The Gallery Is Covered in Dust and Debris
The escalators to the second floor of The Gallery don’t work anymore, but they’re still functional as stairs. “Thank you for the convenience,” I thought, quoting the late comedian Mitch Hedberg, as I walked up the stairs to stop at Villa.
The Villa is the last remaining sneaker shop in The Gallery, a mall that once had so many sneaker shops I was able to submit a mini-ranking of them in my ranking of Philadelphia-area malls in 2011. I went up to Villa — on the second floor of the gallery, which is actually the third level of shopping — to browse the racks of sparse, heavily discounted merchandise.
The Gallery’s remaining sneaker store is moving to the old Bare Fee/Showtime Shoes location on the 1200 block of Chestnut Street, and I picked up some cheap Stance socks before it moves at the end of the month. (If you think buying a pair of socks for $5 is silly, imagine paying $16 for a pair.)
There are only a few remaining stores in The Gallery, all in the newer part of the mall near Jefferson Station. The original part of The Gallery — “Gallery I,” which opened in 1977 — has already been closed. Since the fall it’s been under renovations, and despite dire predictions of commuters forced outdoors it seems to have gone pretty seamlessly.
But I miss The Gallery. That’s probably not surprising coming from a guy who wrote thousands of words about his love for the mall about a year ago, but no matter: The mall had been a part of the fabric of downtown Philadelphia for more than 30 years, and now it’s going away.
Of course, there are plenty of other places downtown to buy sneakers and video games and discounted sportswear and fast food. I knew that even while writing my ode to the Gallery last year. But I’m surprised how much I miss walking through those corridors of the mall a few blocks from my house. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived a few blocks away for the last decade and spent time there as a kid, or maybe I’m addicted to shopping and I like malls and it’s the closest one. No matter the reason, I miss going there.
The upside is that it’s not going away: It’s just being updated. Villa’s trip to Chestnut Street will be brief: The store is likely to return to the new Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia upon the mall’s renovation and reopening, a manager told me. It will be a long wait, but the mall will return.
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