Glendale Mall reflects the diversity of Indianapolis
Malls were designed to allow families to shop together. The goal was to attract people to a culture of consumption. And the more people the better. Little has changed at the city’s busier malls. The dollar drives what goes on. But, as people gravitate to bigger, newer and shinier shopping centers, older places like Glendale Mall — which opened as an open-air mall in 1958 — are forced to adjust, becoming a different sort of social center, one with various uses like the diverse downtown of old.
This is a place where the kids can run around, where some things are still free. There’s a state-of-the-art public library at Glendale today. There’s a school for children from preschool through high school. IUPUI offers a steady stream of college and continuing education classes. Oasis, an agency that provides programming and classes for senior citizens, is bustling with activity. The House, a coffeehouse owned by a group of local churches, presents Christian bands on Friday nights and booming hip-hop with Club Ice until 3 a.m. on Saturdays. In short, Glendale Mall begins to look like the city of Indianapolis under one roof.
Parham Chess School
All of this makes Bernard Parham smile. A chess master with a background in physics, Parham opened his unique school at Glendale three years ago. Here, 30 inner-city children learn reading, math and computing through the game of chess. Parham created this system. He teaches at the school, which operates two shifts — one in the morning and one in the evening. Classrooms are located in a pair of spaces neighboring a nail salon, an old-fashioned shoe repair store, a pizza shop. They are just down the hallway from a video game arcade and a cluster of IUPUI classrooms. “We might be in two little rooms but the mall makes a superb virtual school,” Parham says. “But we have access to the whole mall for training the kids. This exposes them to a wide variety of people and personalities. They meet Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, Hispanic people. There are always senior citizens walking,” he adds. “The mall is a cross section of the community. It offers the full spectrum. The children might see a white vendor, a black vendor, an Italian vendor, they see males and females. And they think, ‘I could start a business of my own someday.’ “If these children were in a different kind of private school, they’d just see each other every day and go hit the playground and then go home.” Parham especially likes the close connection his school feels with IUPUI’s students and faculty. “I like to think of us as adjunct to IUPUI. We converse with the instructors there and the college students inspire our youngsters. All they have to do is look down the hallway. We almost have a K-through-college environment here.” Parham says the school helps support the mall, buying school uniforms at Old Navy, shopping for school supplies at Office Max and picking up pizza or sandwiches at the food court for lunch. “We spend close to $200 a week in food business,” Parham says. “And these kids are keeping the arcade going with all of their quarters.” Parham is pleased that Glendale Mall has evolved into the kind of place where his school can prosper. “What you see here is a true cosmopolitan mentality. This is a true community center.”
Toledo Mud Hen Mall
Minor league baseball teams don’t have the big-name athletes to draw fans to the games. So these teams try a little harder to bring in unusual sideshows that offer another layer of fun. Glendale is sort of like that. “The overall philosophy is to set it apart from other malls,” says Missy Fritz, the mall’s marketing director. The place is always abuzz with baby contests, visits from Santa or the Easter Bunny, meetings for community groups, or performances by the Indianapolis Symphonic Band and other school and church groups. “Because the mall was open air, we have a very large center court, probably the largest in the city,” Fritz says. “That enables us to hold large public events. “This is a neighborhood mall. It’s a huge community icon.”
Let’s do windows
Students taking 9 a.m. classes at Oasis tend to show up a little early. Graying senior citizens have filled most of the seats in a computer classroom down the hall from the cloggers’ space. Students are here to master the Windows operating system under the leadership of Lynn Murphy. One student is a retired school teacher. One worked at Ford. Another shared that she loses files from her computer desktop every time she tries to use it. Yet another adds, “I want to learn everything I can.” Mary Dorney, Oasis program coordinator, says that’s the idea. And Glendale provides the perfect atmosphere. More than 3,000 different people attend hundreds of classes in the 9,000-square-foot facility each year. “Glendale has set a nice example for malls across the country,” Dorney says.
Class is cancelled, let’s go shopping
A huge “Learn and Shop” sign hangs over the entrance to IUPUI’s classrooms down the hall from the chess school. Here, students in one room take continuing education classes like “Accent Reduction” or “Creating a Children’s Picture Book” or “The History of Jazz.” In other rooms, students take traditional college courses like math or sociology or composition. A brown shelf in the lobby is lined with books free for the taking: Wuthering Heights, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Moby Dick, The Story of Mankind. Tanya Boston and Seth Eaton both show up for the 6 p.m. speech class, only to find that they’ve forgotten it’s been cancelled this week. Boston, a single mother who lives in the Castleton area with her two children, says she’d struggle to stay in college without classes offered at Glendale. She rushes home from her full-time job, gets the kids something to eat and then scrambles to her 6 p.m. classes. She’s home by 9 p.m. “If I had to go all the way downtown, I’d be 45 minutes late, which would be a problem,” she says, between bites of her own meal, brought in a plastic bag. Boston has embraced Glendale as her mall for school and shopping. “I’ve already done my Christmas shopping. If the stores weren’t just upstairs, I wouldn’t have done that by now. I wouldn’t have had time,” she says. “So they got some of my money. That’s fair.” While he often eats in the food court, Eaton says he doesn’t do much shopping at Glendale. But, after losing his driver’s license, the Broad Ripple resident finds the mall branch crucial. “They need to turn the whole mall into a campus,” he says. “That would be cool,” Boston says, laughing.
Andrew Engel, an accountant with an office in Broad Ripple, has walked Glendale Mall at least three days a week for 10 years. He’s seen two different major remodeling efforts. He’s seen businesses come and go. “I tell people I like to walk here because it’s easy. But unfortunately it’s too easy,” he says, headphones that had been playing classical music now hanging around his neck.
Circle City Cloggers
Just past the essay and art display, the 1980s pop hit “You’ve Got the Look” by Roxette echoes along with an odd metallic sound — something like hundreds of metal tubes being dropped on a tile floor. An escalator ride down to the mall’s old lower level reveals an interesting fact: People go to Glendale to dance. The Circle City Cloggers — best known by their annual appearances at the Indiana State Fair — have used this lower level space next to L.S. Ayres’ lingerie department to practice their steps for more than seven years. Other student cloggers — young and old — take classes in this space shared with Oasis, a citywide agency that serves senior citizens. Kathy Rucker is a clogging teacher and one of the leaders of the Circle City Cloggers, who wear shoes with metal plates on the bottoms as they do their traditional dances — often to non-traditional songs (see Roxette). “I like it here. The cloggers like it here,” Rucker says of the mall. “I’m here all day, so I’m always up at the food court. The dancers always go eat somewhere in the mall. A lot of people like to come early and shop. It’s a great facility. And we really like it because they allow us to dance on their floor.” Sometimes shoppers will hear the clogging and come down to see what the noise is. “People just don’t realize what all goes on in the mall that’s down under the stores,” Rucker says.
Essays about America
This is the third year for Glendale to display writing and artwork from Broad Ripple High School students in its walkways. The current display focuses on students’ love for America. Typewritten essays hang between patriotic paintings. Rutaro Madzongwe wrote, “America is everyone’s home.” Leilani Tate wrote, “I’m free and I’m able to be me because of America. From American music, American food, American clothes, to the people of America as a whole, America comforts me …” Maria Hammond points to her essay as a friend looks over her shoulder. She came to see how it looks hanging in the mall. “I’m proud of myself,” the 10th-grader says. She wrote, “It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, if you are male or female or to whom you worship. For all those who come to America from all over the world, endless possibilities and the implied promise of a better life awaits them.”
A little world where worlds meet
People eat together at tables in front of the place where cooks make “America’s Premier Cheesesteak.” They are suits from a psychology association meeting, they are a deaf man signing to his friend, they are a young mother bouncing her crying baby, they are a pair of retired ladies eating chocolate ice cream from waffle cones, a teen-ager in baggy jeans and a backwards ball cap sitting across from his conservative mom. White people, black people, Hispanic people, Asian people, young people and old. Nobody is out of place here, a little world where worlds meet — not just to spend money but to spend time with one another.
By Beth M. Lehman
The latch on the door of the quiet room in the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library at Glendale Mall closes seriously, like the door of a hospital room, cutting out the murmurs in the main library and the mall’s Muzak. Windows look out to the mall corridor where festive banners hang to mark the shopping season. I bring papers, pens and a laptop to work in this room with its polished oak flooring and upholstered furniture. The look is stylish. The tones neutral. The furniture is the kind Lazarus Department Store might have sold in this same space. The windows have colored panes, and the artificial light manages to feel warm, even if the room isn’t. The hum of the ventilation system is constant. Other sounds come and go with library patrons. It is an eclectic crowd midday on a Friday in the quiet room. I spread books and pages over a laminate tabletop. Most of the others take comfy chairs and put their feet up. A man with large framed glasses reads the paper, coughing occasionally. Another, with a shiny head, mutters, “Oh no,” into a Dog Fancy magazine. A woman in a knit hat nods off while an MBA student taps away on a laptop beside a thick text. I was here the first day this branch opened. Then, I discovered with dismay that I have difficulty getting to the library on the third floor without first walking through the mall to have a look, maybe make a quick purchase, a book or something silky. Though the design is such that I could arrive directly at the library, by elevator, with only a glimpse of the mall below, I feel compelled to see the mall. Its bright colors and sweet smells are meant to lure me. I go to the library to avoid the distractions of home — ringing phone, whining dog, tempting refrigerator, too comfortable sofa. In the space that used to be Lazarus, the library sits above the food court and Old Navy, upstairs from Lenscrafters. The smell of pizza floats suggestively to the library entrance. In the library’s quiet room, I notice the space is never completely quiet. Shoes squeak, chairs scoot, throats clear, papers shuffle. The largest contributor of sound this afternoon is counting coins. Resting with feet up, she rustles silver out of a plastic bag by the hand full and counts it by rows in her palm. I see only musical quarters as she clinks coin after coin. She could play arcade games for hours with that stash, load up on pizza, or pairs of gold hoop earrings from the Ayres clearance table. Instead, she sits here in the library with the retail world held at bay by some leaded glass windows. Mall walkers swing their arms by, and the windows turn them into bits of kaleidoscope. I am open-minded about the community developing in this mall innovation, but there is a clash between borrowing and buying. I look around at those of us choosing to avoid the lure of bright sales racks and the crowded aisles of Ayres or American Eagle. Our noses, avoiding the candy smells, are stuck in magazines and books. We are odd outsiders in this secure, quiet room. Nurse Ratchet might drop the needle onto the record any minute, and to the sound of that familiar music we will line up at the glass window for medication that will make us the consumers we should be in this place. Editors@nuvo.net
F.Y.I Chess Academy Parham: 685-2780 or 701-4039. IUPUI Continuing Education: www.cln.iupui.edu, 278-7600 Glendale Library branch: www.imcpl.lib.in.us/gld_mall.htm, 269-1791 Oasis: www.oasisnet.org/indianapolis/index.htm, 253-1951 Circle City Cloggers: 356-0514