End of an Era.

A little over a month ago, Crown Center Redevelopment, the company that manages the Crown Center shops, and Halls department store announced that an Aquarium would be Coming to Kansas City. The 15 million dollar aquarium which is managed by Merlin Entertainments Group will be taking over the first, second, and part of the third floor of Halls Crown Center. While this is financially great news for the struggling Crown Center shops, for me it marks the end of an era.

The Halls department store is one of the last great department stores of the Midwest. There are two locations, and for decades Halls Plaza has overshadowed the Crown Center location. The reality is, Halls Crown Center has always been as good as the Plaza store. The staff is always outstanding, and while I know this might rub a few people the wrong way, in many cases the staff at Crown Center has been friendlier and more accommodating to me. Sorry Plaza staff, it’s just the way it’s been. Both stores offer an amazing line of merchandise, with pricing structures that are on par with any upscale department store. I shop not only the Men’s department, but the kitchen department as well; and while I shop at both stores, I almost exclusively buy from the kitchen department at the Crown Center location. And this is why I titled this post “End of an Era”.

Today I found out that the kitchen department is being closed for good at Crown Center, and that most if not all of the staff would be leaving. I know that Merlin Entertainment wants the extra space in the Halls location. I know that taking over almost all of Halls will be a huge financial boost to not only Crown Center, but to the entire Mid-Town/Cross Roads section of Kansas City, but I hate to see Halls be broken up, and whole sections go.

There is something about Halls as it is that makes Crown Center. It is, or was an anchor. A holistic entity that offered a complete shopping experience to Crown Center customers. With the loss of the Kitchen and home furnishings sections of the store, that will be gone for good, and it’s a shame. Halls as it is, is a world-class store that is known on a national level. There are patrons that travel in from both the East and West coasts to shop there, and with good reason. The quality of the merchandise, the selection, the price points, and the staff simply can’t be matched in many other retail outlets, including those in larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or San Fransisco.

Halls isn’t going away at Crown Center, it is simply being broken up. The Women’s department will be smaller, but still in its current location. Men’s will move to a smaller store front in the mall itself, the Children’s Kitchen, and Housewares departments will be gone for good. What was a cohesive unit, will now be two smaller stores separated by a  50,000-square-foot aquarium. I’ll continue to shop in the Men’s department, and I’ll continue to shop at Halls on the Plaza, but Halls Crown Center will never be the same and it makes me a little sad to see it coming to an end after almost 40 years.

Frankly I wish Crown Center Redevelopment would have relocated all of  the Halls departments into new locations at Crown Center. They would have added a level of class and sophistication that is desperately needed within the mall itself.  I understand though, we are in tough economic times, and the Aquarium is expected to bring around 300,000 visitors to Crown Center annually. That kind of money and traffic is hard to pass up. In the long run, the Aquarium is a very positive thing, I just wish it hadn’t come at the cost of two great departments full of wonderful staff losing their jobs, and the break up of what can be considered a great Kansas City icon.