On the corner of Merchant’s Row and Center Street in Downtown Rutland sits Meshach Tourigny’s new location for his vinyl record shop, Mountain Music and Jewelry. The shop opened on Oct. 26 in the space of a former clothing store.
As Tourigny stands behind a glass counter, music enthusiasts examine velvet-smooth records from the diverse rows of rock n’ roll, country, jazz and hip-hop albums that occupy most of the long main room. Patrons also check out psychedelic and classic rock apparel on the racks adjacent to used turntables and speakers.
The business attracts a solid crowd; a far cry from his former location — the now desolate Diamond Run Mall.
In the outskirts of Rutland, atop a basin overlooking U.S. Route 4 and the variegated mountains to the west, is the hollow shell of a once thriving hub for retail space. The empty corridors guide passersby through a dull maze of dearth and depression. The sound of blowing fans and buzzing fluorescent lights fill the void and skylights shed a bleak white light onto the tan and tiled floor.
The hallways open to an atrium that once housed the food court. The stripped frames of Sbarro and Orientaste remain imbedded in the beige walls. Turquoise, stone-printed boards line the perimeter of a former Medieval-themed play area. Accompanying the play area are faded blue-cushioned chairs and booths standing adjacent to a lottery booth and spherical toy vending machines.
Now that the Diamond Run Mall has ended its run, business owners and locals who frequented the shopping center reflect on the golden days and ponder about the future.
Tourigny reopened his music store after being at the mall for seven years. He said he and his family have been affiliated with the shopping center since it opened in the late ‘90’s, with his dad operating a jewelry kiosk. He said although the businesses were not advertised with the department stores on U.S. Route 7, he still had a great following.
“People always came to find us. We were always at the mall,” he said.
Like other shopping centers, the Diamond Run Mall saw a steady decline in customers due to the rise in online options like Amazon. Anchoring stores such as Sears have declared bankruptcy as well, according to an article from VT Digger.
“We hung on, hoping something would change up there, but it never did,” Tourigny said.
The remaining businesses left the building at the end of October. Various items that were abandoned were auctioned off late November, according to the mall’s website.
One business that held on to the end is Joli Hair Studio, which has moved to Wales Street, according to a Rutland Herald article. Anita Rice, the manager of Joli, said in the article the salon had clientele, and that is why they stayed open. She added she is excited about the move, hoping that it will help revitalize Downtown Rutland.
“The mall took all these businesses out of downtown and now they’re all moving downtown,” Rice said.
The mall was not just for shopping, but for recreational activities as well. Richard Alcott, a resident of Rutland, said he walked through the open space for about 15 years. He said its indoor environment provided a break from the harsh Vermont weather, and the large space enabled him to get a good workout.
“It was very convenient to come here,” Alcott said.
Alcott added he is trying to find another place to walk. He thought about utilizing other alternatives in town, including the gymnasium at the defunct College of St. Joseph. Either way, he said the mall’s closing will negatively impact those who used it for exercise like him.
“They’re literally out in the cold,” Alcott said.
Tenants might have moved out, but one facility behind the building continues to have its lights on. The Spartan Arena, which has been owned by Castleton University since 2008, serves as an important venue for both the school and the community.
Currently, it houses collegiate and high school-level ice hockey teams, youth and pick-up programs and public and private skating events, according to Spartan Arena Director Steven Wolf. Additionally, he said the community utilizes the arena for spring sports and summer fitness; keeping it open year-round.
“Everything is as usual for Spartan Arena,” Wolf said. “We love our location and plan to be here a long time.”
As someone who frequented the mall, Alcott said he appreciated the perks that are foreign in the world of online shopping. He said he enjoys being able to try clothes on before purchasing them, for example. This allows him to not waste his money or go through the hassle of dealing with customer services.
“It’s convenient, but it has its drawbacks,” Alcott said.
Zamias Services, which has owned the mall since 2013, has announced that it plans to tear down the complex and rebuild a new shopping center that will include retail and recreational space, according to a WCAX story.
Now that Tourigny is in his new spot, he said he is hoping to continue doing what he loves and looks forward to attracting regular and future customers in a busier area.
“There’s definitely potential for some growth and a lot of people have really reached out and said, ‘oh, we’re glad you’re coming down,’ and they’re people that I haven’t really known before,” Tourigny said. “I think we’ll do well here and pick up some business.”