A confused gentleman walked into Plano Antique Mall looking for a bookstore.
“There used to be a 75 percent off bookstore, but the owner retired,” explains Geralyn Hill, assistant manager of Plano Antique Mall. “There’s another bookstore in another building, but you’d have to go through the parking lot and it’s over there.”
It’s common for Hill to redirect lost customers to other locations, and she’s been doing that for quite some time. But that doesn’t bother her much — what really irks her are all the questions.
“‘What’s happening to this mall?’ ‘Where’s Garden Ridge?’” Hill says. “I’ve even put their addresses outside our door so they would know how to Google it and get there.”
Hill manages Plano Antique Mall, a 20,000-square-foot shop that rents booths to an estimated 130 vendors. The store’s been operating since 1995, and it’s filled with sports memorabilia, cups and saucers, paintings, jewelry and more. It sits inside of Plano Market Square Mall, a building at K Avenue and Spring Creek Road.
But out of over 15 storefronts and kiosks inside Plano Market Square Mall, Plano Antique Mall remains the only operating business. Stroll through the building and you'll see floor-to-ceiling windows of empty stores and hear the unsettling buzz of fluorescent lights.
After a certain point, the mall is closed off to the public — but only by red signs that barely act as a barrier.
The building used to be a popular outlet mall. It housed a TJ Maxx, a Garden Ridge (now called At Home) and events for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Hill says she remembers the shopping mall at its prime in the 1980s. “I actually adopted my dog out here,” Hill says with a smile. “She lived to be 18 years old.”
The mall was also a hub for holiday events. Up until last year, the Plano Police Department hosted Kids Night Out, a trick-or-treating event, at the mall.
“They would hand out little stickers and they would have pictures, but last year was the first year they did not do that,” Hill says. “They used to come in and leave a mess for our one guy to clean up afterwards.”
That “one guy” is Cesar Castillo, the lone maintenance man who’s been working at Plano Market Square Mall for 25 years. Castillo comes in every day to sweep the floors and water the plants and trees, which, in contrast to the lifeless building, are blooming. Castillo says he remembers the mall’s decline after the economy took a turn in 2012.
“People were making bad investments,” Castillo says. “So stores were filing for bankruptcy and moving out.”
One of those stores was Garden Ridge, which established itself as an anchor store at the east end of the mall. Hill says she believes that when Garden Ridge moved in during the '90s, the smaller businesses were "pushed out."
Then, Garden Ridge turned into At Home and left Plano Market Square Mall. The building became vacant, and after going through several owners, it’s now owned by the Loh family. The family owns Hong Kong Markets in Dallas and Grand Prairie, a grocery store that sells East Asian foods.
George Tanghongs, the broker for Plano Market Square Mall, says the Loh family has been trying to sell the building for over a year.
“They wanted to redevelop the property themselves,” Tanghongs explains, “but now they don’t want it anymore.”
Hill says she’s seen investors come in and out of the building for months with no news of developments. Despite being the only operating store in the building, Hill says Plano Antique Mall is doing just fine.
“We have our own customers and our own feedback. Facebook is a very good thing for us,” Hill says. “We’re still good.”
Barbara Gerrity is a vendor at Plano Antique Mall. She's been renting four to five booths at the store for over 12 years.
“At Christmastime, I have a booth that is just dedicated to Christmas. Then I have an overflow booth, which just consists of miscellaneous items that I think someone might like, like old frames and old lamps,” Gerrity says. “They’re miscellaneous things that wouldn’t fit into any of the decor of the other booths.”
Gerrity says she sometimes thinks about the dilemma of renting out a space in a near-empty mall, but it’s something she tosses to the back of her mind.
“It has been there so long, and we have such a following of customers that I can go in anytime and see a customer that has been there the week before,” Gerrity says. “I think we’re all just hoping that someone will come in and rent out some of those stores.”
So, what’s the future of Plano Market Square Mall? Hill says she wants just one space to be rented out; she's hoping that will encourage more people to rent space.
As for Plano Antique Mall, Hill says the plan is to stay put and wait.
“It’s one of those malls where you’re going to make it or you’re not. It depends on what you put into it,” Hill says. “But we’re good."