Although I wasn’t around back when the epic battle involving David and Goliath took place, it’s still my favorite biblical showdown. Goliath was a feared warrior who towered over everyone around him. David, who was much shorter, came to the battle armed only with a slingshot and few stones. We all know how the story goes and ends; the stone shot out of David’s slingshot strikes Goliath right between the eyes and the giant falls dead.
So, what does the encounter between David and Goliath have to do with the story I want to tell you? Well, at the end of January in Cary, North Carolina, a giant the magnitude of Goliath fell dead when the Cary Towne Center mall closed. Not just a part of the mall, the entire mall…all 1,004,210 square feet of it. Now while were many factors that lead to the mall’s demise, including an economic drop in sales for retailers and the increasing popularity of online shopping together with the effects of the horrible pandemic, it was still a sad tragedy on January 31, 2021, when the mall closed its doors for good. While I wasn’t born in North Carolina or was a “Caryite” (a term given to those who were born in Cary or live in that bustling city), my daughter and I had many happy memories of our trips to Cary Towne Center to do some occasional shopping or ride the indoor carousel. We also had a few “Dad/Daughter” dates when we grabbed dinner in the food court and had foot races through the busy mall. A few months before the mall closed, we went there for a final evening out and were both saddened by all the stores that had gone dark, and how empty this once crowded noisy mall had become.
I should point out that while Cary Towne Center was closing as a mall, the structure and property (87 total acres) on which the mall stands was purchased by Epic Games, another Cary based business, and will be converted into Epic Games new headquarters. So, the future for the area the mall stands on is very bright. But, back to my story…
On the weekend that Cary Towne Center was set to close, I set out for one final visit to see how it looked before its closure. The first shock for me was the ease of finding an open parking space. During the mall’s heyday, you were lucky to find a parking spot anywhere close to an entrance, and it was a pretty good hike from the parking spots that were further away.
Once inside, the next shock I experienced was the eerie silence of the empty building. Belk’s department store and Dave and Busters were the only businesses left open; all the other stores were closed and shuttered or were only open so that the tenants could finish emptying out their space. It was also a big shock to see that the hallway that used to lead to the wing of the mall where the old Sears and JCP Penney stores used to be was now completely blocked off. The eerie silence continued to follow me as I walked through another wing of the mall that had not been blocked off. And as I was snapping pictures of the vacant stores, a flood of memories returned to my heart of all the laughter and hustle and bustle that once filled every corner of the mall, but was now gone. The silence, as they say, was deafening.
As I walked out of Cary Town Center for the last time, I noticed two girls in the parking lot who were hugging each other. I asked them if they were okay, and one replied saying, “Yeah, we’re fine, but we grew up coming to this mall almost every weekend and a part of us is dying now that it’s closing.” I looked back at the huge hulking structure, and had to agree with them; in reflecting on the good times I had over the years visiting Cary Towne Center, a part of me died with its closing as well.
A few days after my visit, Cary Towne Center closed its doors forever. Goliath was officially dead.