The Wonderland Mall 3.0
This is what I get for being a real estate writer. While in San Antonio, I wanted to drop by the former Crossroads Mall, which was the Wonderland Mall before that, to see how its redevelopment was going. I'd read about the project earlier this year. The effort to remake the mall caught my attention because of profession interest, since not that many retail properties are being redeveloped these days. But I also have a fond memory of the old Wonderland Mall: I saw Star Wars in the summer of 1977 at the Wonder Theatre, which was either one or two screens at the time. A Dave & Buster's occupies the site now.
Amazingly, photos of the Wonder Theatre are posted here, about mid-way down the page, along with other long gone North Side movie theaters, such as as North Star Mall's Cinema I, II & III (went there sometimes) and the Central Park Fox (went there more often, not sure why).
Last Tuesday, I took Lilly to North Star Mall because she wanted a new shirt for school (which started this Tuesday). North Star has not only survived but has thrived in recent years, though of course most of the stores I remember are gone. Where art thou, Chess King? J. Riggings? Kay Bee Toys? The book store in the middle of the mall whose name I forget, but where I browsed often? My first job was at the North Star Joske's of Texas department store; it's now Dillard's.
"Here's what I learned at that first job," I told Lilly as we walked through the Dillard's. "A manager is someone who forgets what you want him [her, in my case] to remember, and remembers what you want him to forget."
After we were done at North Star, we drove down Loop 410 a few miles to the Wonderland of the Americas, which is the Crossroads Mall's new name. The new part of the mall -- the Marketplace -- was closed. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hm. But I took some pictures, noting that the new part of the mall is distinctly colorful, and adorned with the flags of the Western Hemisphere.
On Thursday last week, after dropping my mother and Lilly off at a beauty parlor for a hair-do and manicure, respectively, I went back to Wonderland of the Americas and unexpectedly happened upon a grand opening ceremony for the Marketplace. Mostly the event involved refreshments and a mariachi band. I took the opportunity to make notes and interview the mall's leasing director and some of the merchants because I knew I would be able to write about it. As retail goes, it's a step above the mall kiosks, but not quite standard shop space, since the retailers are separated by see-through ironwork. Most of the Marketplace shops, including clothiers, jewelers and other specialty stores, have a distinctly Hispanic flavor.
But not everything. I also spotted a place called Ooples, which carries “anime and geek apparel,” and Nine Tails, a “cyber punk goth industrial fashion” store. I spoke briefly with the young men who own Ooples and Nine Tails. Young men indeed, not even zygotes when my high school friends and I came to this place to see that famed movie. Now they're out in the world looking for the main chance through fashion that didn't exist a few decades ago.
I expect people will start calling the shopping center Wonderland again, for short, and at least that will be the same as when the property opened in 1960. But 50 years ago you wouldn't have been able to drop by Wonderland to pick up a Black Butler t-shirt (Ooples), a pair of Trashville-518 boots (Nine Tails) and a couple of piñatas (Toudouze Market).