What ever happened to the community shopping center? It is alive and well at Fairfield Commons Mall. Fairifeld Commons can boast that it is the longest surviving indoor shopping mall in the Richmond area. The mall has changed since its beginnings in the late 60s but still has Peebles and Maxway as anchor stores and over 35 other merchants ranging from clothing, electronics, jewelry, GNC, gospel bookstore and some service businesses like optometrist, tax, insurance and driving schools. The mall is very much community focused. Though business is slow during traditional work hours but picks up in the evenings and on weekends when shoppers are close to home. The mall hosts many community and family friendly events all year long including a Black History event, a "Funny Bunny" giveaway at Easter where 200 kids get free stuffed bunnies, candy etc. The Back-2-School Blow out which brings in literally thousands each year to receive free school supplies from the mall and other partners, along with a live concert, free dental check ups, balloon artists, fashion show, radio stations and more. They are the venue for the Teen Forum presented by a local radio group to help address issues that deal specifically with teens. Christmas is unique because the mall has the only African American mall Santa in the area. He isn't father Christmas of old but has become a new tradition over the last 15 years and folks can't wait to see him. The mall also puts on a Christmas program with radio stations, choirs and they even give out 400 Free Teddy Bears every year. This isn't your big mall or your big box store but they remember that shopping is about community. They don't just expect to get their business but they invite the community and give back knowing that it isn't just about making money. The community still supports this "little mall that could" and they keep chugging along.
Fairfield Commons, originally Eastgate Mall, serves Richmond's East End much as Azalea Mall served the Northside for a long time. It opened in late 1969 and in its heyday, it was anchored by Sears and Thalhimer's at opposite ends of the mall and G.C. Murphy at one side. Other lesser stores on the original roster included Gary's Music Store, Spotless Hardware, Peoples Drug (now CVS), Docktor Pet Center (where my family bought both successive dachshunds), Shoney's Restaurant, and my favourite stop at Eastgate Mall (and the incentive for being patient before I knew better than to shop with Mama) was Mayberry Ice Cream store (which the company I work for auctioned off the contents in 1993). This was the mall at which I would see Father Christmas during the holidays. At Sears, I also got a bad, well-deserved spanking for saying I would be in the garden department (with the riding mowers) and turned up in the furniture. Mama had to raise me on the loudspeaker. That was probably the most embarrassed I have been to this day.
Unlike Azalea Mall, Fairfield Commons slogs on today. Sears closed down years ago and, as of February 2004, the slot has gone unfilled. The only two original tenants are Shoney's and CVS (formerly Peoples). However, eventually Eastgate Mall as I defiantly still call it, may go the way of Azalea for much the same reasons. They started losing anchor stores and the surrounding neighbourhood continues to give way to urban blight. In my opinion, the only reason it has not happened yet is because no alternative shopping centre has emerged in the East End.
What to buy: The stores on Fairfield Commons' present day directory are, for the most part, either clothing stores or services. Peebles and Maxway serve as anchor stores and there are 3 restaurants: Shoney's, Far East Cafe, and It's Pizza. Lee gipper84 and I went here in June, 2005 and I no longer felt safe in the same mall where I saw Father Christmas as a child.
What to pay: Fairfield Commons leans more to the lower price ranges.