Beachwood Place

Image from historical archives, Beachwood Place Grand Opening 1978

It’s midnight forty-eight and I’m playing word search on my phone and I suddenly started thinking about the Beachwood mall, AKA Beachwood Place. It’s weird how in my head it’s exactly as it was years ago in 1983. Actually, I can’t remember exactly when the mall was opened, well, not which year. I DO remember it opening though, and being SO excited. I had no idea what a “mall” really meant, but it was such a huge estate and I watched the entire thing become itself from ground up. It was exactly three miles from my house. When I was old enough, I was so excited because I could walk to the mall, rest inside, and then walk back for fun rewarding exercise. Three miles the other direction from my house was a Diary Queen, which was no disappointment either. Anyways I was thinking about the mall and remembering it as if I was there. One entrance was at the food court. As you walk in the food court, about 4 stores on the right was the 50’s diner with the old fashioned candy counter. In the back I think they sold bubblegum ice cream. I loved that flavor but hated the gum bc it was frozen and hard as a rock. So I’d spit the gum out but eat the delectable creamy sugary cold confection around the gum. To the right of the diner was Sbarros pizza. That place still exists. Not at the Beachwood mall maybe, but in other food courts around the world. I think I want to go there when this pandemic ends and see if I like the pizza as much as I did when I was ten. Come to think of it, the mall must have opened in 1980 because I’m pretty sure Char and were ten when our parents used to drop us off so we could peruse the toy stores, candy store, and any other stores that carried stickers (and later cassette tapes. And later, CD’s). We were both collectors (of stickers, and eaters of candy). Right past the food court was a big fountain that formed the fork in the road to either one department store or another. It wasn’t Nordstrom’s. That came later. I can’t remember which stores were featured on the ends at first (Higbees and Saks??). There were also smaller fountains on each of these ends. The fountain to the left (I believe by Saks) was where Char and I would go fishing for coins, which we used to buy more stickers. I can’t remember when we figured out the genius idea of stealing people’s wishes, but at some point we decided we could and would. We’d scout the fountain perimeter, mark our prey, and then courageously stick an arm in to grab a quarter or a nickel or whatever. Except pennies. I’m pretty sure we never took pennies. And I’m not sure how we didn’t get caught or in trouble!! Maybe we did and I don’t remember because at some point we stopped looting the fountains, and it was long before we were 16. There was a store upstairs called Apropos  that sold 80’s tchotchke jewelry, super trendy clothes, and of course, you guessed it….stickers. I loved puffys and scratch and sniff and I feel like Char liked the ones with googlie eyes but also she liked the scratch and sniff. As we got older, once Express came into existence and we were more into clothes, I bought earrings at Apropos.  They were so haute. The left ear earring was a gigantic black question mark with a neon pink dot dangling below it. The earring was almost the size of my face in length! The right ear I don’t remember at all and it’s possible it was only sold as a single because that was a trend back then. I loved that thing and thought I was so cool when I wore it. Unfortunately it did nothing for my popularity status at school but whatever. I’m glad I had the courage to define “cool” in my own terms. And I still think if I was at public school those earrings alone would have bought me a passport into the In Crowd (private school fashion was SO conservative!!).

The center fountain of the OG Beachwood Place. The huge skylight juxtaposed with the pillars and store windows created the most interesting acoustics. 

Eventually Apropos became so super tacky and I swear by 1990 it became Z Gallery?? Back in 1980….. There was a drug store upstairs with a phenomenal teddy bear and stuffed animal collection (once my allergy shots started working I was a huge stuffed animal collector since I was forbidden from having them for so long). I remember buying Greydawn, an adorable lion, and bubblegum bear (omg I loved that thing). I can’t remember Greydawn’s animal category (donkey?) because just now, as I pictured her in my memory, my brain literally overflowed with a shuffling of a bajillion photographic memories of all my stuffed animals. Bubblegum bear and the lion stood out. Bubblegum bear was soft and squishy and round and two different shades of pink with a white belly. He was round like a blob of gum, had a different kind of fabric (not fur, so he was hypoallergenic!), and a squishier filling than the norm. I think the lion was the first one I bought without my parents permission, and the first one I bought at the drug store at Beachwood Place. I remember he was up by the pharmacy and I got him before the big section of stuffed animals came into existence. He cost $12, which was a huge amount of money to me at that time. My father was an animal lover and a huge supporter of my wonderful collection. He was also a contributor, with his occasional convention wins like Floppers, a little brown dog with big floppy ears (and the first love of my life). Eventually my mom donated most of my animals. I was ok with it, mainly because I was thirty. Anyways, I remember when that drug store went away and turned into something else. It was hard for me a little, even back then, to feel loss. I was sad for the store. It was gone and no longer existed and soon no one would think of it anymore, and that broke my heart a little.

I don’t really remember the smell of the mall but I do remember the sounds, the way the voices bounced off the glass skylights and echoed around the “halls”. I remember the spray of the fountains and how loud the cascading water was in its watery ways. I wish I could make a symphony of those sounds with added beats of sneaker squeaks, stroller wheels, women talking (but with inaudible words) in the mix of voices, and we can’t forget laughter and youthful screams of elation. I also remember how the light reflected off the different textured walls, the mirrored pillars around some stores, and the all around abundance of natural light that right now as I think of it feels like a huge hug placating my inner photophile. Back then it just was what it was. Ambience. Light. Freedom. It’s funny because I’m not sure what’s where in that mall anymore. I’m not even sure if that mall is even in that mall at this point. Probably it was taken over by legacy village (another newer mall). I hope its still around though. Despite any changes, additions, new stores, new century….etc, Charlotte and I left some childhood energy that I like to imagine still exists there, running around like the giggling little nyphs we were. If I’m ever feeling old and lacking of youthful spirit, I can visit the mall and reconnect.

My memory of the mall reminded me of something I just read in a book- “your now is not your forever”. I’m applying that to this pandemic. People keep talking about the “new normal”. Nothing about this is “normal”, but I have to believe that science and medicine will figure it all out!! When I was 10 years old laying horizontally on a fountain rim, elbow deep in chlorinated water while fishing for quarters, i had no inkling of an idea that anything would be any different. Or that that action in itself could have triggered a ripple in change (no pun intended har har har). I DO remember knowing it was probably wrong for some reason, but I had no idea why and no known ramifications to be afraid of. Its funny that as we age we have more fear. Obviously this has to be directly correlated to living through more cause and affect. As humans we tend to focus on the negative, but really an outcome will go either negative, positive, or a zillion things in between. There is a 50/50 chance to be positive or negative, so why not assume the positive. Maybe the owners of the Beachwood Place drug store sold their store, bought a yacht, and traveled the world like they had always dreamt of but the experience was even better than imagined!! I don’t know, I just want to know I’m safe. I want to believe we can all get through this (please let it be unscathed), and that we all have many more fun positive and bright experiences waiting to meet us in the future 💗


Stay safe.