Motorists driving through Crestwood, Missouri today had to do something they may have never experienced before. I’ll admit, as someone that calls Crestwood home – I can’t recall the last time I saw cars having to wait for large groups of pedestrians crossing the street and heading toward Crestwood Plaza.
For those that aren’t familiar with Saint Louis history – it’s best summed up as I heard it from one man walking with his young daughters to today’s farewell gathering. “Kids, at one time this was the place to be in Saint Louis. Not South County Mall, not West County Mall, not anywhere else – everyone wanted to come to Crestwood Plaza.”
He’s right. I remember as a kid coming to the mall to play video games in the lower level with my grade school friends. You would come and watch a movie or shop for clothes. If you had money burning in your pocket – this was the place you went to find that hot new toy.
The Christmas season is probably what most Saint Louisans remember about Crestwood Plaza. It’s hard to believe that at one time, you actually had to park across town and take a shuttle to the mall – because there was no place to park. Today, the parking lot looks to be equal to about 40 empty football fields. The only thing missing is the tumble weed blowing across the pavement.
Walking among the thousands that came out to say goodbye – you heard lots of “I remember when….” and “I used to work here” or other memories and reflections. In addition to a time of warm memories it was also a sad reminder of how things have changed, both in the economy and in how we live our lives.
I’ve called Crestwood home for about ten years and couldn’t be more thrilled that the mall is finally coming down. Following the conversations and bickering among certain residents and city leaders has been nothing short of a complete embarrassment. There’s a lot of other blame to go around – including the hard fact that people just don’t shop the way they used to – making Crestwood Plaza’s glory days nothing more than a memory.
Shortly after returning to Saint Louis after graduating high school in southern California, I took a job working part time at Dillards to save money for a house. I worked in the shoe department and it was the worst job I have ever had. The foot traffic (see what I did there?) was more scarce than a line of people trying to get in to cast a primary vote for Jeb Bush.
There were so few people that came into the mall that I actually taught myself to sleep upright on a ladder in the back of the storage room. I had mastered the art of sleeping just sound enough that I could still pop into action if I heard the sound of a customer entering my department. Needless to say, I got to sleep a lot.
Walking off this property for the very last time – it’s great to see so many people coming out to share their good memories and show their support for this community. About 40 food trucks each had long lines, some as many as 60 or more people deep. Folks brought lawn chairs, there were bands, even the fire trucks and police cars had their doors open for kids to hop in. The guy cruising around in the “Mall Security” truck had to be thinking he was on an acid trip seeing the lot full of people. For the last few years, people weren’t even allowed to be on the property.
Feel free to share with me your favorite memory of Crestwood Plaza in the comments section. (For those that don’t normally read my website – please note I have no tolerance for rude or ignorant comments – so save your time as they’ll never see the light of day. )
Crestwood Plaza Fun Facts:
-First opened March 21, 1957
-Officially closed on July 11, 2013 *Even earlier if you don’t count the failed “art space” experiment.
-Lens Crafters was the last store to be in business.
-The entire property is 47 acres.
-Most recent purchase price: $3.6 million
– At its peak – there were 157 stores and 3 anchor stores. (i.e. Macys, Dillards, etc.)