In the old days, downtown had a Bon Marche department store (sort of old-fashioned in that you could buy frying pans, sheets and microwaves, not just clothes), a run-down drugstore, a couple of nicer drugstores, several sketchy restaurants (I've heard that two failed because of health complaints) and a few nicer eateries and stores.
Over the subsequent 16 years (yegods, time flies), downtown businesses rallied to revitalize the city center, and the mall was the salient. Many an imprecation uttered in those days included "the mall."
As it stands now, downtown shoppers may visit restaurants, boutiques, salons, a Macy's department store (sort of old-fashioned in that you can buy frying pans, sheets and microwaves, not just clothes), a wide variety of winery tasting rooms, art galleries, a toy store and the older businesses that stood the test of time, including a popular deli, an auto dealership, a candy store where they actually make many of the goodies, a music store and many other nice places.
Many storefronts remain boarded up or vacant and the second stories of many buildings are in disrepair or tenant-less. So there's still a long way to go, but times are most certainly changing for the better.
And how about that mall?
A recent visit by the butterfly lady and I (we have weird ways to pass the time here) found a sad scene.
Sears, Gottschalk's and Shopko are the mall's anchors - an Emporium closed and wasn't replaced. Besides those stores, the mall has the following businesses:
- Claire's (hair clips, etc.)
- GNC (I always think of Hans and Franz from SNL when I see a GNC - mmm, gainer fuel!)
- Big Twist Pretzels
- A nail shop
- A Unicel dealership
- Antonio's (a genuine local barbershop)
- Fashion Bug (clothing)
- Maurice's (clothing)
- Foot Locker
- Bath & Body Works
- Teddy Bear Factory (open Friday-Sunday only)
- Dim Sum Inn (a pretty good Asian restaurant)
- Cruisers Driving School (not open regularly)
- Army recruiter
- Air Force recruiter
- Marine Corps recruiter
- Navy recruiter
- Walla Walla Police Department's crime prevention office
- Two "community" rooms - vacant stores with some chairs inside.
I think it would be generous to say that the driving school, recruiters' offices, police office and even the Teddy Bear Factory are, strictly speaking, stores, so that would put the occupancy at less than 25 percent... not exactly the best of times.