Many Jackson natives or “Ju’s” as I like to call them received news last month that MetroCenter Mall would be closing as a retail shopping center. This news wasn’t too surprising for most. For the great mall we once knew is nothing but a placeholder. Yeah we could still run in and get a 10-piece from American Deli or grab a new hat from HatWorld or even watch hypebeasts try to snatch up the new J’s. Those things all fail in comparison to the great mall that once held down the Highway 80 Corridor in west Jackson. The anchor mall was opened in 1978 and at that time was considered the largest mall in America. In many ways MetroCenter represents one of the numerous problems plaguing struggling cities across America. This isn’t a tale of sadness though, so as you read this enjoy and think about all of the fun you had at MetroCenter.
It’s wild when I think about how much MetroCenter has been a part of my life. In the early days I followed behind my mom and “Great” Grandma Katie. Grandma Katie was all about going to Gayfers (now known as Dillard’s) and Penny’s (JC Penny) to shop. Metro seemed so big back then. All of this was before I was allowed to wonder off and go spend my entire time and money at – the arcade we all loved – Diamond Jim’s. This is where I first learned about Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Where I learned how to play Pac-man and Galaga. Where most of us ran to on school trips after eating in the food court. Some went to Mr. Bulky’s to stea-I mean buy candy. Those field trips would be great because we’d get to see our friends that went to other JPS schools. Or you could just wait til Saturday and meet them at the mall.
MetroCenter was the go to spot to get the latest clothing. You could run in Dillard’s or McRae’s and grab you a Tommy Hilfiger to go with your Girbaud jeans. Signature had every color of Girbaud that you wanted. Folks stayed arguing whether or not their stuff was real. Folks also pulled many snatch and runs on them. *I was never a Girbaud person. Always been a Levi’s guy before switching over to ecko and LRG and now back to Levi’s.* If you and your crew wanted to get a fresh sprayed T-shirt there was a place for that too. Oh and during the “white T”, ‘Bauds, and Rees phase you were covered. Champs and Foot Locker had Tall Tees for days. Any color you needed, 4 for $20. Remember walking by GNC to check your weight or jumping up to touch the goal post in front of Sports Avenue? Then City Gear came along and became the go to store for the latest clothes. Some folks stayed calling it “Citi Trends” instead of “City Gear”. Us fellas always tried to pick the best time to get fitted for our tuxedos while dodging the Armed Forces recruiters in the front of the mall.
Metro is also where I got my first job via Chick-fil-A. I worked there from 1999-2007! I literally closed the store down. Worked the last shift there. Then helped the Store Operator clean out and remove everything wwe had left. We were the best CFA in the Jackson-Metro hands down. I remember the manager that interviewed joking about how my dad said “he needs a job! Hire him.” I worked with A LOT of funny people while I was there. If you ever worked fast food you get why funny is in bold. One being my brother (who I wanted to choke on numerous occasions). This man once went over to Steak Escape and cooked a sandwich while wearing his CFA uniform. I wanted to kill that man. Just like the time he and two other coworkers decided to put a bucket of water above the door and have it fall on my head. Or the time a younger but bigger and stronger coworker had him in a headlock. I laughed and walked away because my brother foolishly thought he could wrestle our coworker. I could go on for days.
There are many more things I could talk about when it comes to MetroCenter. Like before there was an American Deli there was the cookie store (2 as a matter of fact) or the GameStop when it opened or the movie theater or Service Merchandise or Bebop or the music stores inside the mall or the fact that the Food Court was really legit at one point. That Ruby Tuesday and Morrison’s were legit places to go have dinner in WEST JACKSON. I could talk about all the wild stuff I saw there like fights, people breakdancing or rappers like 8Ball & MJG who ordered a million nuggets 20 minutes before it was time to close. Or the rats that would lurk in the bushes at the Main Entrance and run out for food OR even crawl on you! It happened to me once. I could talk about the tree I ran into because I wasn’t where I should’ve been – check the tree across from Regions – or the time I got caught stealing. I could talk about seeing my now wife in like 2008 or 2009 and thinking “When Amber Chinn get thick?” I’ll stop there because she’s going to kill me. And I’ll stop because I believe all things should come to an end. MetroCenter is at the end of what it used to be but I’ll forever have the memories. I can only hope I’m around when West Jackson comes back again and some young person is creating their own memories.