It was Crown Center – the ultra upscale, urban shopping mall the mighty Hallmark Cards built. It was one of the Cowtown’s top tourist draws, ashopping Mecca. Forget about the miniature LEGOLAND Discovery Center and SEA LIFE Aquarium.
They may be kiddie magnets now – more so for visitors from Wichita and Des Moines – but in the grand scheme of things they’re small potatoes. Mere shadows of the full blown LEGOLAND Lee’s Summit tried to land a few years back. Or the real deal, twin tower aquariums that tower over the riverfront in tiny Chattanooga, Tennessee.
More to the point is the effect of the years of diminishing returns Hallmark has experienced in greeting card sales. Effects likely to continue to the card company’s dying day. Effects that have rendered downtown’s once-proud, crown jewel little more than a tattered semblance of its former self.
The Crown Center of 2013 is shopworn, long in the tooth.
“This isn’t the Crown Center I remember as a little girl,” says 40 year-old Ann Thompson. “It just seems more run down and dated. It’s not a cool destination anymore, and that saddens me.”
With Halls Plaza slated to close next summer, Crown Center has announced it will erect a larger scale Halls Crown Center to make up for that loss.
Three words: It’s about time.
Because if you haven’t been to Halls at Crown Center since it was downsized to make room for the new kiddie attractions, you’re in for some surprises. The once proud mens store has been divided in two and relocated to the third floor of the main mall. The selection is down – the presentation diminished and lackluster – and from the looks of things, the buying public and some longtime staffers have more-or-less abandoned ship.
I used to shop there regularly until a small handful of years back.
As for what remains of the women’s store, “It isn’t merchandised well at all,” Thompson says. “It looks like it’s on a par with Sears or Penney’s. The product selection is very dated and matronly, and the way the mannequins are dressed – whoever did it had zero fashion sensibility.”
That brings us to Kansas City’s vaunted Ladies Room at Halls Plaza.
“There were just three sterile stalls and like a shower room tiled floor,” Thompson says. “It’s very pedestrian and small.”
What no couch or chaise lounge?
“No, it was just like a bathroom you’d see at Target.”
The odds of attracting trendy Plaza fashionistas to the new Halls Crown Center?
Good luck, Thompson says.
“For one thing they’ll need better merchandising and better product, because everything there is so tired. I have no reason to come to Crown Center. The Pen Place is nice, but I can get everything there online. The lobby bar’s way better and it’s got new furniture and new room dividers. It’s more modern, but it clashes with adjoining the botanical garden and the waterfall.”
Even the once mighty American Restaurant stopped serving lunch long ago.
What might become of Crown Center if Hallmark Cards continues its drift into obscurity, eventually becoming extinct like Blockbuster; F.W. Woolworth and so many industries of the past, dinosaurs that once ruled the earth?
And don’t expect minor league aquariums and Lego attractions to pay the piper when Hallmark no longer can.