Arizona Mills is “Alive and Well”

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Oh HAPPY DAYS !! This jewel of a shopping experience has not yet fallen victim to the relentless march toward online shopping. We hope this article will excite you as it has us. Come along as I visit Arizona Mills, in Tempe, Arizona, the state’s largest indoor climate-controlled shopping mall. I started with a little worry, but that was soon vanquished when I walked in Entrance #5 and saw the Rainforest Cafe still up and running in full glory. It didn’t take long for the security team to wonder what I was doing ! They did stop me to ask, “why was I photographing the mall and taking all these pictures?” I knew this would happen to me sooner or later in this project, as I am sure it looked pretty odd from their perspective on the security cams.

I explained to the very understanding “man in charge” that I was all fired up and passionate about blogging America’s great malls – their past, present, and future. We chatted for about 15 minutes about malls – turns out he was happy to answer lots of questions and was genuinely interested in what we’re trying to do. He wished me well and pointed me toward “Food Hall” and asked me not to use his name. We comply.

One article says there are 185 stores here. Our “man on the inside” confirmed yes, there is 185 units and ALL of them are occupied. Wow. NO VACANCY. I did a happy dance. It would have been a shame to see this one go down… just look at the real estate it occupies ! The map (courtesy of Microsoft) shows 2 freeways intersecting and this gargantuous, humungeous, really big mall “sits” in the corner.

I joyfully strolled around the halls. The halls flow in one very large circular pattern. No need to remember where you’re going, just keep walking and you’ll end up right where you started! Arizona Mills was bustling with people! I arrived at 10:30 am on a Saturday, at first finding things a little slow. I learned from our new friend that he has noticed shopping “busy times” have definitely changed. Its common he explained not to see the Saturday morning lines outside the doors any more, but the same intensity still happens just a bit later. Confirmed. I only needed to wait about 45 minutes to know he was right.

The mall became “packed” as we used to say. Every store was busy and lots of people had purchases they were carrying and that’s the ultimate sign this mall was not going anywhere anytime soon.

12:45 PM Saturday
180,504 LEGOS

To my surprise, even the most unlikely as Franks Barber shop was not only busy, there were customers waiting out the door for their spot, and people waiting inside. Every chair with a hair-cutter and customer. Why in the world would someone drive to a mall just to wait in line to get a hair-cut ? I was determined to find out what was making this mall and these stores so successful, when so many other malls in America are in such steep decline? What’s their secret?

One clue immediately came to mind. It’s just a working theory. Arizona Mills does not have a major end-cap store! While it’s true there is a Harkins Theater and an IMAX but that’s not the same as having a Macy’s, Sears, Dillards, JC-Penny, and the like. And its also true that movie theaters have suffered badly the last couple of years but only due to Covid; not the online shopping take-over that department stores have been hit with. Theaters have come back to life big-time and there is no way to re-create that experience at home. I am building on a theory that those malls which are built around huge multi-floor big-box department stores are more easily impacted when that cornerstone fails. No such risk here at Arizona Mills. I hate to even suggest it, but if any one of the 185 tenants failed, it would not make a serious dent in to this mall’s activity. Another merchant would fill it quickly; in fact there’s a waiting list for any open “white box” according to my anonymous insider.


I’ve put together a short 1 minute video of things I saw that made me happy. I think every mall should have surprises and interesting things to see, Arizona Mills was no exception – try it out if you’re in the area and if not, how about visit your own local mall and write to me about your trip? I welcome your comments as we try to get everyone going back to the malls!



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