Leon Ross had seen enough of the new Spokane Valley Mall by 10:20 a.m. Wednesday.
Ross sat on a bench resting his aching knees as thousands of people dashed around him during the mall’s opening day.
“My wife loves these things,” said Ross, a Valley resident. “She shops till I drop.”
That seemed to be the theme of the day.
From north Spokane to Coeur d’Alene, more than 3,000 people waited in line for the mall’s grand opening at 9:45 a.m., stretching almost to the back of the north parking lot. Cars rolled into many of the 4,131 parking spaces as people rushed to join the throng.
Visiting the mall was a long-awaited delight for many. The $80 million, 750,000-square-foot center was first planned for the late ‘70s, then repeatedly delayed.
Mall owner JP Realty Inc. of Salt Lake City first took an option on the 85-acre site in 1984, but construction didn’t begin until last April.
The on-again, off-again history quickly was forgotten Wednesday.
With goading from a master of ceremonies, the crowd yelled, “Let’s go shopping!” in unison, shoving forward as the mall doors burst open. People climbed over chairs and trampled flowers, eager to be among the first 3,000 inside and win a goodie bag filled with coupons, hair care products and passes to the mall’s 12-screen cinema.
The pursuit of free items drove the crowd into a shopping frenzy. Long lines formed in front of various stores as shoppers waited to get their free flowers, Orange Julius shakes and sterling silver bracelets.
Some people were actually there to buy things.
“This is rad!” said Chris Gibbs, 16, as he showed his friends a black-and-white-striped shirt he found on a rack at The Buckle, a clothing store.
Gibbs, a Valley resident, said he thought the new mall had done a good job of catering to people his age.
“It’s better than NorthTown,” Gibbs said, referring to the North Side mall. “It’s updated, a lot funner, not boring.”
Valley resident Jodi Anderson was thrilled to find Brauns, a Minnesota-based clothing store making its Spokane debut.
“I just walked in and said, ‘Now this is my stuff,”’ she said, swinging her Brauns bag full of new clothes. “This is so exciting.”
Lynnette Bartholdt of St. Maries, Idaho, stopped by the mall on the way to visit her grandmother in the Valley. Bartholdt and her 18-month-old daughter, Gitta, paused for some fried noodles with shrimp at Edo Japan in the mall’s food court.
Bartholdt was happy with the cosmetics she bought at The Bon Marche but kept things in perspective compared to the delirium around her.
“It’s nice, it’s pretty. I mean, it’s just a mall,” she said.
Shoppers paused for breakfast at Cinnabon and lunch at Taco Time. They rushed along hallways, trailing balloons and filling out coupons to win prizes.
JP Realty raffled off a Suzuki Sidekick, a $120,000 house and a $5,000 college scholarship. The company also donated $35,000 to the Junior League of Spokane.
The opening wasn’t problem-free, however.
Some stores weren’t ready in time for the grand opening. Some ATM machines didn’t work. And the 10-day-old UPS strike held up delivery of merchandise and decorations for some businesses.
A temporary cloth sign tacked above Euro Comfort demonstrated the shoe store’s UPS troubles. The permanent sign has yet to be delivered, along with the glass that’s supposed to enclose the front of the store. The owners had to find alternate methods to fill the shelves with shoes for the opening.
“We had to truck them in from other stores,” said Sue Selleck, a stockholder in the Salt Lake City-based company. “It was not fun. I am not a truck driver.”
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