As you may or may not already know, The Prompt’s Jillian and Kelaine Conochan are are sisters. Today’s posts are a complementary story from their childhood.
Indeed, the Franklin Mills Mall wasn’t just any mall. If deb. was looking to take her daughters to “any” mall, the Freehold Raceway Mall was just three traffic lights south of our suburban domicile.
The “Raceway” was interjected into Freehold Mall for two reasons: a) to commemorate its proximity to the nation’s oldest racetrack and b) to distinguish it from the aging strip mall a stone’s throw away. The Freehold Raceway Mall was far from aging… its rise to the new kid on the block coincided exactly with the rise of the New Kids on the Block; construction began in 1987 and commenced with its grand opening on August 1, 1990.
My first memory of the Freehold Raceway Mall was learning that it would contain 100 stores, which I, dumbfounded, misheard as “100 stories,” and that Jeannine McCarthy had intentions of stepping foot in every one of them on her maiden visit. The following year, Faye Abloeser and I would get dropped off every Saturday and wander around for an hour and a half. I don’t recall ever spending more than $5, usually at Claire’s boutique on earrings for my newly pierced ears. Then again, with every passing day I gather more evidence on just how unreliable a narrator I am.
My favorite job there was at a card store, which satisfied my organizational compulsions as I slipped stray cards back into their proper places at the end of a shift. I gained such a familiarity with these paper well wishes that I predicted the exact birthday card that my cousin Danny would give me on my eighteenth birthday.
With their perfectly 90s Gen X names, my managers Danielle, Margie, and Lisa were wonderful. There was that one day I stood at the register literally all day, typing $6.99, SALE. $6.99, SALE. $6.99, SALE, until we sold out of the Princess Diana Beanie Baby. Not one person—not Danielle, Margie, or Lisa; not a single customer; certainly not the store owners—complained that I had overcharged them $1 on each transaction. I accidentally generated $5000 of pure profit for our little store that day!
At Christmastime, we had to come in early to set up the ceramic holiday village for our windows. I didn’t mind. It was pretty and festive and felt like an accomplishment. I remember gazing upon our handiwork one night as I vacuumed the area, then looking up to see my friend Chris standing outside the store’s gate and jocularly accusing me of admiring my own reflection.
But this essay isn’t about the Freehold Raceway Mall, with its Nordstrom and its Sur La Table and its Armani Exchange. It’s about the Franklin Mills Mall. With its Filene’s Basement. And its Calvin Klein outlet. And that weird Boscov’s with the mirrors on the ceiling.
It was a haven for excess merchandise runoff by the original manufacturer, not cheapened versions created to appeal to a second tier of consumers.
You know, it’s funny; with as close to my heart the Freehold Raceway Mall was, emotionally and geographically, I can confirm Kelaine’s recollection that the bulk of our wardrobe originated at Franklin Mills. And that her hatred for our Back to School shopping trip was inversely related to my joy. My mom and I went ahead and excluded her from the bonus day I earned after all my Varsity sports were over. “You don’t want a perfect attendance record, do you?” she pffd.
My own personal Senior Skip Day. That I chose to spend with my mom. At The Mall.
To read sister Kelaine’s experience at the mall, click here.