Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The Fiesta's Over

These photos (below) were posted by an alumnus of my high school in Mesa, Ariz. The Fiesta District was once one of the hottest shopping areas in the country and the site of my first job -- as an usher and concessionaire at the Fiesta Village movie theater, where "Sixteen Candles," "After Hours," "Desperately Seeking Susan" and "Just One of the Guys" once played. And it's where I bought my first Blondie, Pretenders and Go-Go's albums. 

Hard to believe how different childhood is for today's youth, many of whom appear to live their entire lives online. (I ditched school and walked to Wherehouse Records the day Blondie's "Island of Lost Souls" came out!) 

Jason Layne writes:
 Well, there goes the last part of many of our childhoods ๐Ÿ˜ก๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜’

The entire area is now gone ๐Ÿ˜ฅ The nickel arcade, both movie theaters, Tower Records, Rockaway Records, the Warehouse, Fiesta Mall, Toys R US, Lionel Playworld, Circuit City, used to be the best hangout area in all the East Valley ...
I also spent countless hours at nearby Hollywood Records, across the street from Mesa Community College, which always had the best 12-inch single imports in town. 

This demolition was a long time coming -- the mall was pronounced dead in 2018 -- but it still makes my Gen X stomach turn, which other readers of Jason's post agree with: 

"This hurts my heart. I grew up around this mall." 

"I worked in Juniors at Broadway Southwest! And my friend Skinny Bill worked at the record store inside the mall. Was it Bill's Record & Tapes? << tapes! ๐Ÿ™‚ We were all new waver/punkers. I took acid one day with my dorm roommate after finals and remembered, "I have to work at 3!" so I DROVE to Fiesta Mall from ASU and told one of my co-workers that I was tripping. "I'll just go over here and sort out those two big clearance racks. Keep customers away from me, OK?"

"A sad day for anybody that grew up in that era. The younger generation is never gonna know the feeling and excitement of  going to a mall to actually hang out and interact with people. RIP Fiesta Mall."

"The other malls still left don't hit the same as Fiesta did, either."

"Don't forget Montgomery Wards and Service Merchandise."

"Waiting in line for concert tickets at Dillard's ..."

"Will be so strange to drive by when I come back to visit."

"I learned to drive around that mall's circuit road and parking lots." 

Rich Kochanski shared this interior photo, writing: The fire department was given permission to train inside for about a month before the demolition. These are from about a week before they started bringing it down.

1985 and 2023: Hello and goodbye

"We spent so much time there instead of class."

Having a camera, much less one with film, wasn't common back then. But here are a few Fiesta Mall memories I do have: 

Judy's turn to buy

My friend Yuki on the elevator at Fiesta Mall, in its earth-tones heyday! 

The Wild life

Krush grooved: Breakin' in '85

Mall of confusion

The ticket window at AMC Fiesta Village. My first day on the job, this brash Italian girl from New Jersey walked right up to me and asked me if I'd had my nose broken. At the time I didn't even realize I have an off-center nose -- like my father and brother Bill -- so sheepishly said no. "Oh, I was just wondering cuz you look just like all my uncles back home." (Charmed, I'm sure.) 

1983 fare

Village life

My place of employment in 1984

The Musicland (near the Sears anchor) where I bought Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusual" on the same day my friend Greg bought "Madonna" by Madonna so we could hear them both!

Aladdin's Castle, where I'm proud to say I never spent a penny! 

Looks like some other Dobson High alums are taking it to the streets ... or at least the parking lot!


Jaradon said...


BloggerJoe said...

I grew up in Yuma, and Fiesta Mall was a teenage trek for us. Hours of driving through hot desert, praying your care wouldn't break down. A stop in Gila Bend to fill up and get something to drink. Spending hours in the mall walking from one store to another, and wandering the food court trying to decide what to eat before everyone piled back into the car to face another 3 hour trek home. An exhausting day, but worth it to us small town teens.

Jack said...

That whole Mall Culture was such a large part of my teenage life! Now, I hate shopping. Haven't been into a store in years. I take that back-- I popped into a gift store to pick up a birthday card and was appalled at all the useless crap on the shelves (that I used to buy).

John said...

By “hottest shopping areas in the country”, are you referring to the high temperatures in AZ? Your statement couldn’t be further from the truth. I have had a career in corporate retail and this market has never been one of the “ hottest”. Scottsdale area is maybe a shopping district which has been focal for many retailers. But Fiesta Mall? No? It might have great memories for you and your friends, but is has never been one of the “hottest shopping areas in the country”.

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

@John: Not only the hottest temperatures in AZ, but maybe in the country!

-- In the early 1990s, Fiesta Mall ranked within the top 15 percentile of regional malls in the nation in sales.

-- A 1992 survey identified it as the preferred shopping center for most Valley residents.

Scottsdale Fashion Square was a disjointed mess until after I moved in 1990. Fiesta Mall wasn't the Sherman Oaks Galleria, but it did the trick!

DT said...

The Memories! ๐Ÿค—
I remember Fiesta Mall! It all started with Sears. While under construction, you could look out of the glass doors at Sears and watch the construction. A lot of great memories! #FiestaMall #Mesa

Francine said...

I worked there! And it's where I first had my hair dyed pink and blue. Funny how malls aren't a thing anymore.

LD said...

That's your takeaway from this post? Being a corporate retail authority must be a real burden.

retropian said...

Sad. My 1st job in 1980 was in the food court. Pizza D'amore! Malling was such a thing in the 80's. I remember Judy's! Now I go to a mall only if absolutely necessary.

Kristen said...

Sorry, Kenneth, that I am just now seeing this--on the one hand my grownup brain is reminding me that it's just a mall, like so many other malls before and after it; on the other hand, I think my teenaged brain is whirling through the stages of grief. My main goal in life from 14-18 was to find a ride to that mall, where at least something might be happening (it almost never was, but that didn't dim my hopes at all, ever).