Century III Odyssey

So after my recent post about Parkway Center Mall, a couple of people suggested I do the same treatment to Century III Mall. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there and I always like a good challenge so on a recent rainy morning, we hit the mall and set out to record some post-apocalyptic shopping mall decay.

Problem is, we didn’t really find it. Granted, there are a lot of empty storefronts at Century III Mall, but overall the place was really kind of pleasant. You know, like, for a mall. But before I get to all that, let’s set the scene.

When I was a teenager in the 90s, I always thought that Century III Mall seemed like the place to be and I’m not exactly sure if that had anything to do with the mall itself or because of the uber-catchy Century III Chevrolet jingle. You know it: Century III / Chev-ro-let / Lebanon Church Road Pittsburgh (Minutes from the mall!). Anyways, in spite of its status as a really happening place in my mind, I was only ever there a handful of times back then and unfortunately I don’t really remember too much about the mall itself except it was where I bought my first Fiona Apple CD and I always felt really urban and sophisticated just being there. I’m sure that sounds weird to a lot of you city folk, but when your main shopping center is the Indiana Mall, Century III might as well be Rodeo Drive.

Strangely, what I really remember about those trips wasn’t so much the stores in the mall as its surrounding landscape and how with all the barren strip mine remnants combined with the area’s odd name the whole place seemed kind of extra-terrestial. While many things have changed since those first visits, the landscape around the mall remains mostly unchanged. Except that now there’s a Kohls, Home Depot and Wal-Mart SuperCenter built on top of the old strip mine hills. Come on, can you honestly look at this picture and tell me you never thought that the area looks like some outer space wasteland?

As we entered the mall, I was immediately distracted by this sign for a band playing at the Steel City Saloon. Is this for real? I thought I left shiz like this behind in Indiana County.

Having recovered from the Legendary Hucklebucks (of course, can one truly ever recover from the Hucklebucks?), we powered deep into the mall in search of some empty stores. That took about all of two seconds.

With a winning font like this, can you believe that Pittsburgh Consignment didn’t last?

Next door, this closed storefront looked like an abandoned store on Main Street, with an awning and street lights and all. I don’t know what was there before so I’m not sure why it had this look and not your usual gate but here’s the thing: How AWESOME would it be if Century III really did remodel their abandoned stores to mirror the decay of Main Street USA? If I was an artist, I would try to get on that ASAP. Until then, I’ll just subject you to yet another picture of my kid in front of an abandoned storefront. Her face is saying that she’s sick of this but her mind is thinking about the animatronic merry-go-round she saw downstairs. Trust me.

Amidst all the stores that haven’t lasted at Century III, DEB is an enduring reminder of the retail store that just won’t quit. Seriously. When I think of all the stores that have come and gone in my lifetime, DEB is not one of them. I’m pretty sure DEB will survive the apocalypse.

And while we’re talking about the Hot Tub Time Machine of mall stores, this place also exists:

Sadly, this place no longer exists but now that you’ve seen that name are you ever going to forget it?

And now for the money shot: old people!!!! See that guy in the table at the foreground? He was all alone and that kind of made me sad. There he sat, right across from the other people reading the newspaper and writing in a notebook. I think that’s pretty much the old people equivalent of texting your friends in public to make it look like you’re waiting for your peeps instead of tragically alone. We totally should have stopped and talked to him.

Beyond the food court is a series of weird half-levels that I’d nearly forgotten about. Apparently so has everybody else because except for the hugest comic book store I’ve ever seen that side of the mall was desolate. But I have to give props to the mall management for creating several really nice sitting areas in that section with plenty of comfy chairs and benches.

It’s really the perfect place for naps:

Or tantrums:

And while we’re talking about mall management, I have to say that what really impressed me the most about my trip to Century III was that in spite of all the closed stores, the mall looked better and cleaner than I remember it looking in its prime. Granted, the carpet was pretty shabby but by and large the place was extremely well-kept. EVEN THE HUSBAND SAID SO. And that is really saying something because The Husband is the Pittsburgh Dad of clean and if he says something is clean then it is really damn clean. But don’t take it from me, look at this fountain:

That’s freakin’ clean.

Century III Mall definitely isn’t the shopping destination that it used to be. But it also didn’t make me want to give up on life like Pittsburgh Mills has been known to do so that is always a plus. I’m sure that those of you who grew up going to this mall regularly may have a completely different take on it and I hope that you will leave those thoughts in the comments, but consider this blogger pleasantly surprised