Kay-Bee Toy Stores
For very young kids who still needed parental supervision, the highlight of a mall trip was (and is) the toy store. But in the ’80s, toy shops attracted a broader demographic, because that’s where you could get things like Star Wars toys, video game cartridges and consoles, Trivial Pursuit and Rubik’s Cubes. There were other big retail toy chains, but in the malls, Kay-BeeToy Stores ruled, developing a sales strategy specifically aimed at mall shoppers (who may not have set out to shop for toys). One of the most successful tactics: Kay-Bee would buy freshly discontinued products from manufactures and resell them at head-turningly low prices, which would be showcased on displays at the front of the store in. By 1990, Kay-Bee’s tagline was “The Toy Store in the Mall.” Kay-Bee, which was changed to “KB” in the ’90s, went out of business in 2009.
Founded in 1973, County Seat was created to sell jeans, which is cheekily referenced in its name (seat is another word for “butt,” which jeans cover — get it?). Classic Levi’s were the stores’ bread and butter, but in 1984, the company was sold and the new owners began targeting teens and college-aged youth, expanding its stock to include trendier brands like Guess and Girbaud. The décor also changed drastically, moving from a rustic farm motif to a sleeker, more modern look. County Seat thrived for several more years, but by 1999 they’d filed for bankruptcy and closed up shop.
Your Neighborhood Video Arcade
Some malls added majorly to their allure by featuring video arcades stocked with Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and all of the other latest cabinet video games. There were a few arcade chains, like Aladdin’s Castle and Time Out, that had a presence in malls across the country, but often it would be smaller, locally-owned arcades gobbling up quarters.
Wicks ’N’ Sticks
Candle lovers in the ’80s could hit up Wicks ’N’ Sticks for wax creations sculpted in various forms — from dragons and wizards to beer mugs and cheeseburgers. The stores also sold more traditional candles, like tapers, pillars and votives, and later in the ’80s they added other home décor products. Wicks ’N’ Sticks — which was one of the stores featured in Stranger Things’ Starcourt Mall — stuck around until 2006, when its parent company filed for bankruptcy, though some franchise owners kept their stores running for a few more years.