ASHLEY PLAZA MALL
Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Old Town Road
Charleston, South Carolina

The first two shopping malls in -or around- Charleston were dedicated in 1972. NORTHWOODS MALL held its official grand opening in June, with the ASHLEY PLAZA MALL making its debut in August of the same year.

ASHLEY PLAZA, a two-tenant strip center, had been built on a 35 acre plot, located 3.5 miles northwest of downtown Charleston. Developed by Fort Lauderdale-based Gate City Realty and New York City-based Food Fair Properties, the shopping facility was completed in 1964. It consisted of a 1-level (87,000 square foot), Salem, Massachusetts-based J.M. Fields discount mart and adjacent Pantry Pride supermarket.

These stores were divisions of the Philadelphia-based Food Fair supermarket chain. Combo stores similar to ASHLEY PLAZA were built along America's East Coast during the 1960s. They featured J. M. Fields and either a Food Fair or Pantry Pride supermarket.

In March 1970, a 1-level (35,000 square foot), Charleston-based Condon's opened northwest of the existing ASHLEY PLAZA. It was the chain's first branch location. A fully-enclosed mall, linking the two structures, was constructed by the New York City-based LeFrak Organization and Baltimore-based Cordish Company.

Known as ASHLEY PLAZA MALL, the shopping hub was officially dedicated August 10, 1972. The single-level complex encompassed approximately 389,000 leasable square feet and, when fully leased, housed thirty-nine stores and services.

These included Revco Drug, Radio Shack, Thom McAn Shoes, Hickory Farms of Ohio, This End Up, Pet Village, Crawford's Fine Store for Men, Cindy Lee Shop ladies' wear, Evelyn Rubin ladies' wear, Don's Stag Shop men's wear, John McNiel Magnavox TV & Stereo, Friedman's Jewelers, and an Edward's 5 & 10.

The General Cinema Corporation Ashley Plaza Cinema I & II showed its first features on May 25, 1973. A third auditorium was added in 1980, with the theater becoming the Ashley Plaza Cinema I, II, III.

Rival shopping facilities in the region included the aforementioned NORTHWOODS MALL (1972) {9.2 miles northwest, in North Charleston}. There were also CHARLES TOWNE SQUARE (1976) {4.3 miles north, also in North Charleston} and CITADEL MALL (1981) {2 miles southwest, in Charleston}.

Store rebrandings at ASHLEY PLAZA commenced with the acquisition of the Edward's chain, by Nashville's Kuhn's Big K, in September 1977. Following the merger, Edward's stores were branded as Big K-Edward's.

In May 1979, the J.M. Fields and Pantry Pride chains went out of business. The vacant J.M. Fields space at ASHLEY PLAZA was filled by a Woolco discount mart in March 1980. The Pantry Pride morphed into a Jameson's Red & White grocery.

The J.M. Fields / Woolco space was vacant, once again, in January 1983. It was divided and leased by an array of retailers over the years. These included an Elkin, North Carolina-based Brendle's Catalog Showroom and United Clothing Company in 1987 and Smithfield, North Carolina-based Carolina Pottery, in 1997.

By the year 2000, the store space was divided between Dollar Tree, Pivotal Fitness and Bumper To Bumper Auto Parts. The grocery spot eventually became a Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots.

The mall struggled through the 1980s and took a hit from Hurricane Hugo in September 1989. It was rebuilt and re-opened, as ASHLEY LANDING in 1990. 75,000 square feet of the complex (the bulk of the interior mall) had been gutted and reconfigured as a Burlington Coat Factory.

ASHLEY LANDING was given an exterior facelift in 1995. In the early 21st century, a revitalization plan was proposed for the past-its-prime property. It was hoped that some of its vacant parking lot could be repurposed with smaller office and residential structures. The existing retail center, it was said, could also have used a modernizing makeover.

In the aftermath of The Great Recession, this redevelopment was categorized as "deader than dead". However, hope springs eternal. In January 2014, Charlotte-based Faison Enterprises acquired ASHLEY LANDING. 6 months later, an adjacent 2.5 acre plot was also purchased.

The mall's new owner performed a facelift renovation of the property, with new landscaping, lighting and store facades installed. An A.J. Wright discount apparel had been operating in the old Condon's space for some time. This store closed in 2011 and was replaced by Citi Trends, which closed in late 2015.

Faison Enterprises had bought the lease of Citi Trends in an effort to bring more high-end tenants into the property. One of these was a combo Frothy Beard Brewing Company and Zombie Bob's Pizza. Installed in the old Edward's 5 & 10 space, the brewery and restaurant served its first libations on February 11, 2017.

Sources:

"Ashley Plaza Mall" article on Wikipedia
www.mallmemories.com / Randy Barton
www.cinematreasures.org
The Post-Courier
www.frothybeard.com
www.faison.com (Faison Enterprises)