Thursday, August 11, 2011

Today's Photo: The Abandoned Ft. Chiswell Mall

There was a time not so long ago when I simply could not travel down I-81 toward Ft. Chiswell without stopping at it's difficult-to-reach outlet mall, which was parallel to the Interstate.

The mall can still be seen from the highway and it's still almost impossible to find, but now there's an added dimension: it's either completely empty or a single store survives. The Bon Worth store has a sign and two people were sitting on a bench outside this morning, but I detected no real activity.

This was a wonderful mall for a number of years, featuring outlets from some very big names on two levels and looking like it should be at the beach. My favorites were the cooking stores and the discount book store that had thousands of titles for $3 and $4. I bought a Ralph Lauren Polo blue blazer there for about $80, a set of Corningwear for something absurdly low and lots of other things I didn't need, but had a blast buying for other people.

Now the parking lot is full of weeds and though the stores are still cheerful looking, they are alone and lonely. So sad for all of us.


  1. While the Ft. Chiswell Outlet Mall has withered away due to location and the economy it is important to recognize that Downtown Wytheville is continuing to improve and create a unique shopping experience for locals and tourists. They have create a sub-committee of the Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce to promote downtown businesses and events including the Collector’s Cruise-In with live music, sidewalk sales and stores staying open later to cater to the crowds. The former George Wythe Hotel (previously a bank location for the past 40 years) has been purchased by a long time Wytheville/Wythe County developer with intentions to reopen it as a hotel and restaurant. The Wytheville Farmers Market (located at 355 East Main Street) has a strong following every Saturday (and other days of the week when events are held). Other attractions include The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation and Museum, Skeeter’s “World Famous Hotdogs”, Wytheville Office Supply (with the “Big Pencil”), The Log House Restaurant, The Farmer’s Daughter, Petal’s of Wytheville and numerous other shoppes that line the main and side streets.

    The Valley Business Front should take more of wider view (there are other business communities outside of Roanoke, Salem, etc) when covering the business front of our region and cover areas like Wytheville!

  2. wjs:

    This post has nothing to do with VB FRONT. It is a personal blog. FRONT has its own blog. Wytheville is outside the circulation area of VB FRONT, has almost no readers and no advertisers there. Still, that is not a point here. These are my observations only. I am sure Wytheville is a fine place, but this mall's loss is sad to me personally and that's the only point of this post.

  3. Dan,
    I am sorry if it was taken as a dig at you or the Front. I very much enjoy reading the articles and events that the Front covers. While Wytheville doesn't have the population of Roanoke (or surrounding area) it does have a strong and growing business community. We welcome the opportunity to help expand your readership into Southwest Virginia with suggesting rack locations and working with your team to find and contribute to great articles.

  4. wsj: I don't like discussing FRONT business here. If you'll e-mail me at my personal e-mail address, or the VB FRONT address (, we can talk about this. This blog is not for FRONT discussions. Sorry. I must keep them separate.

  5. You GO Dan Smith! I get very depressed when driving by the Fort Chiswell outlets now, in route to Johnson City, Tennessee. I remember visiting this mall in the mid-90's with family who lived in Cana, VA. I purchased several outfits for my husband at the Bugle Boy Outlet, several CD's from a music store (don't remember the name, but it was a chain), tons of trinkets and knick-knack's from 'Claire's Boutique' and some books from the discount book store you mentioned. If I'm not mistaken, there was also a little cafe that served basic snacks and lunchtime foods, and my niece had a field day in a teen girl clothing store. Great memories of that place! We had dinner at the Iron Skillet (?) afterwards, a little restaurant attached to a nearby truck stop. I, too, enjoy reminiscing about the simple pleasures of the past that I wish I would've appreciated more! Sometimes, we don't want to talk about the future, we want to sit back and remember the things we loved that are no longer here. I enjoyed your story on the Ft. Chiswell Mall and appreciate the attention you gave to it in your article. Regards!

  6. This place is truly eerie now. Rabbits, birds and wildlife had taken up residence, trees are being pruned in the lawn while others are allowed to grow into the building structures, and the power is still on. What happened here?

  7. Thank you for the memories!! I always just loved this place. Seems like
    some of the best places are now a thing of the past. However that being said most downtowns are in a revival., which is good but MY memories from my generation the malls and outlets were the going thing. and I thank you for the memories...

  8. Drive by the place all the time; very sad from both a personal and economic viewpoint. My wife used to manage a store there before finishing college, and I worked at the Florsheim store briefly after getting out of the Navy. It started losing stores around 2002 and finally shuttered completely around 2012. Always was a hard place to travel in and out of; especially for persons who didnt know the area. Rumor was there was supposed to be another entrance/exit off of I-77, but didn't happen - that and the multilevel layout pretty much doomed it from the outset.

    1. Did not go often but everytime we were near there we would always stop in. What a joy to wander thru the book store and the London Fog store Still have my black double breasted peacoat from there they never go out of style

  9. Just visited today as ive always wanted to see it. I have alot of pics i took if anyone is interested let me know!