North Plains Mall celebrating 30 years

Staff photo: Tony Bullocks Inside the North Plains Mall on Friday afternoon. The mall will be celebrating 30 years of operation in Clovis.

Staff photo: Tony Bullocks
Inside the North Plains Mall on Friday afternoon. The mall will be celebrating 30 years of operation in Clovis.

By David Stevens

Ernie Kos ranks it among the greatest days in modern Clovis’ history.

“For me, it was like George Strait was in the parking lot or something — it was just a thrill. I really can’t explain it, but it was like, ‘We’re big-time now. We have our own mall.’”

North Plains Mall opened 30 years ago this week at 2809 N. Prince in Clovis.

Kos, now the executive director of the Clovis-Curry County Chamber of Commerce, was the United Way director back then.

“I remember it like it just happened,” she said on Saturday as she made her way out of Dillard’s with a purchase.

“Wal-Mart was definitely the main attraction, but really it was all the different businesses. It was packed with people. A major day for Clovis.

“I remember Taco Box being (in the mall) and they had the longest line ever for combo burritos.”

Mall Manager Leeann Glen said the mall was born when real estate developer John Price happened to stop in Clovis while driving from Albuquerque to Dallas.
“He saw that we didn’t have a mall and he thought we needed one,” she said. “And so he built one.”

Multiple events are scheduled to mark the mall’s anniversary, including a nostalgic ribbon cutting set for 4:30 p.m. Friday in center court.

Newspaper archives show 41 shops were part of the mall when it opened, including Gordon’s and Zale’s jewelry stores, Radio Shack and Maurice’s, which remain today.

Other original shopping options included Kay Bee Toys, Hallmark Card Shop, Revco Drug, Stevenson’s clothing store and Kinney Shoes — all gone, now.

Hungry/thirsty people in 1985 could choose from Mario’s Pizza, Orange Julius, Karamel Korn and Taco Box —  gone from the mall today, but all integral parts of the state-of-the-art shopping experience in 1985.

“We were extremely excited about getting in there, even to the point where I had to lay tile,” said Taco Box Owner Tom Martin, whose restaurant has never left its original location on 21st Street.

“We got our tables and chairs ordered late and Bill Adams from Poor Boys (restaurant) loaned us tables and chairs for about a week until we got our own equipment.”

In 1985, Wal-Mart stood where Dillard’s is today, on the south end of what was a 250,000 square-foot building. It’s bigger now, since Sears relocated from Seventh and Main to become one of four anchors in 1989, joining Bealls and J.C. Penney, which celebrate 30 years in the same location.

Multiple changes have taken place since the official grand opening of North Plains Mall on Oct. 16, 1985.

Children on Saturday were driving around mall-supplied motorized carts shaped like critters, new this month.

They had plenty of room to maneuver since the large crowds that packed the place in the 1980s have subsided as business moves north to wide-open spaces.

Martin points to outdoor shopping experiences like Uptown in Albuquerque as the hot trend for retail these days.

Kos said consultants scouting Clovis for business opportunities ask Chamber staff more about traffic counts than mall space most of the time.
But Kos said the mall remains relevant in Clovis.

“It has helped keep shopping local,” she said. “I think it has made a difference in keeping business in Clovis.”

A news release from North Plains Mall states it is the “only enclosed mall within a 95-mile radius, drawing nearly 100,000 consumers across eastern New Mexico and West Texas.”

Fast facts:
• North Plains Mall has had three owners in its 30 years.

Price Development, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, built it in 1985.

General Growth Properties purchased it from Price in 2002, then Rouse Properties of New York City bought it about three years ago, according to Mall Manager Leeann Glen.

• Mall developer John Price was engaged in a nine-year legal battle with Clovis investors Armand and Virginia Smith that ended in 2003, The Associated Press reported.

The State Supreme Court of Utah awarded the Smiths an $8.2 million judgment in connection with their 15 percent stake in the mall.

“The court found Price had conveyed the Smiths’ partnership interest to his own JP Realty without the Smiths’ consent,” AP reported.

• The mall opened with three anchor stores — Bealls, which was new to Clovis, and J.C. Penney, which had relocated from Main Street, remain in their same locations today.

Records show Wal-Mart, the third anchor on the south end, moved to its present location on north Prince Street in 1999. Dillard’s took Wal-Mart’s place about a year later.

Sears moved from Clovis’ Main Street to North Plains Mall in 1989, building its space on the mall’s west end.

• Five mall businesses had run-ins with the state building inspector and had to stop construction briefly about five weeks before opening day.

Gordon’s Jewelers, Hallmark Card Shop, Orange Julius, Mario’s Pizza and Karamel Korn all sported red tags, meaning they’d been cited for unknown reasons, according to the Sept. 9, 1985, Clovis News-Journal.

All were open for business in time for the mall’s ribbon cutting.