at a place like this. Most of these were on the lower level. Amazingly, the entire north upper level (the former J.C. Penney side) was closed completely.

I took a number of photos that day, not knowing if it would be the last time I’d ever see Laurel Mall or not.

A few months went by, and I read that yet another plan to replace the mall had apparently been approved, this time with demolition permits already secured. According to the Mayor’s office, demolition (at least to the parking garages) was actually going to begin by the end of the year, but was delayed until after the holidays per Mayor Craig Moe’s request. According to the official release, within 45 days, (meaning by February 2012, supposedly) Greenberg Gibbons plans to submit to the City its full demolition plans to the Mall; and also will update its plans for the “Laurel Town Center” development project. So, yes—despite earlier talk of “Laurel Commons”, the name of the new mall appears to be Laurel Town Center. Or might I suggest “Centre”, in a nod to the original name. At any rate, they don’t seem to mind the fact that nearly anyone who knows Laurel will forever associate the name “Town Center” with the existing strip mall at the corner of Rt. 197 and Contee Rd., but I digress.

The new Laurel Town Center as proposed. Photo: Martin Architectural Group

The new Laurel Town Center as proposed. Photo: Martin Architectural Group

The new Laurel Town Center as proposed. Photo: Martin Architectural Group

As the end of the year approached, I had an idea. I wanted to visit the empty mall at least one more time—this time with old friends and other like-minded Laurel nostalgia buffs. More than a few people had mentioned being wary of walking through the mall alone, which was part of the reason they hadn’t gone in years. (The other part being the fact that there were no longer any actual stores in the mall). So in December, I posted an event invitation on the Lost Laurel Facebook page, announcing the chance to join a small group of curious ex-mall rats, as we walked through the vacant mall to take photos and reminisce. To make it “official”, I designed a flyer:

At the same time, I’d been trying to contact mall management—to both inquire about the vague demolition schedule and to let them know about the plan to tour and photograph the property before it’s gone for good. I’ve also been curious to find any early mall directories, advertisements, etc., which one would assume any mall management would have archived somewhere. (If you happen to have any, please let me know!)

Unfortunately, the phones weren’t being answered at the main information number. No voicemail, no nothing. A second number I tracked down (for the non-existent “Laurel Commons”, interestingly enough) yielded a voicemail message from a barely intelligible Indian woman, thanking the caller for phoning Laurel Commons (whatever that is) before degenerating into an incomprehensible listing of other numbers. Again, there was no option to leave a message of my own.

I did the next best thing—I called two stores that I knew were still open—Burlington Coat Factory and Payless Shoe Source—to ask if they knew when demolition would start. The clerk at Burlington did not, and ironically suggested that I call mall management. The clerk at Payless also wasn’t aware of the pending schedule, but was able to answer my main question about whether or not the mall would be open and “walkable” on December 31st. She believed that it would be.

So on New Years Eve, I picked up two of my oldest friends in Laurel—the twins, Rodney and Ronald Pressley—and we did something we hadn’t done in years. We drove to the mall.

Within minutes of parking in the lower level garage area, we heard a familiar roar. Thankfully, it wasn’t the upper level collapsing; it was another old friend arriving. Jimmy Smith, driving a custom pickup truck that holds the engine from his old Chevy Camaro—the car in which he used to cruise this very parking lot in the 1980s.

Jimmy also came dressed for the occasion, literally. His black leather motorcycle jacket was purchased at Wilson’s Leather—here in the mall—back in the 80s. He also brought his old mall rat jean jacket, a relic from his high school days.

You may have noticed something in that photo of Jimmy’s Steelers truck—a mall security vehicle in the distance. As you’re probably guessing, it was a harbinger of things to come.

Jimmy, the twins, and I entered the mall together—easily the first time we’d done so in nearly 25 years. At least one of the escalators still worked, and after riding it the way some of us occasionally used to, the realization of what the mall had become slowly began to settle in.

We’d been in the mall for only a matter of minutes, when a lone security guard—sitting in the empty Food Court—politely summoned our small group. Having noticed my camera, he informed us that he’d gotten a call from mall management (the apparently ubiquitous yet unreachable mall management). They were concerned about reports of “people taking photos in the mall”. I introduced myself and explained our reason for visiting and taking the photos, and the guard was sympathetic. He seemed genuinely impressed that we cared enough about the deserted mall to organize a group tour, if you will, and explained that management was mainly concerned about us taking any “structural photos”. He clarified that it would be okay to take a photo of someone—but no photos specifically of the mall structure itself. We both laughed at the irony of this, given that the mall structure was slated for demolition any day now.

While we chatted, I could hear his walkie-talkie reporting a number of other people taking pictures in the mall. It had begun.

Other old friends began filtering in: Kevin Buter, whom I’ve known since kindergarten, arrived sporting a Galaga t-shirt—a tribute to the countless video games we’d played at Time-Out, just around the corner.

Soon, a number of others gathered between the old Time-Out and Hair Cuttery. Some I recognized, others I had never met. But they’d all heard about the “Last Call: Laurel Mall” event, from a variety of sources, and were compelled to visit. Memories were shared about old jobs in the mall, and pinpointing the location of certain long-lost stores proved easier said than done. But just milling about the area, nearly everyone could recall specific sensory details from decades ago—the smell of peanuts roasting at The Peanut Shack, and cookies baking at The Great Cookie; the sounds of Donkey Kong, Asteroids, and countless quarters being changed by Time-Out manager Jeff Perlin.

All said, approximately 40–50 people showed up for the impromptu event, reminiscing and somewhat nervously noting the fact that this many people probably hadn’t assembled in the mall in years—a concern about whether or not the upper level would even support us all. Thankfully, it did.

In the hour or so we spent walking through the mall, the group I was with (most people broke off into smaller groups to tour at their own pace) was approached by security guards two more times. Each time, the concern was again voiced about people photographing the structural aspects of the mall. It was also suggested, albeit not very strongly, that we leave. Again, I asked about speaking to the mysterious mall management personally—as I’d tried to do from the start. Since they weren’t available (still), I explained that I’d do my best to remind the others not to specifically photograph anything that could be construed as “structural detail”. The understanding was that as long as a person was in the photo, we could take it.

There were a couple of “structural details” that I felt compelled to photograph, one way or another. These were remnants of the original Laurel Centre Mall that I once knew—remnants that existed before the mall’s inexplicable makeover in 1991 (when the mall was only 12 years old) that saw the complete removal of the beautiful, polished brown tile floors, wooden handrails, and wooden storefront frames in favor of white formica flooring and blue-painted metal rails. Hiding beside the old J.C. Penney was one of the original benches, and just outside the closed gate of the former Spencer’s Gifts was a row of the original brown floor tiles.

It was also suggested by security that we “buy something” at the mall during our visit. But the inherent problem with the current mall is that there isn’t anything really worth buying there. So some of us did the next best thing—we bought gumballs (which may very well have been from the 1990s) and rode the kiddie rides.

The kiddie rides, coincidentally, were once featured on Laurel Mall’s now defunct website—as an attraction to lure potential shoppers. Is it any real wonder why the mall is about to be torn down?

We walked the length of the mall a couple of times, pausing to reflect at nearly every empty storefront. You’d be amazed at just how many memories can come flooding back in a place like this, especially when you’re surrounded by old friends. I think the most common sentiment, aside from the general sadness of the mall’s fate, was surprise at just how well-kept the place actually is—despite it’s emptiness. Many were expecting a truly derelict mall, full of broken glass and crumbling walls, and that really wasn’t the case. In fact, someone remarked that it almost felt freshly painted. When I’d visited over the summer, the floor had apparently just been waxed as well. Why, I have no idea.

I always enjoyed this mall as a kid and as a teenager. And strangely enough, I enjoyed revisiting it in its final days, both alone and with just a few of the many visitors for whom it will always be a special place. If this really is the end of Laurel Mall as we knew it, hopefully its next life will be one that successfully revitalizes the area that we once called home.

For more photos, check out the full set from Last Call: Laurel Mall on Flickr.

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54 thoughts on “Last Call: Laurel Mall

  1. Bob Gibson says:

    Man i remember that mall like i was a kid again looking at those pictures brings me back to a time when you werent scared to walk to and from the mall by yourself fearing a gang might confront you or someone would put a gun in your face for your shoes. I remember hanging out there with a few good friends Michelle Stevenson Wally Allen Calvin Shifflet ( may he rest in peace) after school and sometimes til closing time not doing more than just hanging out to meet up with other friends to see what was up for the night. I also remember working at The Great Cookie it was one of my first jobs i had ever and Boardwalk Fries had Many Many good times there gonna be sad to see it go. Man it really makes a person feel old to look back at a land mark like the mall to remember it being built to being demolished wow.

    Bob Gibson

  2. Debra Short says:

    Reading this definitely brought memories to mind. So sad to see what once was a big part of peoples lives (especially those who live or lived in Laurel) sitting impassively waiting to be put out of it’s lonely misery. Deb

  3. Sharilyn Kennedy says:

    Great pics! Wish I could have made it there…sad that the mall can’t be resurrected somehow 😦 many memories there growing up from the food court to the back halls behind the stores 😉 many days skipping school to hang there & not get caught by security haha! I’ll miss the old Laurel Centre Mall, no matter what they build there it will never, ever be the same…..

  4. Jennifer Porter Drake says:

    I really wanted to come!!I remember those brown tiles and benches. And the smell of peanuts from the Peanut Shack, the Great cookie, lunch at Friendly’s with friends and so much more. What a shame the mall has come to this….I’d love to find some old memoribilia from the early days.

  5. Marie (Edwards) Stancovich says:

    Thank you for taking us on a walk down memory lane! I wasn’t able to make it to the Last Call Tour and this was the next best thing! Your article and pictures, although enjoyable, have strangely left me feeling like the mall looks, empty.

  6. lisa shank bickley says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this last call with us. It’s a shame it’s gone downhill so much, but nothing stays the same. So many great memories and milestones we all share from there. 🙂

  7. Julia says:

    It’s a shame the security guards weren’t as concerned while the mall was still open.
    Had the mall not gotten it’s bad reputation for crime and violence,it may not have closed.
    I stopped going there years ago because of the crime, and security was no where to be found! Just as the management never was,and by the looks of this article still isn’t.

    I had been going to that mall since I was a baby and it’s a shame they just let it fall apart the way they did.

  8. Trish McIntosh says:

    Oh wow! What a flashback! I’m amazed the security guard didn’t use the immortal phrase of “Move along, please… Move along. . . ”
    I can’t say the years spent as a mallrat (’84-85, and 87-88) were the golden days of my youth, but there were SO many memories. 3 jobs (Subway, DoktorPet, Deck the Walls). And to think, there was a time when me and my friends were part of the unsavory element that might have concerned the more suburban minded shoppers.

    I really wish I could’ve made the Lass Call tour with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this up and post your pics!

    Trish Mc.

  9. Gloria says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DOING THIS!! What memories from a small town country girl who moved to the “big” city. I moved here in MD in 1980 permanently at the ripe old age of 18. My 1st job was Spencer’s…walked in…manager said come back in 2 hours which I did & he hired me. I then moved on to more hours at a new job selling plants at a kiosk in front of the newly under construction Hechts. Moved on into the Arbitron Building for a 1st full time job & used the now collapsed crosswalk to get to the mall every day. Orange Julius/Harmony Hut/The Great Cookie & my memory wants to keep going. Had a daughter who visited Santa & the Easter Bunny there every year. I spent an incredible amount of off time there & I’ll never forget that chapter in my life. The brown tile photo…wow! Sure do remember. Thank you again for taking the time to do this….you made some one truly happy!!

  10. Liz says:

    Awesome post!! I used to work at the Matthew’s Hallmark on the first floor. It’s where I met my now husband! So many great memories there!

  11. Danette Stickle says:

    I walked through Laurel Mall myself on Christmas Eve with my daughter describing what used to be there. It was a sad and short walk. I didn’t take any pictures, but remember many things like the pet store that was right next to JC Penney that had a pen of bunnies every Easter. There was also the little tobacco shop that was on the lower level next to what used to be Hect’s. That was the only place that would sell me cigarettes while I was under the legal age. There are too many memories to list. I do wish I could have gone for the Last Call though!

  12. Thank you for this!! I was unable to make the “last call” but I have so many memories at the mall!!! You did an awesome job and it will be missed!!!

  13. Nathan Hedge says:

    I’ve watched the long and painful decline from a distance, but always cherished those time-out games, years of shopping for Christmas gifts with my parents as a kid, the meals after school at Laurel High…my brother can remember walking to the mall for lunch…and SOMETIMES even walking back to school. A piece of Laurel dies with this demolition…along with a piece of my childhood.

  14. Tom says:

    Laurel Mall’s design reminds me of a mall in Florida, but I don’t remember exactly where. It, too, had the parking deck in front. While it has been going downhill for many years, I thought it was well laid out. What a shame to destroy what is essentially a sound structure. I remember when the skywalk was open. After I finished getting groceries at the Giant, I could leave the car parked and go into the mall. Every time I pulled into the parking lot to go to the Giant, I remembered that this was where George Wallace was shot during his presidential campaign.

  15. JoeB says:

    Compare and contrast with Columbia Mall. The mall in Columbia is much older, but never ever came to close to such a fate. It’s as freash and vibrate as it’s ever beeen and so busy one gets weary attempting to find a decent place to park.

    Landover Mall, Laurel Mall, Rockville Mall. The common denominator? You tell me.

    The last amazing thing is how a place like Laurel has no movie theater worth speaking of, amazing.

    • Jan says:

      I never could figure out why Columbia Mall was so successful and Laurel Mall was so weak. The Columbia Mall did not have a theater for many years but it was still vibrant.

  16. Don Knieriem says:

    Thanks for this great tour and nostalgia fix! My most vivid recollection is when the then SUPERSTAR Barney the dinosaur came to the mall one evening – probably circa 1985? There had never been soooo many people at the mall. Every parking space in every garage was gone. Both the upper and lower levels of the mall were so jammed with people and kids that you literally could not move a foot without shouldering someone out of the way. We never did get to actually lay eyes on Barney, but the huge, hyped crowd was something I’ll never forget.

  17. lavelle says:

    There were no gangs in laurel it was kids hanging out at the mall that was the place to meet up I am going to miss the memories of laurel mall

  18. Peggy says:

    Here’s another “no wonder” – I wanted to buy a new wig at one of the very few stores still open at the Laurel Mall (I’m a cancer surviver this year) and the clerk told me that I could not try any one.
    OK, then. I go to the wig store at Arundel Mills Mall.

  19. Ang says:

    So glad to see those brown tiles!

  20. Mike Sarich says:

    Thank you for the pictures and stories. One of my very first jobs was @ Kay-Bee during the Christmas “rush.” It’s sad that the place so many of us got our working start at is no longer a place our kids can get theirs…





  22. kan says:

    Great post! Thanks for a reminder of my past!

  23. Vickie Stengel Sylvain says:

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane! I couldn’t make it up from NoVa and appreciate your pictures! So many great memories of open lunch and shopping during lunch. Are those back stairs and door by the food court still open? Those stairs were the “gateway” to our “freedom” in H.S. So cool to have open lunch and be able to walk or drive to the mall to do whatever we wanted for an hour! I never did get to work in the mall, but I really wanted to at the time! But we spent enough time there walking and meeting and shopping!! My mom LOVED Hecht’s and we went there for EVERYTHING! She always had to park in the back parking lot because the front one “scared her”. I just remember the noise the cars made cruising the top lot and how loud it was from the bottom lot.

    Some stores that I remember that hadn’t been mentioned were Casual Corner, Rite Aid, and the Earring Hut (?). That’s where I got my ears pierced the first time! It was one of those kiosks in the middle. My whole family did their banking at the Bank (Suburban, Standard – started with an S?) and there was a Hair Cuttery. It was either across from Time Out or across from the bank. Can’t remember. There was that Things Remembered place and wasn’t there an engraving place on the lower level by the stairs by Payless and Monkey Wards?

    I also remember going there, probably for one of the last times, the week of my father’s death and funeral. We wanted my first son who was about 2 to see Santa. He was one of the nicest guys and spent a lot of time with him, mainly because there wasn’t many kids there. It was a nice last memory!

    Vickie Stengel Sylvain

    • Mark says:

      Hey there Vickie. Mark here, from Howard County General. So funny to see you on here. Me big white guy with long hair, from the lab. So sorry to hear about your Dad ‘s passing. He was Mike, of Mike’ s iced tea or lemonade(?). Not sure. Anyway, glad you are hopefully married with kids. Always wishing for the best for you and yours. Peace.

  24. GARY BOWIE says:

    Man, since hearing all these great posts I feel obligated to share my story with you. How many remember when the great Sugar Ray Lenard did a TV show in the inner circle. The stores Kay bee toys, Spencer.The Nut Shack, Kay Jewelers where I got my wedding rings, hanging out with Rob McCutchon, Dwayne Harrison and Mike Goard. I use to enjoy catching up with my brother Joe Bowie and his boy Rousseau and fat head Rene. Laurel mall will never be forgotten. Long live The LAUREL MALL

  25. Sarah (Devillier) Lobb says:

    Thanks for posting this, and for doing such an honor to Laurel Mall. I was born in the mid-80s and spent over a decade in and out of Laurel Mall, as my mother worked in two of the stores there (the Hair Cuttery and then the long-gone, but wonderful, Melart Jewelers). Some of my first memories are in that mall! It was such a bustling, “cool” place but it eventually became known as the “ghetto” mall among my friends by the time we reached our college years and started shopping exclusively in Columbia. Do you remember when they put the twin tents up in front of the parking lot on Route 1? I think they hold up the sign for the Mall. My family called it the brassiere (or bra) of Laurel. Got a lot of laughs out of that. 🙂

  26. Dave in Las Vegas says:

    Thanks so much for capturing these images and bringing back some great childhood memories.

  27. Thanks for all the great comments!! It’s such a blast to hear from folks who clearly share a fondness for our old mall—and ALL these other long-lost Laurel landmarks. 🙂 I’m happy to report that just today I managed to track down an original, full directory of the Mall’s first tenants, and am anxious to clean it up a bit and share it here ASAP!

    ~ ®

  28. wendylwalker says:

    Thanks so much for the great photos. So many good memories at that mall. Especially meeting my husband in 1981 while we were both working at Burgerman in the Food Court. It has changed so much over the years. I hope that the new town centre brings life back to that old stretch of Route 1.

  29. karen says:

    Thank you for the memories of a great place in my life too. I still live in the area and drive by the mall daily remembering all the good times there. If the plans for the mall become a reality we will have a very nice place to shop again. One with great stores both high end and practical. The plans are based on the renovation of Parole in Annapolis a very nice place to shop and dine.

  30. Nadine T says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing! What memories too! Not to mention Monkey Wards! The food court looks so odd vacant! So sad…this is the way Springfield Mall is going….
    I wonder if it’s a generational thing, the malls…..

  31. clare wiedmaier says:

    Clare Wiedmaier I remember the good all mall as well. I even was a security guard their back in the early 80’s. The Bermans used to own the mall and they paid to build the bridge across contee so the road would bring in customers easier than going around 197 to 198 and back up us1. Before the Goodie farm got sold for a million dollars and developed the laurel mall was the place to go.

  32. Nancy Cordiero Mossburg says:

    Thank you for giving me a walk down memory lane. I remember being there the day the mall opened. That was such an exciting day for Laurel! I was 16 years old at the time, and began cruisin’ the mall from that day on. I’m so sad it’s gone downhill and going to be demolished. My parents, who still live in Laurel, told me that it had gotten pretty bad recently and that they no longer shopped there. I didn’t realize just how bad it had gotten until now. The mall may go, but good memories will remain with me forever.

  33. Mike Ratcliffe says:

    Thanks for the photos and virtual tour. I wasn’t able to make it on the 31st. I was in the mall before it opened, taking a look and talking to people for an article for the Laurel High School newspaper, and then covered the opening of the mall. I spent lots of time at the mall– during open lunch in high school, shopping, working at Waldenbooks (in 1989, after grad school while looking for a permanent job). My wife, Kathy, worked at the Great Cookie in high school. We haven’t gone to the mall in probably 15 years– if we go to a mall, it’s Columbia Mall for us, and I think that says a lot about the Laurel mall’s problems. It just couldn’t compete with Columbia Mall for shoppers who wanted more upscale shopping, and couldn’t attract major retailers after decline set in because of the proximity of Columbia and other malls. Hopefully, the new Laurel Town Center will be successful (and you’re right, those of us who’ve been around Laurel a while will think of the shopping center at 197 and Contee when we hear “Town Center”).

  34. Laurie says:

    My first job was at Monkey Wards in the record dept., then onto toys – and I had a part-time job at Spencer’s gifts so I could afford to shop for Christmas that year. I also worked at No Name — the best place to get your 1980’s super straight legged Jordache jeans. Spent many lunch breaks at Orange Julius, the pizza place in the corner or at Time Out. Most of my friends worked somewhere in the mall back then – it was definitely one of the only “hot spots” in Laurel back then. Thanks for the pics — and it is a very sad place these days.

    If demo’ing it revitalizes and cleans up the area, good for Laurel. It could use a little freshening up for the next generations of Laurelites.

  35. JNae says:

    Thanks for sharing the memories…i remember working at the mall a long time ago, mother works there now but she will be going wherever Macy’s takes her

  36. leslie says:

    I worked for the company in NYC (Shopco) that developed and built the mall and was at the grand opening in the fall of 1979. I may have some memorabilia. Please let me know if you would like it.

  37. Kevin Kobee says:

    Thank you for the pics and article. It brings back many wonderful memories. I went to the Mall several times last winter for nostalgic sake, because I was moving to Colorado last spring. It was very sad, but filled with great memories. I remember when the Mall first opened, and my dad let me ride my bike with my friends to the new mall from West Laurel. I knew then that I was a big boy. I banked at Standard Federal Savings and Loan until it went away. My very first job was at Orange Julius, as a junior in High School. Somehow they paid me $3.25, 10 cents below minimum wage back then. I often traded Julius Drinks for fries and floats with a friend who worked at Boardwalk Fries. I remember visiting friends who worked at Pine Furniture in the center of the lower level and remember when it actually turned around. Time Out. How many quarters and Open Lunches did I waste on Pole Position. I remember cruising the Mall in the Redneck 500, in my first car, a 1970 Mustang, thinking I was the stuff, and getting pulled over by by a cop because I had a headlight out. That put me in my place real quick. Remember Herman’s Sporting Goods and of course Spencers and Kaybee Toys right next to each other. My next job after Orange Julius was at Woolworths, and always loved walking through the skywalk to the Mall on my breaks. The Mall is a part of us, who we are. It will be gone, but never forgotten. RIP Laurel Centre Mall.

  38. Andy McPhail says:

    Man how time flies. I can remember as a child standing at the glass wall seperating Montgomery Ward with the field where the mall was to be attached to Wards. I got my first job at Roy Rogers in the eatery & got Billy Ripkens autograph @ the mall. I was actually in the electronics section of Wards when I saw the news report that Elvis had died. Ah, the memories. I never realized that there was a group of Laurelites that remembered old Lsurel. I live about 20 miles away & always drive thru Laurel reflecting on the good ol’ days. Every now & then I find someone that remembers all I recall & we talk for hours like the go-cart track that was behind Peoples & McDonald’s. Thanks for the memories!

  39. Jim in Atlanta, GA says:

    Any idea if it’s been torn down yet? Not sure when I’ll be back in town but I would love to do one last walk thru myself.

    To the author – apparently I was within feet of you when you won your Halloween costume prize in 1979. I only know that because while I was looking in another direction, I accidentally tripped over Gladys Spellman’s foot just seconds after she collapsed that sad day.

    Thinking back I’ve always wondered how I could’ve tripped over her foot – I mean a person was laying on the ground right? How can one miss that? Now it makes sense that there must have been some big distraction (I was 9 yrs old after all). Perhaps that distraction was all the commotion of a kids’ Halloween costume contest.

    I was with my friend Matt and his mom. “What’s wrong with that lady?” asked Matt. “She’s sick honey” his mom replied. It wasn’t till a few days later I found out it was someone “famous” that I tripped over.

    That sad incident aside, I sure do miss that mall. I recognize those old brown tiles and so many other things that bring back so many memories with so many friends.

    • Richard Friend says:

      Wow, that’s some story, Jim! Thanks for sharing!

      I can totally relate to the distraction factor that night. As hard as it is to imagine today, that mall was PACKED—with people there for the costume contest as well as regular shoppers. There was a lot to take in, especially for kids our age. Plus, just being down in that center stage area for the first time, surrounded by all those people… it was something else. It’s memories like this that make visiting the mall today, in its emptiness, so unbelievably surreal.

      As of this writing, nothing has been done to the mall, and there still haven’t been any conclusive, updated plans outlined to the city in the wake of Macy’s decision to close their Laurel store—which was going to be one of the key anchors of the NEW mall.

      From what I understand, the original plan was to begin demolishing the parking garage(s) shortly after New Years—but that’s precisely when Macy’s dropped their bombshell. According to the developer, Greenberg Gibbons, they “expected” that decision. While I don’t necessarily buy THAT, I do believe that they’re now scrambling to secure another anchor store—which I think they’ll do successfully—and the demolition will once again get the green light. But as to when, that’s really anyone’s guess. As the security guard told me that day, “When we see construction vehicles outside, we’ll know they’re getting ready to do it.”

  40. Days of Broken Arrows says:

    Fantastic post — and idea. I would like to have seen the mall one last time. I’d love to know what killed this mall: was it changing demographics, Internet shopping or poor management. Actually judging from your post and the comment from the cancer survivor, maybe it was heavy-handed security and clerks. Keep the customer satisfied, as they say…

  41. Amanda says:

    I wish I had known about Last Call in time to make a farewell visit! Having grown up on the Adelphi/Beltsville line, Laurel Mall was THE place we went to for shopping errands and just plain hanging out! There were so many times that the “Belphi-Park Posse” (since my friends and I hailed from the Beltsville, Adelphi, and College Park areas, that’s what we called our little group) would pile into my car and go there after school or on the weekends, and I blew a TON of quarters at Time-Out playing Skee-Ball (I never did redeem all those tickets from that game-stupid, I know!). I have fond memories of the candy store too-we used to punk each other with those sour gumballs they sold, and my dad once scared the pants off a sales clerk at the Hallmark store when he noted that the helium tank wasn’t chained to the wall and told her how it could become a rocket if the valve got knocked off! So many store names are going through my mind as I type this-“Monkey Wards,” Doktor Pet Center, Topkapi (I have SO many pairs of funky earrings I bought there, and that’s where I got my ears pierced for the second time), Spencer (back when they sold COOL stuff like those kinetic sculptures and fun shirts with characters like Marvin the Martian on them-now it’s just a mix of stuff I call “stoner porn”), Herman’s Sporting Goods, Deck the Walls, Things Remembered, Hechts, Sam Goody, B. Dalton, Kay-Bee Toys, No-Name…the list goes on. And when my mom and I went shopping there, we ALWAYS came in from the shopping center on Route 1 via the skyway-it was an unwritten rule or something. I can’t believe it’s gone.

    And the food court-ye gods, the food court! Every time I went in there, I’d go nuts trying to make up my mind what I wanted to eat-you had Orange Julius, Taco Bell, Boardwalk Fries, Sbarro, Roy Rogers, a Chinese place, and others. I may have had trouble figuring out what to eat, but I always wrapped up lunch the same way-with an orange or lime sherbet cone at the ice cream place!

    Like so many people who’ve commented, I also had a job at the mall once. In the fall of 1994 between college semesters, I got a job at a kiosk in the mall near the Carousel that sold blown-glass and crystal knickknacks (I forget the name of the place). While the pace of the holiday season drove me nuts, I did have fun when I closed up at night because the security guards didn’t know that I spoke the police “10-codes” fluently due to my having volunteered at the police department in the town where I went to college. I managed to flummox more than one of them doing that, and the reactions I got were PRICELESS!

    Anyway, thanks for the posting and the pictures from the event. It’s so sad to see someplace that was such a big part of my life now empty and echoing, but it’s nice that people cared enough to come out and say goodbye.

    RIP Laurel Centre Mall

  42. Amanda says:

    The end of Laurel Mall has come. According to the Gazette’s website, Laurel Mall was officially closed on May 1st. While Burlington Coat Factory and the post office remain open, the rest of the mall is shuttered for good. It’s the end of an era for many of us who grew up in the Laurel area and have fond memories of the mall, but may our memories of the good times we had there live on forever. Farewell, old friend.

  43. […] Technically, I haven’t lived in Laurel for about 15 years. But being just around the Beltway in Northern Virginia, I do enjoy coming back for frequent visits; and for photographs and research for Lost Laurel. Maintaining that close proximity to my old hometown is particularly important to me when things happen—like when buildings are torn down, or when malls are closing their doors. […]

  44. Let’s not forget Italian Delight, Chess King and The Vacuum Store w/the two guys that played bluegrass music all day! So did the original directory ever get posted?

  45. DC says:

    This was such a nice blog posting. Thank you for writing this. I was happy to stumble upon it when trying to search for a store formerly in the mall. My memory of the mall is quite interesting. My family lived in Baltimore. When I was a child, my mom would take a regular visit to my grandmother’s cemetery in Laurel (Maryland National Cemetery). On our way back, we would stop at the mall and have lunch. I would spend time at Time Out while my mom would go to some stores. We would stroll to Montgomery Ward, JC Penny, and some of the other stores before driving back to Baltimore. Later in life, I went to Bowie State and would sometimes “cut through” Laurel. I saw the mall decline. Very nice memories at Laurel Mall — so sorry to see it close.

    • Richard Friend says:

      Thanks so much! There’s a LOT more mall content (and, of course, all things vintage Laurel) on the Facebook page (—which I typically update every day. Hope you’ll check it out!

  46. Tricia says:

    This was great to look at as I lived in Laurel from the year I was born (1979) through my early teens and remember many great trips to the mall. Even in my 20’s when very little was left of the mall but a few stores I would go there if I was in teh area.

  47. Babages…I bought so many video games there. Bought a Signature 2000 4 head vcr and my first stereo, an Aiwa 3 disc changer with surround sound from Monkey Wards. And my dad taking me to Orange Julius….great memories!

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