It’s happening all over the country. We’ve all seen the decline of department stores like Sears and K-Mart bite the dust. What is left behind is something of a nostalgic dead space filled with sad looking mannequins and the ghosts of an era that is likely never coming back. And why should it? The need to jump in the car and go to the mall is, today, virtually non-existent. We buy what we need online, hang-out on the couch to binge-watch the latest season of House of Cards on Netflix and order bad fast-food that we’ll regret in the morning. The kids of the 70s and 80s needed a place to hang out, and people needed to go to the store for clothes and groceries and everything else, so malls were a good concept back in the day. But they also destroyed something important, something that seems to be making a comeback in the past few years: a sense of familiarity and community.

Mom & Pop stores are few and far between these days. Many a mall displaced Main street coffee shops, boutiques and general stores when they were erected to provide the convenience of ‘everything in one place’. They were filled with brand stores and questionable fast-food restaurants and their clinical appearance with bad lighting and fake dusty plants was anything but hospitable. Kids might have found them a good place to hang out, but no adult in their right mind wanted to linger. Get in, get what you need, and get out. That was the mantra.

So what is happening to all these disused buildings? In some places, nothing. They are just left to face another year of deterioration. In other places however, these abandoned businesses are getting a second chance at life – and a much, much better one. One excellent example of this is the Stanley Market place in Aurora Colorado.

Originally a plane hangar, Stanley eventually went out of business. A few years ago, a couple of neighbors thought of using it to open a small beer hall. Fast forward a couple more years and Stanley Market is now home to over 50 independently owned community shops. It also hosts events for people of all ages and serves food that far exceeds fast-food quality. This is what we need in today’s America. A place to hang out that is friendly and allows you to be a part of the community. Here’s hoping that more abandoned malls and businesses find new lives – and keep going for a long, long time.

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