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    I Ranked 2000s Era Mall Stores From "Meh" To "Actual Proof That 2009 Was A Simpler, Nay, A Better Time"

    I wish you could put an experience in a time capsule, because future generations should know about getting your ears pierced at Claire's.

    You've probably seen headlines about how malls are "dying." But why focus on that when you could focus on the era when malls truly lived?

    Abandoned escalators in the mall
    Charles Donaldson / Getty Images/EyeEm

    I'm referring, of course, to the early-to-mid 2000s.

    A bunch of shoppers in a mall
    Darren Heath Photographer / Darren Heath / Getty Images

    I've ranked 19 2000s mall spots from "just okay" to "changed my life and probably yours for the better through the power of affordable accessories."

    Paramount /

    This ranking is highly scientific, by which I mean it's completely subjective and based on my personal memories of what it was like to wander around a mall in 2011. My top five are airtight, though. 

    19. Any Kiosk

    A Dell kiosk in the mall
    Scott Olson / Getty Images

    Doesn't matter if it's computers, bath salts, or body jewelry: a kiosk isn't the ideal place to buy it. 

    Where's the ambiance? The pizazz? A kiosk is just a store that's been set adrift on the lazy river of consumerist ennui.

    A bunch of perfume on a mall kiosk
    Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    18. Generic "Cell Phone Fashion" Stores

    A bunch of smart phone covers hanging on the wall
    Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    In the mid-2000s, we thought your cell phone could reflect your personality. In 2021, we know that your cell phone is your personality.

    A woman cleans a selection of cell phone covers
    Universalimagesgroup / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    To be clear, that's worse, but also, society never needed this many phone cases. 

    That being said, we should bring back those rubber cell phone charms immediately.

    A woman talks on a phone that has two charms: hello kitty and a european union star
    Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP via Getty Images

    Case in point: No other accessory could so clearly communicate that someone both supports the European Union and loves Hello Kitty. 

    17. Brookstone

    Someone flies a drone for customers in a Brookstone
    Sandy Huffaker / Corbis via Getty Images

    I refuse to believe that anyone ever bought anything from a Brookstone. (Who could afford it?)

    A Brookstone at the mall
    Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    Instead, I think their entire business model was based on the mall paying them to provide a place for Dads to hang out while their families did the holiday shopping.

    Two dads recline on massage chairs in a Brookstone
    Sandy Huffaker / Corbis via Getty Images

    Either that, or way more people own massage furniture than I realize. 

    16. Any Store That Exclusively Sells Greeting Cards

    Someone reads a card in a store
    Rl Productions / Getty Images

    I don't want to walk by a reminder that the thank you note I was supposed to send for that thing is now two years late.

    A young woman shops for greeting cards
    Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

    15. Yankee Candle

    A bunch of Yankee Candles
    Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    I take no issue with the product, but crossing the threshold of a candle store is like walking into a brick wall of concentrated sugar cookie scent.

    A Yankee Candle in the mall
    Sopa Images / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

    It doesn't matter that they sell other types of candles. The sugar cookie one will always be the strongest.

    Rows upon rows of Yankee Candle
    John Greim / LightRocket via Getty Images

    14. Abercrombie & Fitch

    an Abercrombie
    Sopa Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

    Imagine a store, but for some reason it's located inside an empty can of Axe body spray.

    two mannequins in an abercrombie store
    Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

    13. Godiva

    A man works in the Godiva store in the mall
    Matthew Simmons / Getty Images

    I wasn't classy enough to casually walk into a Godiva when I was 12, and I'm not classy enough now.

    A bunch of Oyster shaped chocolate truffles
    Matthew Simmons / Getty Images

    They do smell amazing, though. A Godiva is like a Yankee Candle but instead of sugar cookies, it smells like $9 milkshakes. 

    12. Spencer's

    A spencer's storefront
    Company Man /

    Spencer's is where the hierarchy of the mall dissolved into total anarchy, and that made it equally terrifying and alluring.

    A Spencer's storefront
    Company Man /

    Every middle school student who ever crossed that threshold thought they were about to be arrested. 

    Their current tagline reads "Spencer's: Body Jewelry, Graphic Tees, Lingerie & Lava Lamps," and yeah, that just about sums it up.

    Lava Lamps in a Spencer's
    Star Tribune Via Getty Images / Star Tribune via Getty Images

    Tag yourself (I'm lava lamps). 

    11. Wet Seal

    A Wet Seal in a mall
    James Leynse / Corbis via Getty Images

    You saw someone carrying around one of those bright pink bags and you just knew they were now the proud owner of a sequined cardigan or a tattoo choker.

    A mother and daughter shop at wet seal
    James Leynse / Corbis via Getty Images

    Wet Seal dressed a generation of middle school students going to their seventh grade dance, and for that I applaud them.

    A bunch of Wet Seal clothing on a rack
    James Leynse / Corbis via Getty Images

    10. Rainforest Cafe

    Rainforest Cafe logo
    Robert Alexander / Getty Images

    You may think this isn't a store, but let me ask you this: Is Rainforest Cafe a restaurant, or a gift shop that also happens to serve chicken fingers?

    The Rainforest Cafe in a mall
    South China Morning Post / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

    But nothing is more disruptive to a peaceful chicken finger eating experience than hearing an animatronic stampede every 15 minutes or so.

    A Rainforest Cafe as seen from above
    South China Morning Post / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

    9. Bath and Body Works

    A Bath & Body Works in a mall
    Ucg / UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    You want candles? They got 'em. Have a craving for tiny bottles of hand sanitizer? Come on down. Want to get a bottle of scented something that isn't deodorant or perfume but is instead mysteriously labeled as a mist? Oh boy, do I have the store for you.

    A bunch of products at Bath and body Works
    Johnny Louis / Getty Images

    Remember body glitter? Bath & Body Works does.

    A Bath & Body Works at the mall
    Roberto Machado Noa / LightRocket via Getty Images

    Someone asked what Bath & Body Works wanted to sell, and they answered "yes." 

    8. Apple Store

    People going into a large apple store
    Yoshikazu Tsuno / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

    In the era where Photobooth was king, there was no better place to waste time than the Apple Store.

    People trying out macbook airs
    Spencer Platt / Getty Images

    Not quite as much opportunity for casual shopping, though. The Apple Store was there for dreamers: Maybe you, too, could one day own an aquamarine iPod.

    An ipod mini
    New York Daily News Archive / NY Daily News via Getty Images

    7. Build-a-Bear Workshop

    A build a bear workshop in a mall
    Getty / John Lamparski / WireImage

    There was no such thing as a casual experience at a Build-A-Bear. You walked in and an employee was immediately like, "Would you like to choose a stuffed animal skin, fill it from a giant box of fluff, and imbue it with your essence and possibly your voice, before receiving a literal birth certificate for your creation, you God Amongst Bears?"

    A Build A Bear holding a ton of those hearts
    Gustavo Caballero / Getty

    And if you were a kid circa 2007, the answer was always "yes!"

    A Build A Bear
    Getty / John Lamparski / WireImage

    I do feel bad for any parents who weren't familiar with the process and thought they were just getting their kid a toy, only to find themselves in a Macy's, but for stuffed animals. 

    6. Gap*

    Shoppers walk by a Gap store
    Dimas Ardian / Getty Images

    *possibly The Gap? I truly don't know. 

    Gap ranks slightly higher than it otherwise would because they have an extremely generous sale section, and that warms my heart.

    Someone shops at Gap
    Dimas Ardian / Getty Images

    I never need another pair of short overalls but if they're 85% off, you're damn right that they're coming with me, along with the two black t-shirts I actually went in there to buy.

    A Gap branded sweatshirt
    Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

    5. Borders

    Books inside of Borders
    Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    Borders was Barnes and Noble's cool older sibling, but tragically, it went to the big mall in the sky in 2011.

    The exterior of a Borders
    Getty / Milan Ryba / FilmMagic

    I don't think the return of Borders would solve any of the world's problems, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. 

    In memory of this titan of retailers, please enjoy this photo of Borat signing his book there.

    Getty / Steve Granitz / WireImage

    2007 was a simpler time. 

    4. Auntie Anne's

    Sopa Images / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

    It's not a store, you say. It doesn't even have a gift shop, à la the Rainforest Cafe, you say.

    An Auntie Anne's pretzel
    Medianews Group / MediaNews Group via Getty Images

    You're completely right. But that doesn't mean I'm going to leave it off my list and inspire the fury of its fanbase.

    Auntie Anne's /

    3. Barnes and Noble

    A barnes and noble storefront
    Ucg / UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    This bookstore is an oasis of calm in a chaotic world, and its armchairs were the most coveted real estate you could find at the mall.

    The YA section of Barnes and Noble
    Drew Angerer / Getty Images

    God help me, I love Barnes and Noble.

    A customer purchases a stack of books from barnes and noble
    Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images

    I'm not saying I picture their alphabetized fiction shelves when someone tells me to imagine my happy place, but if my first twelve or so happy places don't do the trick, B&N is lucky number thirteen. 

    2. Claire's

    A Claire's at a mall
    Ucg / UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    Claire's pierced the ears of a generation (mine included), and they should be honored for it.

    Colorful earring sets at a Claire's
    Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

    It's an undeniably joyful shopping experience, one where everyone can find the perfect pair of studs that show off their love for unicorns or dinosaurs or the moon. It would definitely claim the top spot, if not for a challenger that emerged from the '90s.

    Claire's at a mall
    Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

    1. dELiA*s

    The storefront of a Delia's
    Mike Mozart / Flickr / Via Flickr: jeepersmedia

    Of course it's Delia's. It's always been Delia's. Also, I used their weird capitalization in the heading out of respect, but it's just not a sustainable formatting choice. 

    If you don't remember it or never had a chance to go, Delia's was a magical place where you could find a near-bottomless supply of graphic tees, along with this exact cardigan.

    A grey and blue stripey delia's cardigan
    The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Delia's is probably best known for its catalogues, where young people could find the finest selection of bucket hats and inflatable furniture available in all of American retail. But I will always remember (and love) it for its brick-and-mortar stores. The one is my mall may have been the first place I realized that I could use the way I dress to reflect who I am, and which "It's Happy Bunny" catchphrase I most identified with. And for that, Delia's earns the #1 spot.

    Giphy /

    Godspeed, you beautiful behemoth of 2000s fashion. 

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