Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oakwood Center Mall

Oakwood Center Mall opened in 1966 in the community of Terrytown just outside of the New Orleans city limits on the Westbank. Sears opened on April 13 and the mall on October 17. Sears had all of the usual departments and more including farm and garden, French Quarter coffeehouse, pet shop, and a fine fur department.

The original logo of the mall from the grand opening advertisement.

Stores at the grand opening of the mall in 1966 were
Allen Shoes
Bank of the South
Barricini Candy
DH Holmes
Florsheim Shoes
Gus Mayer
Hardy Shoes
Holmes Car Care Center
K and B Drugstore (Katz and Bestoff)
Kinney Shoes
Magi Gift Shop
National Shirt Shop
Oakwood Barber Shop
Paris Hats
S.H. Kress
Sears Auto Center
Winn Dixie

The list of stores that opened up just after the grand opening.
American Thrift Finance
Chatta Box Beauty Salon and Boutique
Cinema I/II
Holloway House Cafeteria
Jiffy Cleaners
Martin's Shoes

Oakwood benefitted for many years as the only regional mall on the Westbank of New Orleans. Oakwood survived despite aggressive competition from the Belle Promenade Mall opening in 1983 in direct competition just five miles away. Oakwood expanded and took back their market share and Belle Promenade eventually failed as the mall did not expand. Oakwood gained the Mervyn's anchor in the mid 1980's, and Maison Blanche moved into the mall in the late 1990's just before Mercantile stores was taken over by Dillard's. Maison Blanche had an older store down the Westbank Expressway in the Westside North Shopping Center roughly where the Academy is today. Had Belle Promenade been built as the super regional five anchor mall that the developers anticipated; Oakwood more than likely would have closed and/or been redeveloped into a big box center. The owners of Oakwood took early action in the mid 1980's by expanding the mall to compete with the new Belle Promenade Mall. The New Orleans Centre, Riverwalk, and Canal Place Malls also opened up just across the GNO bridge from Oakwood but for different reasons did not affect the business at Oakwood.

After Belle Promenade died Oakwood was the only mall left on the Westbank again, but another major setback occured in 2005. Oakwood Mall was partially destroyed by looters and a large fire in 2005 shortly after Hurricane Katrina passed over the city. The mall was partially down down and most of the mall was rebuilt and renovated. Mervyn's which was damaged by the fire never reopened because the company left Louisiana in late 2005. The mall reopened in 2007 although some of the anchors opened up before the mall did. The inside of the mall is much more modern than most current shopping malls and does not have a boring color scheme like many of the newer mall styles of the 1990's and 2000's. In fact the mall has several different colors, and the fountain was retained and improved with a color changing light scheme in the center court.  

DH Holmes original anchor store; now partially filled with a Forever 21 store.
Dillard's which moved from the original Holmes building.
JCPenney which was built as a Maison Blanche; JCPenney closed at Belle Promenade and opened here a few days after the Belle store closed. When Dillard's took over the Maison Blanche name this store was closed giving JCPenney the opportunity to leave Belle Promenade.

The is the entrance to the lost corridor of the mall. Rite Aid and Mervyn's did not return after the fire. Mervyn's had already planned to leave the New Orleans market, so the store would have been closed by the end of 2005 if the hurricane had not happened.

K and B which became a Rite-Aid after the conversion.
Mervyn's with all of the mall signage stands out from the West Bank expressway. I am really surprised that Macy's did not put a store here after opening a store at Lakeside and reopening their store at The Esplanade Mall. There was a Macy's just across the river at the New Orleans Center Mall that did not open after the hurricane also.

This is the mall entrance near Sears and the food court.
The Sears here is a classic style from the 1960's, but has been updated to the modern style.

A labelscar from the Musicland store which later became a Sam Goody.
The original Sears labelscar with the cursive letters. This was once an entrance but was blocked when the mall expanded and the corridor to Mervyn's was added.
The mall directory does not show the closed corridor to Mervyn's which would be below Sears on this directory. The mall is almost completely full except for the closed corridor.
The mall has a very interesting design and looks much better than before the hurricane.

Maison Blanche had some higher end entrances to their stores, and JCPenney did not modify this one too much. The front of the JCPenney has two staircases that go to the second level.
The view from the food court to the center court fountain.
These are some views of the mall from the center court. This one is looking towards the food court.
Looking towards the closed Mervyn's corridor and Sears second entrance.
The fountain that has been here since the 1966 mall opening.
Looking down the JCPenney corridor.
Back to the Sears/ Mervyn's corridor.
Looking from the Sears/ Mervyn's corridor to the center court fountain.
Looking from the fountain to the closed off mall corridor and Sears entrance.
The lonely Sears entrance just before the mall dead-ends.
Just past this wall is the closed down Mervyn's/ Rite Aid corridor. There is space for at least 20 more stores in this closed off section of the mall.
There was a space in between the doors to the closed off section of the mall to barely see what used to be there.
The lost corridor of the mall. How many malls still have payphones? The next five photos are how the mall used to look before the fire in 2005. You can see this part of the mall by walking along the glass near the former Rite-Aid store.
The entrance to the former K and B (later a Rite Aid).

I was surprised to see the lights on still even though this part of the mall has been closed to the public since 2005.
Dillards near the food court.
The food court entrance has been dramatically changed since the remodel.

The food court is full of restaurants and even a Daiquiri shop.


  1. This is a pretty good post and very detailed!! I am glad to see a page dedicated to the mall I frequent the most prior to Katrina. I wonder where was the movie theater located and why did it shutdown?
    With the empty space towards Mervyns, I wonder if a dollar movie could move into that slot and help pick up retail traffic?

  2. Thank you anonymous, the cinema was located towards the back of the mall on an outparcel and was demolished years ago. I wonder why the former Mervyn's space is still vacant; maybe they are asking for too much money to purchase the lot. Macy's would be the ideal store for that site, so the mall should aggressively pursue them to get a store there.

  3. a girl from TerrytownApril 14, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    I worked at the cinema in the late '80s. Business was horrible, but it was a fun job. I had a lot of time to study and do homework as most weeknights a total of 10-20 would come to watch the movies. All the movies. Meaning some nights we sold all of 10 tickets. We didn't run reels half the showings. It was a lovely 60s General Cinema with two screens later expanded to four screens, but it didn't stand a chance after the theater at Belle Promenade was expanded.

    Thanks for the shot of the old D.H. Holmes. That was an elegant store if there ever was one. I have so much affection for Oakwood. I can remember the days when it had a Tinder Box and a lunch counter and booths at the K&B. I remember getting my first bikini at six from the mail order department at Sears and Noah's Ark, the pet store with the huge parrot. As I recall, it was a gorgeous mall in the 70s, then it became a bit dark for the trends and was remodeled. That remodel was so successful it killed Belle Promenade.

  4. The former Mervyn's is being rebuilt as a Dick's Sporting Goods, and the corridor leading to it will be modernized and include new retail shops.

  5. Dick's is also adding onto the Prien Lake Mall in Lake Charles to the former food court entrance. Is that store a good alternative to Academy, I have never visited one.

  6. Neither have I. But since they're popping up all around me in LA I may need to check one out.

  7. I am trying to remember the name of the clock/ watch giftwares store that was in the corner of the mall in the early 1990's. I think it was in the same wing as the pet store. Anyone know?

    1. Was it Leonard Krower, they had a location in the Esplanade Mall around the same time.

  8. I worked at the Jolly Ox, Print Me Please, and the Tobacco House in 1982-83 at Oakwood. I was in high school. What a crazy time that was.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, do you remember the arcade that was by Sears?

    2. I don't remember the name of it, but it was outside of Sears and it had a handful of games. I remember there was a air hockey table, a boxing game, and a teddy bear machine.
      One time I spent .50 and won a teddy bear that a guy spent nearly $10 trying to get.

      Outside of the arcade there was a bookstore, KB toys and I think a pet shop. Those were the good ole days of Oak Wood Mall.

    3. I remember the KB Toys as well. I think it closed in the late 90's. I have not been to Oakwood since the Dicks Sporting Goods was under construction. I was glad to see that they were finally going to reopen the last section of the mall that was closed after Katrina.

    4. Anybody remember the name of, have pictures and/or memories of, the hobbyshop that was in the Oakwood Mall? One of the most eyecatching things about it was that they had tons of Star Trek posters on a big wall that were for sale. They sold model kits, books, and even some science kits and telescopes/microscopes too I believe.

  9. Remembering back to June 1967 when my Thibodaux Louisiana grandparents took my brother and I to eat lunch at the Holloway House Cafeteria at Oakwood Mall on our way to the Audubon Zoo and City Park in New Orleans. After a delicious lunch of fried chicken (my selection!),we strolled the mall in wide-eyed wonder, listening to the piped-in music: The instrumental tune by James Last "Anna" echoed throughout the corridors!

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories of Oakwood. As a child of the 70's and 80's, I missed out on those beginning years of the New Orleans area first round of malls.