A Blog by Cabel Sasser

Notes on Lloyd Center (2022)

This normally would be a short Twitter thread; bear with me as I practice new skills.

As a kid growing up in Portland, Lloyd Center mall was the center of everything.

As a toddler, when the mall was still outdoors, my dad used to walk me up and down the exact spiral staircase you can see in this postcard, over and over. (I loved that fountain, lined on the inside with orange tile.)

As a kid I basically lived in the Electronics Boutique, knew all the employees, and unofficially sold video games to overwhelmed parents.

Then, as the mall was enclosed in the most 90’s way possible…

Doug Beghtel/Oregonian Archives

…as teens we loved to climb around on the new, easily-accessible roof and peer down through the glass at the ice rink. Once, we scaled a ladder all the way up inside this giant Meier & Frank “M&F” tower sign as it swayed terrifyingly in the wind. We were pretty dumb.

Since the glory days, retailers started to leave one at a time. A few remain — shout out to Barnes & Noble — but it’s pretty haunted in there overall. But! Don’t fire up the echoey vaporwave for your dead mall YouTube video just yet.

In 2022, Lloyd Center is an extremely interesting enigma: a dead mall that is not quite dead.

① Against all logic and reason, the ice skating rink, downsized in a recent remodel, still remains a vibrant community space. I took this picture just a few days ago.

② Also against all logic and reason, my favorite childhood place in the mall — Joe Brown’s Carmel Corn — is still in business to this day, one of the very few remaining tenants, holding strong. It is the best carmel corn you will ever eat, period.

③ Actually using logic and reason, an incredible experiment is taking place right now — thanks to low rent and high need, local indie shops have started to slowly take over abandoned storefronts.

What was once clearly a Spencer’s Gifts, is now a record store, Musique Plastique:

What was once a… Torrid, I think?… is now the incredible Floating World Comics.

I absolutely love the idea of an “indie mall”. I want it to be a big thing so bad.

Ok, yeah, I don’t know if Lloyd can hold in forever. Why do some malls survive and some die? But I dream that Lloyd Center remains a gathering space for the people of Portlanders of any era.


PS: If you go to Floating World Comics, make sure to pick up a copy of Santos Sisters #2

PPS: If I owned Lloyd Center, not that anyone is asking, I’d first demolish the majority of the confusing/scary/mall-obscuring parking and replace it with one clean, easily-understandable parking level like it had at opening. Then I’d demolish half of the mall (west of the ice rink) and make it modern outdoor-style shopping again. Then I’d lean in heavily on the “indie mall” idea for the remaining indoor half — elaborately theme it to classic mall nostalgia, so many possibilities.

Leave a Reply

  1. Beth

    What about an international food court?

  2. Jon

    All it needs is a pinball arcade and a VR gyroscope machine

  3. Jean

    Thanks for this backstory. Having arrived in Portland in 1994, I missed the mall conversion. I was there in November 2021 for a peek at the spookily empty space plus an ice skating rink. I love the concept of an indie mall.

  4. bookofjoe

    Thanks for the tip re: Joe’s Caramel Corn: ordered!

    1. bookofjoe

      Correction: Joe Brown’s Carmel Corn

  5. Jurge Cruz-Alvarez

    We also SOMETIMES get indie shops pop up in our dying mall and its nice when we do!

  6. Harry McCracken

    I’m coming in late, but thank you. My personal Lloyd Center is the open-air Lloyd Center of the early 1970s and maybe even the late 1960s, when I was a small child. Mr. C’s Hippopotamus—a pre-Chuck E. Cheese kid-oriented restaurant with robotic entertainment—remains vivid in my memory. I also remember my mother telling me that Lloyd Center was the largest shopping center in the world, a fact that filled me with pride.

    I was last there about 12 years ago, before this sad collapse I’ve only read about. I was so pleased to find that Joe Brown’s Carmel Corn, née Joe Brown’s Karmel Korn, was still there.

  7. Daniel

    I’m so in love with the indie mall idea. I used to live in SE and could not decide if I loved or hated that Mall. Seeing. Floating Worlds outpost in there is somehow energizing. Mushrooms and new trees growing out of a long keeled over oak. So good.

  8. rick lepage

    Loved this one, Cabel — from my time in NE Portland/Hollywood, the Lloyd Center was a fascinating mall, good and bad.

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