The bankruptcy of Delia's has us wondering about other chains that helped define our youth. What happened to Mervyns? Miller's Outpost?

By Drew Mackie
December 12, 2014 09:00 AM
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Courtesy Delia's

Delia’s helped style many young ladies in the ’90s and early ’00s, but just as all those Generation Y girls eventually grew up, the mail-order catalogue’s time has passed.

As announced in early December, the company filed for bankruptcy, and it plans to liquidate its remaining merchandise.

Surely, more than a few 20- and 30-something women, who once lived for the Delia’s catalogue, were sad to hear the news, even if they hadn’t shopped there for the better part of the last decade. We tend to get attached to stores and brand names, and when they go away, it’s a reminder that time passes on and our younger days are further behind us.

So what once-beloved companies have already gone the way of Delia’s? Trigger warning: This article is loaded with bittersweet nostalgia for the age of shopping malls.

Mervyn’s (1949-2008)

Starting in northern California and slowly spreading across the nation, Mervyn’s was the go-to spot for kids to buy back-to-school clothes at low, low prices. However, the chain began to falter as the ’90s passed, and rebranding to Mervyn’s California couldn’t save this mall mainstay.

Tower Records (1960-2006)

Though Tower.com still exists as an online music store, it is a separate entity from the old, physical Tower Records chain where many of us bought music back in the day. This music monolith may have helped close the smaller, independently-operated shops that once dotted the country, but even Tower couldn’t withstand the age of the MP3.

Sam Goody (1956-2006)

If you didn’t find your desired album at Tower, you might have gone to Sam Goody. Started in New York City by Sam “Goody” Gutowitz, this chain actually held on past its closing date. After being purchased in 2006, the Sam Goody locations gradually transformed into f.y.e. stores. The last remaining Sam Goody was in San Diego. It changed out its sign in 2012.

Miller’s Outpost (1972-2011)

It’s probably been a while since you saw a Miller’s Outpost in a mall, that’s because before the chain closed for good, it changed its name to Anchor Blue. In either incarnation, the store tried to cater to a certain kind of mall-going young adult who apparently was shopping elsewhere by 2011.

Waldenbooks (1933-2011)

There was a time when a mall might have a Waldenbooks, a Waldenkids and even a Brentano’s (which Waldenbooks purchased in 1984). That’s no longer the case, of course, since Americans have less use for physical books. In 2004, many remaining Waldenbooks had already converted to Borders Express stores, but of course …

Borders (1971-2011)

Yep, Borders went away too. It was once the place where teens and adults alike could plop into a comfy chair and read to their heart’s content. More than other bookstores, Borders often functioned as a kind of second living room for shoppers to relax, read and drink coffee. Today? Well, anyone want to meet at Barnes & Noble?

ShowBiz Pizza Place (1980-1992)

Chuck E. Cheese was not the only place an ’80s child could experience the triple delight of pizza, arcade games and singing animatronic characters. You may be surprised to know that it was ShowBiz that purchased Chuck E. Cheese in 1984. In the end, however, the Chuck E. Cheese mascot was deemed more profitable, and the ShowBiz locations were converted. The same fate befell Discovery Zone locations nationwide in 1999.

KB Toys (1922-2009)

Long an alternative to Toys “R” Us, KB Toys was once a necessary mall stop for anyone with kids in tow. However, the stores closed in 2009, and the brand was purchased by its old rival. Today, Toys “R” Us manufactures toys under the “KB Classics” line. It’s gone, but not forgotten.

The Warner Bros. Studio Store (1991-2001)

For a brief time, a trip to the mall could have included the purchase of a Tiny Toons animation cell or a leather jacket emblazoned with the Tasmanian Devil – you know, necessary stuff. However, the go-to place for all things Looney Tunes or Hanna-Barbera closed for good in 2001. Meanwhile, the Disney Store continues.

The Nature Company (1972-1996)

This was the place to buy end-of-the-year presents for your teacher or a birthday gift for that one aunt with all the bumper stickers on her Subaru. Founded in 1972, the Nature Company was once a common sight in shopping malls, but it was purchased by the Discovery Channel in 1996 for $40 million. That’s a lot of break-it-open-yourself geodes.

Blockbuster (1985-2013 more or less)

We will tell our grandchildren one day that it was once a perfectly acceptable form of family entertainment to head out to Blockbuster, select a video or two and return home to watch it. We called them “Blockbuster nights.” After being bought by Dish Network in 2011, the remaining Blockbuster locations have gradually shuttered. However, there are a handful of Blockbuster franchise locations still open today. You can, for the time being, still make it a Blockbuster night.

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