As Towne Square Mall Closes, an Owensboro Man Shares His Ten Favorite Memories of It
Today marks the end of an era here in Owensboro, Kentucky. Towne Square Mall, which opened way back in 1978, will close its doors for good. It was March 1st of '78 that Towne Square Mall first opened its doors here in town and, as the official newspaper ad for the grand opening proclaimed, there was certainly "excitement in the air."
Why wouldn't there be? Look at this list of original stores!
Today, that excitement, for many of us, is replaced with sadness. Over the last decade in particular, we have watched the slow, agonizing death of Towne Square Mall- its anchor stores closing one by one to signal the inevitable. At the close of business Tuesday, September 5th, 2023, the inevitable will be the harsh reality. Towne Square Mall will close its doors for good and we'll simply be left with our fond retail memories.
Not only did I shop at Towne Square Mall as a kid and adult, I had the opportunity to work there in the late 80s and early 90s. Needless to say, I spent countless hours inside those doors and shops. So, to celebrate the enduring legacy of Towne Square Mall, I have decided to share the ten things that I remember most fondly.
I'll admit it. This list is completely random and will greatly vary from your favorite memories. But, the memories on this list were forged from my experience and I loved each and every one.
I worked at Disc Jockey (more on that later in the list) when we became an official Ticketmaster retail location and I distinctly remember the first morning we opened the terminal to the public. There was a MASSIVE line outside our store gate that morning because tickets to a nearby Grateful Dead concert were going on sale. I remember helping the first person in line score some terrific floor seats for that show.
World Bazaar was awesome, wasn't it? I don't think anything screamed late 70s and 80s decor like that store. At the heart of the design were those oversized papasan chairs that were as comfortable as they looked. I used to drop in that store just to plop down in one of those chairs. I think my family finally bought one, but it wasn't the same as test-driving the chairs in the Bazaar.
While I had game systems at home (Atari and Nintendo), nothing beat playing video games at Aladdin's Castle. But, as much as I liked games like Galaga and Donkey Kong, I was kind of a brainiac too. So, when my friends and I walked up into Aladdin's Castle to get our game tokens, I routinely spent mine playing the Trivial Pursuit arcade game. I used to crush this game!
While my now decades-long love affair with Swiss Colony started with a catalog, it was cemented with the Swiss Colony store inside Towne Square Mall. That store brought everything in that catalog to life- the meats, the cheeses, the gingerbread houses, those ridiculously good chocolates, the famous petit fours. The Swiss Colony has long been one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season and will always be one of my favorite stores at Towne Square Mall.
When I was a kid, I loved Atari. So, I got job mowing my aunt's lawn so I could save money to buy games for it. She paid me $7 each time I mowed. So, with the money I made, I could theoretically buy a new game every month. I remember the very first one I purchased. I saved my $28 and went to Osco Drug inside the mall. Yes, they sold Atari games. They were up by the cash registers. I bought Spiderman- my very first purchase I ever made with money I earned on my own.
I consider The Gazebo at Towne Square Mall deep cut. Not everyone will remember this place. It was a very short-lived restaurant (that was decorated/outfitted with random pieces of lattice) just down the hall from Disc Jockey. Years ago, I stumbled across a bunch of old checks from my very first checking account. There were dozens and dozens of checks written to The Gazebo. I wrote checks for 94 cents for cokes and I wrote a bunch of other checks for their ridiculously good fried ice cream. I can still taste it.
When I was in high school (particularly my sophomore, junior and senior years), I was a rugby and khaki-wearing fool. And no store in town had the selection of rugby shirts and khaki pants that Levinson's did. While some kids liked to do their back-to-school shopping at a variety of stores across town, Levinson's was my one-stop shop! I loved that store and, if my memory serves me correctly, it had a split-level and all of my favorite racks were on that lower section of the store.
Look! This could easily have been my #1. My friends and I ate at Ruby Tuesday nearly every single Friday night during high school. That was our weekend ritual. We'd eat at Ruby Tuesday, then head across the street to the Malco to catch a movie. There was much to love about Ruby Tuesday- the salad bar, the steaks and that free and endless pumpernickel bread.
If you just read that, you went right back there, didn't you? You know that smell I am talking about? The smell of screen printing and pressing. Do you remember T-Shirts Plus? The store had tons of pop culture graphics you could have pressed onto the t-shirt of your choice. It was AWESOME! You'd order the shirt and they'd press it right there while you waited. There was nothing better than the smell of a newly completed shirt. I can't tell you how many of those shirts I wore and huffed. LOL.
There's no doubt! I had the coolest first job ever. I got hired to work at Disc Jockey right after graduating from high school and, because I went to Kentucky Wesleyan College before transferring to U of L, I worked there during my first two years of college too. Disc Jockey was the absolute best- the CDs, the cassettes, the wall of cassette singles (also known as "cassingles"). As a kid who grew up listening to Casey Kasem's countdown every week, it was the PERFECT job. The only problem? I nearly gave every paycheck right back to the store. To this day, I still own hundreds of CDs I bought at that store when I worked there. Disc Jockey will always be a part of me. And, looking back over this list, it's evident Towne Square Mall will be too.
Sure, the mall is closing its doors for good today. But the fond memories we all have our time spent inside will endure. Plus, I have a hunch that when the doors open back up in its new incarnation, we'll all be there to enjoy what the mall has become- all the while remembering its glory days and what it used to be.