Friday, September 20, 2013


There is pretty much nothing to be found out out there on the internet about North Kent Mall so I thought it was cool that my previous post about it had become a little online meeting spot for people who remember it fondly to come and share memories. And wow, I got linked by

Anyway, a post on the NKM facebook recently caught my attention (and made my NKM blog post seem like the work of a 1st grader!) A guy named Mark A. Lenon posted some personal memories and photos of the mall from just before it closed. 

With his kind permission I'm reposting it here. All credit for the writing and photos go to Mark.  Thanks for letting me share your memories on GR-Retro.

My NORTH KENT MALL Photo Memoirs

-By Mark A Lenon
These photos are my eyewitness memoirs to the final decline and death of the once magnificent Grand Rapids architecture known as NORTH KENT MALL.

From June 1998 until that sad day in 2001, I still frequented the mall on a weekly basis. I worked at the old Meijer offices (the old Turnstyle building) at the corner of 5 mile and Plainfield Ave. On periodic breaks and lunch periods, I would walk over to the Mall to purchase a snack from General Nutrition Center or pick up my developed film from CPI Photo Finish. Other times, I would just stroll down memory lane and enjoy the quiet atmosphere of nostalgia. Every time I visited the Mall, it was truly a bittersweet experience for me.

NORTH KENT MALL was my proverbial playground. I have such fond childhood memories of my parents taking my brother and I there. I remember how wondrous and huge it seemed. So many things to see and experience! It was always a time I eagerly anticipated and would constantly ask my parents, "When are we going to the Mall next?" "This weekend?" "How about today?" "Are we going soon?"

But alas, when I finally got my driver's license on my 16th birthday, the very first place I drove to was the Mall and the Movies at North Kent Theater. I spent so much time there at my favorite stores...Record Land, Music Land, Walden Books and of course, the Arcade. I am so proud to say I am an original Video Whiz Kid thanks to Aladdin's Castle. Before I turned 16, that is where I spent all of my hard earned allowance, lawn-mowing and farm work money. I am so thankful I had these experiences...sifting through record bins looking for my favorite band's new LP album and playing all the classic upright cabinet video games in the arcade atmosphere.

Besides going to the Mall, my next favorite thing to do was seeing movies at the theaters at North Kent. I saw SO MANY movies there during my high school years and during the summer after graduation (1984). Those were some awesome years for movies! I have always loved going to the movies and most of my cherished cinematic memories are of times at that theater. I took a lot of dates there as well as seeing movies with my best friends. I also saw lots of films there just by myself. I loved cruising solo in my bad ass Plymouth Fury III...blasting my stereo and making NORTH KENT MALL and the Movies at North Kent my favorite destination any day of the week.

Decades later, in the year 2000, I saw that the end of an era was drawing nigh. I asked my brother to meet me at the Mall one afternoon in December...ironically right before Christmas. We decided to walk through the Mall together to reminisce and I would photo document the interior for preservation. Sadly we both knew that very shortly, this place that created so many treasured memories for us, would be gone forever. We took in every detail we possibly could before finally walking out the main doors one last time.

The following Spring I decided to photograph exterior shots of the Mall and the movie theater as companion images to the interior images I had taken. It was a chilly Saturday morning in April of 2001 and the clarity of that early morning light manifested the sadness of the reality of the scene...abandonment.

Even though I vowed I would not take pictures of the demolition, I allowed myself to observe on a very depressing, rainy and dreary afternoon the destruction of the pyramidal entrance way overhang. I am not ashamed to say I shed tears while I watched before I finally decided to drive away and not look back. As the old adage goes; "All good things..."

Please enjoy these photos and hopefully they will bring back pleasant memories for you as they always do for me.

~ Mark A. Lenon