In America, sentimental childhood memories of shopping malls are often achingly moving. According to one report, when Crossroads Mall in Roanoke, Virginia was opened on July 26, 1961, it was “like Christmas and Fourth of July combined”.
To another it was “as if everything bad in the world stopped the moment you walked through its doors”, and to yet another, “Every beautiful thing about my childhood happened and never escaped from there.”
Like many new malls popping up around the country in The 1960s, Crossroads was an enclosed, air-conditioned structure, the first of its kind ever built in the State of Virginia. It’s anchor stores in 1961 were J. C. Penney, Winn-Dixie, Peoples Drug, Roses, and the department store, S.H. Heironimus Co. Other original tenants included Bailey’s Cafeteria, Fink’s, Smartwear Irving-Saks, Cato Fashions, and Sidney’s to just name a few.
Over the decades Crossroads Mall adapted to changing times and markets, alternately incorporating and switching out trends as they faded and/or came into fashion. But by the late 90s, as with many malls across America, ever expanding suburbia with it’s more convenient strip malls and one-stop-shopping centers, like Walmart, eclipsed the need for shopping malls altogether. Crossroads fell on hard times, and in 2011 found itself re-purposed for office and light retail space. Its days of being a destination-excursion were over.
Among the many firsts Crossroads Mall pioneered in “mall history,” was that it was the first mall in the State of Virginia to not only have an arcade, but the first one to have a Time Out, the arcade chain that was also the very first chain to move into shopping malls on the East Coast.
Last week, workmen ripping into a wall discovered the “buried remains” of Crossroads Mall’s historic Time Out arcade, opened in 1978 and closed since approximately 1992, preserved in time. Unfortunately someone took the “TIME OUT” logo-sign before photos could be obtained.
(Photos courtesy of Phillip Carter\Carolina Arcade and Pinball Collectors)
To arcade aficionados, the late 70s and mid 80s Time Out arcade design is the epitome of ‘arcade ambiance‘ and has never been remastered or recreated anywhere since with any degree of success. Sensual, almost daringly sexy in contrast to every other style of retail mall arcade presented to the public at the time, Time Out arcades were dimly lit, almost dark, and had brightly colored divider\walls where games were set into compartmental booths so the player could feel uncrowded and get “into the zone” with a game. These were the only retail arcade design build-outs that were ever created with the player –not the profit– first in mind. Uncannily and creatively envisioned, you didn’t just walk into a Time Out -you were pulled in by feelings that you were riding a sensual conveyor belt, instantly enveloped by low-light shadows, multicolored walls and ceilings that gave you the sensation that your sensory perceptions were slightly askew. It was like you were high on electronic drugs, some say. Stoned in love.
New York candy entrepreneur, Tico Bonomo, envisioned Time Out in 1970 when he opened Time Out Family Amusement Center in the Northway Mall in Colonie, New York. In 1972, Atari’s PONG created a sensation in coin op retail and Bonomo, picking up on what he saw as a fad on the brink of exploding, opened up 11 more Time Out Amusment Centers in malls, and by 1978, when Space Invaders created mass interest in video arcade games, he expanded his arcade chain even further until Time Out arcades were planted in malls all over the eastern seaboard.
Throughout The 80s Time Out provided an outlet for the serious player, but around 1992 the chain was sold to Edison Brothers Inc, Mall Management Division, a large clothing retailer, who also owned and managed other arcade retail chains such as Space Port and Station Break. However Edison Brothers never learned the knack for managing arcades and filed for bankruptcy in 1995. Time-Out was then purchased by Namco LTD (some unconfirmed reports say SEGA), stripped of its iconic “electronic lair” look, and re-purposed into an another bland, run of the mill arcade chain that seemed to disappeared from history although the name “Time Out” was still in use in 2003.
The original Time Out arcades may be gone but they’re long from being forgotten. Their colors and exquisite layouts that excite sensory perception are thought about every time a collector lines up his or her games in the garage and wonders how they’re going to recreate and mimic that kind of atmospheric excellence again. Really, it’s just a dream we all know we can barely live up to if ever, but I guarantee you –we all dream of it.
Check out the awesome TIME OUT PHOTO ALBUM HERE
Notes and sources:
Special thanks to arcade collector and event promoter, Ian Purdy
Time Out “discovery photos” by Phillip Carter
The Raleigh Register Newspaper Archives, 1960-1966, Urban Planning Division
Time Out Tunnel Archives by Peter Hirshberg