So Long, Northgate

2020 is becoming a true stinker of a year. Goodness, it seems like everyday it’s something new.

The latest being an announcement that Northgate Mall in my hometown of Durham, N.C. will permanently close, effective immediately. The mall has been closed due to COVID-19, which was apparently the final blow, according to mall managing company Northwood Retail.

Northgate opened in 1960 as an open air strip mall, featuring stores like Roses and Kerr-Drug. 14 years later, the mall turned into what I’ve always known it as, enclosed with some outdoor space as well. Northgate featured three anchor stores in what I call its heyday: Sears, Belk and Hecht’s (which turned into Macy’s) as well several other national chain and mom and pop stores.

Northgate Mall was my childhood and continued to be there for me when I got older. From riding the tea cups on the old carousel with my maternal grandmother. To going to the Disney Store with my mom. To taking almost daily trips with my paternal grandparents to walk rounds and then swing by Chick-Fil-A so they could pick up a second (or third) morning cup of coffee. We’d later go people watch at the food court.

Speaking of the food court, how about grabbing a big ‘ol slice of pizza at Sbarro or heaps of bourbon chicken and potatoes at Cajun Café for $5. Oh, and I can’t forget CinnaMonster. That Monster Cinnamon Roll was a heart attack in a sack but man was it good!

One year, I even got to perform with my church’s orchestra at the mall for Christmas. It was outside on the new plaza area that had been recently built back then. I only can recall one song we did that night: Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town.”

The memories are endless, but time marches on and, with that, things change. Northgate has been struggling financially for several years, like many other retailers and shopping centers, due in large part to online shopping. And, yes, I guess you can say I contributed to its demise by shopping online. A lot. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our economy, I feared the worst for Northgate.

I have numerous feelings about Northgate’s closing. The news hit me hard, to be honest. My grandparents are gone and now a place they all loved – at least in its current form – is too. In fact, the news of Northgate closing came just one day shy of four years since my paternal grandmother passed away.

Who knows what will be next for Northgate. Northwood Retail has talked about redeveloping the site into a mixed use area but we’ll see what happens. Truth is, it will never be the same. Perhaps, whatever it becomes will be a great thing for our community.

I rode by the mostly barren parking lots today for what could be the last time. I wish I could walk one more round. Just one. Thanks for every single memory you allowed me to have, Northgate Mall. Here’s to your new iteration and 60 more years of memories.

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