Back in time to the Wyoming Valley Mall


If you asked me a decade ago to bet on whether I’d ever spend a night in Wilkes-Barre, PA I most certainly would have taken the no side. As it turns out I would have lost. I’m okay with that, it turns out, but also incredibly amused.

Inside the Wyoming Valley Mall: A step back in time or a snapshot of what life is today??
Inside the Wyoming Valley Mall: A step back in time or a snapshot of what life is today??

As part of our stop there was need to forage for supplies. Our goal was something close to the hotel (the Microtel is brand new and very nice for what it is) and so, at the suggestion of the front desk clerk, we made our way a mile or so up the road to the Wyoming Valley Mall where a CVS awaited us inside. As did a flashback to 1990.

The four of us were each amazed in our own way, recognizing bits from the past which jogged a particular memory or thought. Orange Julius is still in business; it has not yet been fully supplanted by Jamba Juice. Sears, Macy’s and JCPenny’s served as anchor tenants, just like at the mall I grew up with in North Florida (we had Burdines instead of Macy’s).  There is a GameStop and a FYE, both brands I hadn’t heard of for years. And, perhaps the coup de grace: Spencer’s still exists, selling useless crap to another generation.

And so we laughed – a lot – as we meandered through and did our shopping. And then came to a somewhat confusing conclusion.

Maybe we didn’t go back in time. Maybe the mall experience is timeless.

How else can I explain that essentially the exact same environment exists decades later?

It also reminds me that, even as much as I wander about, I do live in a bubble. This is something of a quintessential experience for a decent chunk of the U.S. population and for twenty-something years I could have easily believed it no longer existed. Which is not to say that I plan on cruising the malls across America anytime soon. But it is good to be reminded that it is there and part of my culture, even if not really my personal culture.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

7 Comments

  1. That sounds like a pretty standard mall in most of America. If you want a really trippy mall, visit the mall in Odessa, TX. There are mostly brands you’ve never heard of and one of the main anchors is the CBS affiliate.

  2. Hardly anything unique here. Sounds like a typical experience in any small or medium sized market in the U.S.

    1. Of course there’s nothing unique about it. It could have been the mall in the town I grew up in, though I don’t remember having an Orange Julius (but it was a big deal when Broadway Fries showed up) and we had Babbage’s instead of GameStop. That’s part of what makes it so interesting to me.

      The fact that it is still the same a generation later is impressive. And, as it turns out, I don’t get that sort of experience very often. It has probably been 15+ years since I was in a mall like that.

  3. Pretty much a perfect description of my local mall.

    It’s really important to realize that you do live in your own bubble. For example, I’ve only seen a Jamba Juice in one city I’ve ever visited, Chicago. However, there are at least two Orange Julius outlets in my town. I live in my own little bubble as well, because I don’t visit my local mall with Game Stop, Spencer’s, FYE, etc.

    Remember that there’s a world of people out there, Seth, and every single one of them is unique. A world of people means a world of possibilities.

    And I can’t wait until you get a chance to try a Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza, if it hasn’t made it to your bubble yet. 🙂

  4. Yep, I’m well aware of a somewhat similar bubble I live in here in DC. But, thanks to work trips and where some of my family still lives, I rarely go more than a couple of months without experiencing a few days of life in “the rest of the country.”

    1. My general lack of domestic travel keeps me in the bubble more than I probably should be. This was an interesting exposure to the other side.

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