ABILENE, Texas (KRBC) – March 14, 1979 The Mall of Abilene opened its doors. Now 40 years later, eight stores remain from that opening.
“Our occupancy is well in the 90s and it exceeds a lot of the malls that are of this type of size of market place,” said Steven Niles, General Manager, Mall of Abilene.
Caesar Rangel was 15 years old on opening day, working as a cook making chips at El Chico.
“I was always up to being some bit of a prankster and I would get my sopapilla dough balls and I would throw them against the wall and they would stick up there. Well, one day someone told on me. The mall manager comes out and says, ‘Caesar, who did that?’ I looked at him and said, ‘It wasn’t me,'” said Caesar Rangel, Owner, El Chico.
Now he’s the owner, seeing generations of families come in with their own stories to tell.
“I used to come here when I was a little boy with my parents or my grandparents and now their mom and dad say they got their kids in college and they are still coming in,” said Rangel.
The town has seen a lot of change over the years, including the recently-renovated mall cinema, which Niles says has increased traffic flow.
“‘Hey, I’ve only got 30 minutes because my movie is starting but I wanted to get a quick outfit or I wanted to get a quick gift.’ We hear people say, ‘We are going to the movies’ all the time,” said Nancy Nicholson, Owner, Bucketheads.
Bucketheads came to the mall 10 years ago saying it was the best decision they made.
“It was a great decision. I mean we’ve never looked back, never regretted coming to the mall at all,” said Nicholson.
Other malls have contacted them to come there, but Nicholson says even the bigger cities are nothing like The Mall of Abilene.
“I have no plans ever to move out of this mall. They have done the things that take care of the businesses that are in the mall, make them happy to be here,” said Nicholson.
Mall officials say they are constantly in discussion with new retailers, so there are plans for the future, but they can’t share them right now.