A photo of the mall corridor from Pechin's taken June 5, 2013. The flea market had not yet taken off yet, so detail of the mall was more visible. Does anybody know what the store to the left originally was? The panels just past the store suggest that Towne Mall in New Castle had the same store. The lead photo shows center court looking toward the Wards wing with the former Metzler's department store on the left.
Zoomed in shot of the same scene. Unfortunately, this was as close as I could get to a "before" pic of the Murphy's/Ames mall entrance. Photo taken June 5, 2013.
Returning on May 27, 2017 I was finally able to explore the interior of the mall. This if the front entrance corridor with the former Metzler's mall entrance and center court in the background.
Former Wards mall wing. The glass at the end was the former mall entrance, now Pechin's Superfoods. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Closing in on the former Wards mall entrance. It was nothing fancy for sure. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Wards mall entrance in detail with mystery junior anchor tenant on the right. Note the theater marquees on the left. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Blurry shot, but here are the theater marquees now sadly void of any movies since the theater closed in 2014. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
The back southeast entrance wing leading to the theaters. As you can see, nothing was ever done to update these theaters. These extra doors allowed the theaters to stay open long past mall hours. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
A view of the theaters and back door. If I'd known it was closed, I would have gotten more detail of the theater foyer. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Walking back to the mall from the theaters. No, nothing is wrong with the camera. There is an odd greenish light along this hallway. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
The mystery store next to Wards (on left). Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Strolling down the Wards wing back to center court. Just past the change in the ceiling height is the beginning of the stonework for the Metzler's mall entrance. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Another view of center court looking to the Murphy's wing. It is difficult to photograph due to the people and stand in the middle. Because of all the temporary structures here, it was difficult to tell if center court ever had a planter or fountains. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Sorry about the blurriness, but I was trying to capture this fake stone. If I had more time, I would have been diving through all the records that were in this store. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
In contrast to the Wards wing of the mall, the Murphy's wing is mostly unused. With Dollar Tree coming, this may be on purpose. Note that the structure on this end is not as in good of condition suggesting that they plan to close off this part. Also note the brick wall at the end where the Murphy's/Ames mall entrance used to be. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Dollar Tree will eventually be opening on the other side of this (with outside access). This was originally Thrift Drug, a division of JCPenney and later Eckerd. Thrift Drug was folded into Eckerd when JCPenney bought Eckerd in 1997. Eckerd appears to have closed at the mall when the chain was sold to Rite Aid. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
The Thrift Drugs labelscar was rather obvious here. It was Pittsburgh-based, so it was a logical tenant in this mall. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
A look back into the main mall with Metzler's visible on the left. The store on the right was most likely a Fashion Bug originally. I believe it was later Dollar General. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Hallway to restrooms and former mall offices. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
This back hallway/entrance next to Rural King was walled off, but with the door wide open, exploration was a necessity! Photo taken May 27, 2017.
The back entrance doors have clearly not been used in quite some time. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
The outside of the back entrance is certainly still stuck in 1971. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Detail along the closed off back entrance wing next to Rural King looking back into the main mall. What were those windows for? It looks like a department store or display, but nothing of note is on the other side of the wall. The paneling on the right looks to have been part of the Murphy's Mart entrance at some point. Photos taken May 27, 2017.
Laurel Mall was losing this game. Having a discount store, a struggling second-tier general merchandise department store and a small local department store might have worked in the 1970's, but an anchor line-up like that by the 1990's was damning. Metzler's closed first in the late 1980's and was converted for awhile into a flea market. While Murphy's Mart was a very popular chain, it found itself not immune to the sociopathic retail environment in the 80's and was seized by Ames in a hostile takeover in 1985. Ames was far less popular and was itself struggling by the late 1990's. It would go under in 2002 leaving the Laurel Mall store dark. Montgomery Ward itself went under with the chain in 2001. The only original anchor tenant still operating at the mall by this time were the theaters, and they always had outside access from the back of the mall. At this point, most malls like this would have been redeveloped into a strip center, but apparently nobody was interested in dropping millions into renovating the property like that. Big box stores were instead choosing to locate in the shadow of Uniontown Mall.
Interior wall decorations for the departments of Metzler's was a BIG surprise. This was left over from the 1970's and never updated after the store closed. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
More pictures of Metzler's. Look at this decor! You never see anything this detailed in a department store anymore. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Laurel Mall entrance. Note the overhead signs that appeared to advertise Murphy's Mart in the mall. If you look close you can make out the Murphy's "M". It is not clear if they were re-used for Ames. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Front of Pechin's/Ward's. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Former Montgomery Ward sign replaced with an advertisement for the flea market. Sign was later removed. Photo from July 5, 2013.
Back of mall looking at the northeast mall entrance and the then-abandoned Murphy's/Ames. Photo taken July 5, 2013.
Front of the closed Murphy's/Ames with mall space just to the right formerly used by Eckerd Drugs, originally Thrift Drugs. Photo taken July 5, 2013.
Overview of mall from Murphy's to Wards taken July 5, 2013. Empty parking lots made it a lot easier to photograph than the 2017 visit.
Former Murphy's/Ames on June 5, 2013. The Ames sign had been removed by then.
Fast forward to May 27, 2017 and Rural King has taken over the old Murphy's Mart with no modifications to the exterior awning other than paint.
The theaters in 2013 and 2017. It was still open in 2013 while in 2014 it is abandoned with the parking lot noticeably worse.
Metzler's with the back of the Cinema IV to the left. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Metzler's exterior entrance up close. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Close-up detail of Laurel Mall main entrance. Photo taken July 5, 2013.
The back of what was the Ward's Auto Center. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
A relic of Montgomery Ward remains on the backside of Pechin's (truck entrance). Photo taken May 27, 2017.
A view of the mall shortly after opening in 1971 from Pleasant Family Shopping shows Murphy's Mart on the left and a nameless mall entrance on a snowy afternoon.
View of the front of Laurel Mall from US 119. Rural King (Murphy's Mart) is on the left and the edge of Pechin Superfoods (Montgomery Ward) is on the right. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
View of the front of Laurel Mall from US 119 with focus on Rural King. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
View of the front of Laurel Mall from US 119 with focus on Pechin's Superfoods. Photo taken May 27, 2017.
Laurel Mall has proven to be the trick candle of the fickle mall industry. A mall that should have been long closed and demolished a decade ago has proven to have remarkable resilience while its lone competitor is beginning to figuratively collapse under its own weight. It might be said that the current owners of this mall are ahead of their time in attracting non-traditional anchors and pushing antiques (which are very trendy these days) over false hopes for once stable mall tenants like JCPenney, Foot Locker and Bath & Body Works. Uniontown Mall looks to be in trouble as it already lost Sears and is teetering on disaster with Bon-Ton in danger of going out of business. Laurel Mall, however, is resting on its laurels with two unique concept stores and a small interior mall that has once again found a way to fill its now broken parking lot with eager shoppers. It will be interesting to see in the years to come what happens when a mall with every reason to let go refuses to die.
Due to the lack of a directory or lease plan, this overlay was created showing the mall and its anchor history. Another junior anchor appeared to be located next to Wards in the mall, but it is unknown what that store was.
Location of Laurel Mall on Google Maps
Location of Laurel Mall on Google Maps