Inspired today by two things, one of my favorite movies, Sex and the City and a picture I saw on Facebook of an old Woolworth’s lunch counter and it got me thinking about the changes in shopping in Las Vegas. In the ‘40’s and ‘50’s people used to go Downtown to shop. Downtown Las Vegas was the epicenter for both locals and travelers. The Woolworths located on Fremont St. was a staple in the Downtown Landscape serving locals and visitors there from 1948 to 1997 and The Beat Coffee Shop and the Emergency Art Center now occupy what was once a JC Penny store.
I have been in Las Vegas long enough to remember that old lunch counter and a time of shopping long before the mega shopping complexes we have today. The first fully enclosed shopping mall in the Las Vegas Valley was the Boulevard Mall designed and built by local development mogul Irwin Molasky which opened in 1968, complete with the leading big box brands of the time, JC Penny, Sears & Roebuck and, yes, a Woolworths.
But growing up in Las Vegas this wasn’t where your typical family shopped on a regular basis. You know you are from Vegas if you can remember shopping at Wonder World, Zody’s, TG&Y, Woolco, and The Charleston Plaza Mall. The Charleston Plaza Mall was anchored by Woolco, (where I was quoted as telling the clerk there so boldly at the age of 4 that “my Grandma buys me anything I want”) with store front parking and the Mall was adjacent to it and housed the popular “Fox Theater” where as a child my classmates and I watched summer movies. Even way back then the cost of refreshments at the theater was exorbitant because I can remember my mother and my aunt making my cousin and me smuggle in our own popcorn and gave us just enough pocket change for a soda pop.
As a teenager in the 1980’s here in Las Vegas the Meadows Mall, which opened in 1978 was the social core for every teenager in town in a time long before Facebook and Instagram. It boasted two stories of shopping and the FOOD COURT! It was like living in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” for every teenager in Vegas. If it was a Saturday the Mall was THE PLACE TO BE!
Since then we have seen the shopping scene continue to evolve in our city! The “kicker” for shopping on the Las Vegas Strip was surely the Fashion Show Mall leading the way for designer labels such as Versace, Prada and Louis Vuitton to bring the runways of Paris and New York to Las Vegas. Today you can shop anywhere in the World in Las Vegas!