Of mall walkers and Rosedale’s charms

“Some hug the corners,” said a mall walker on a recent weekend at Rosedale Center, the Saturday sun seeping in through tall glass automatic doors and ceiling windows, bouncing off blank white walls and floors. The mall-walk approach of clinging to walls and making tight turns, he said, is called “military style.”

The mall walkers say they enjoy exercising in malls because its a controlled environment, even on a nice day. 

The mall is a consistent leisure time hub, the same now as it was in the 1960s or 80s. There’s a timelessness to being in a mall, in two senses. 

Once inside, the experience feels like it could be had in any modern decade. And it always feels like the middle of the afternoon. Inside a mall, even if you haven’t eaten anything, even if it’s 8 p.m. or 10 a.m., it’s time for a cinnamon roll or pretzel.

 

New destination

On this Saturday afternoon at Rosedale, mall walkers make their way, blending into the crowd, then conspicuously popping into focus as they briskly walk straight toward a wall using every inch of mall, making a sudden turn, disregarding everything around them. Roving teenager and tween grouplets make their way wrapped in their own world, similarly indifferent.

It’s a typical mall scene. Rosedale and Roseville have proven a dependable mall setting, boasting more than 10 million mall visitors annually. And that number is apparently climbing, which is no small feat considering the trouble malls and all physical stores have with online shopping. 

Also climbing are the millions that have recently been invested in Rosedale. In terms of dollars spent over the last two years, which is in the tens of millions, the mall is kind of the city’s crown jewel, its touchstone. Its Roseville’s version of a sports stadium.  

The influence Rosedale holds over Roseville is growing, and not just financially. With the announcement of its soon-to-be-open food hall, the mall is making a bid for the suburb to be a cool destination for artisan eats on the same level as Nicollet Mall or downtown St. Paul. 

 

Time-honored

 tradition

Mall culture in general is a very Minnesotan thing, which has spanned generations with lots of help from Roseville. Rosedale has been around since 1969. Culturally, for Roseville, it’s nearly an institution. 

Retail habits may change, department stores may change, dining tastes and habits may change. Either way, Rosedale and the city have adjusted and survived, perhaps sustained by the enduring, familiar Minnesotan comfort of going to the mall. 

There are the parents, of course, the blessed mall parents, for the tween and younger-age hangs. Some parents lead in front, a wake of kids trudging behind them. Other parents do the feet dragging themselves, a stable of hyper kids in front pulling the under-caffeinated guardian like a parental chariot.  

There’s the cool parents and grandparents keeping their distance to allow their child and friend to have very private conversations (and perhaps enjoy an ice cream treat in silence). 

If you grew up partaking in one role or the other, or moved your way through them all, choosing a mall’s wide halls and soft lighting, its constant top 40/classic rock din to spend time at after school or after work or on the weekend or holidays — you associate the place with relaxation and moments made for future reminiscing. 

 

‘Keep your head up’

And there appears to be something special about Rosedale. Those who live in Roseville, when they share that fact, are used to people immediately bringing up the mall. Sometimes people even accidentally refer to the city as Rosedale. The mall walker from the top of the column said he drove in from an outer-ring suburb because Rosedale is his favorite mall to walk. 

Rosedale is special at least for the fact that it appears to be a mall still striving, still commercially vital, still standing at all. Nowadays, even in the land of the mall, their birthplace — Minnesota — that’s impressive. So is its commitment to traditional mall department store fare and trying new things like the food hall. 

Already outside it are outdoor restaurants and bars lining the parking lot next to the movie theater. Walking down the line and selecting a place to get a bite or brew before a movie almost — almost — feels like walking down a happening boulevard. 

Here’s to hoping it’s not a Block E ghost town in a decade, when Jeff Bezos is president and you can tweet and order new winter boots with your tongue, when all malls, Rosedale included, and all their comforts, are relegated to the dustbin of history.

A pro mall-walking tip for the meantime: Keep your head up and eyes peeled for strollers. 

 

—Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815. He’s a Roseville Area High School graduate and is no stranger to Rosedale Center and all its charms — he sold shoes at its Champs Sports while attending RAHS.

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