One little mall with 50 years of memories

This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Market Mall and the tremendous impact it’s had on the community!

By Kristy Archibald | August 9, 2021 |11:28 pm

The entrance of Market Mall.

Photo: Cadillac Fairview // Submitted

Some might see Market Mall as a grand supercentre, but others who grew up in the community over the last 50 years see it as something so much more. 

It’s a place where many people have garnered memories at all stages of their lives. From picking out toys to choosing your grad dress, and all the moments in between. “It’s a community gathering place,” Darren Milne, General Manager of CF Market Mall tells us. 

“When you’ve been open and operating for 50 years, people really don’t think about it until they start thinking about all the times they’ve been to the market mall and they start considering some of their memories about how things have changed, or you know, what they used to do at the mall.” 

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Milne grew up in the neighbourhood of Dalhousie, so to be the General Manager during the 50th year is something extra special, because of the emotional ties that he has to the mall.

“I remember coming to the mall as a teenager to see a movie and my family used to come here and get fancy pictures taken. My wife and I even bought our wedding rings from a jewelry store here in the mall.”

Milne also recounts the time when his mom and dad let him and his younger brother go to their first movie by themselves. “It was at the Famous Players right here at Market Mall!” 

How it all began!

The grand opening of Market Mall was on August 4, 1971. 

“We had about 70 stores and services in the shopping centre, Woodward’s and The Bay being the two Anchors — Safeway joined them later in the year,” says Milne. “In 1987 we did a little expansion, doubling the size of the mall to 160 stores and renovating the food court.” 

The next change came in 2004, which people today can remember. That’s when the mall got its famous “loop” on the south side, along with underground parking, and an expansion to the food court. 

After that their major redevelopments were in 2017 when they moved Home Sense and Sporting Life into the old Target location, expanded Sport Check and the underground parkade, and brought back a movie theatre after roughly 18 years since Famous Players left the site. 

“That’s really the evolution of Market Mall over the past 50 years,” says Milne. “We’re over twice the size from the day we opened and we have over three times as many tenants than when we opened.”  

The one thing that hasn’t changed

Their commitment to the community! 

“It’s one of the things we’re most proud of around here. Throughout all those years Market Mall has continued to contribute to the community and we’ve done that in a variety of different ways,” says Milne. “We’ve donated gift cards to local fundraisers, hosted community runs and car shows, sponsored community organizations such as the Calgary Food Bank and Safe Haven.”

In lieu of their 50th Anniversary, Milne adds that they just made another donation to Ronald McDonald House and the Children’s Hospital Foundation, two charities they have worked with for many years.

The vision for the next 50 

Milne explains that in the short term they are merely focused on building back their retail base as COVID had a massive impact on the businesses in their space, but they will have some exciting retailer announcements later in the year – so stay tuned! 

“Long-term companies need to consider what ancillary uses to retail would be and what that looks like,” says Milne. “I think Market Mall regardless has a very long future. I’m pretty sure we’ll be celebrating our 100th at some point – although I doubt I will be here for it — it’s a fantastic property and it’s one that’s going to grow and contribute to the community.”

See what memories our readers have of Market Mall below!

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Here’s how Calgary Citizen subscribers remember Market Mall over the last 50 years! 

We asked and you delivered dear readers! Here are just a handful of the beautiful memories you shared with us over the last week. 

Jen says “I will never forget when I served the iconic actress Helen Hayes. She had a dancer’s posture and a strong physical presence. She wore a striking red, white and blue outfit topped by a stylishly cocked hat and held her cigarette with flair. Everyone knew who she was except me, but the tizzy of excitement about her presence told me she was somebody special. My manager whispered to me who she was. I immediately recognized her name and recalled her iconic images. She had an entourage of about 6 men in dark suits hovering behind her. She was ignoring them, but they were “watching her.” I suppose they were her security, but they were irrelevant to me, as it was impossible for anyone to pay attention to anything or anyone except Ms. Hayworth, her presence was so powerful. Like the great star she was, she fully possessed any room she was in.

Kathy says “I grew up in the NW too! I loved that mall, Woodwards was my favourite store and the the Bay! Woodwards cafeteria seven a beautiful shrimp on cheese bread  sandwich!!!! I remember it being so innovative back in the day.”

Ellen says “My younger brother Rob and I were at the ribbon cutting on opening day. Funny what impresses you as a child. We were delighted to get free ice cream! Over the years, we attended live concerts (Stampeders), centre court giveaways and activities! We shopped at a children’s clothing store, I think it was lad and lassie? French’s steak sandwiches from Woodward’s were the best! It’s a wonderful hub for the community!”

Lora-Lea says “One of my favourite stores was Woodward’s. $1.49 day. I worked at Market Mall for 20 years and I saw a lot of changes. I also remember taking my kids to the movie theater — still one of my favourite malls.”

Christine says “I remember going to Market Mall 45 years ago when I was a little girl. There was a “wishing” well that ran down the middle of the mall. It looked like a swimming pool made of small blue tiles and people would throw coins inside to make a wish. Apparently when I was around 7 or 8 years old, I reached in, grabbed some of the loot and brought it home. When my parents found out, we went back to the mall and put the money back in. I think I made a lot of wishes that day. A few years later, into my teens, I remember taking the bus with friends to go to the movies at Market Mall. The movie theatre was located where the food court is now. As an adult, I would take my kids to the play place which was once the spot for the wishing well.

Funny how time goes by….I am in my fifties now and remember quite well all the times spent shopping, eating, watching movies, pictures with Santa and just hanging out. I imagine my next venture to be mall walking in the winter time.”

Trudy says “I started shopping at Market Mall when I moved to the NW in 1982. Woodward’s!!!!! Such a wonderful store, and still missed to this day. Also great memories of taking my now adult kids to see Santa at MM 🥰. Market Mall is still my go-to mall.”

Jaqui says “My favourite place back in the day was Joe’s Diner!  They had an old car inside and I thought that was cool!  :—) Thanks for the memories Market Mall!”

Linda says “I was 6 when Market Mall opened. I remember a large water fountain where everyone threw coins in. And Woodward’s food floor! I bought my first pair of jeans with my own money at the Brick….a cool jeans shop. Big Blue. That was the name brand of my high waisted flare jeans. Great memories at Market Mall.”

Roy says “I “travelled” back to the early 1980’s to recall one memory you may chuckle at.  There was a Woodward’s Department store along with a Woodward’s grocery store.  Once you paid, there were two ways to get the groceries to your car.  The first, was of course to take them out to the car yourself.  However, if you wanted to continue to hang out at the mall, you could ask for a pickup.  They would place your grocery bags in blue bins (I think I got the colour right) , give you a ticket and you could go off to finish shopping in the mall. When done, you could go out to your car, drive to the pickup lane where they had a conveyor belt to push the bins along.  You gave them you ticket, the bins appeared from inside the store and they loaded the bags into your car and off you went. I jump 40 years ahead and think…COVID grocery shopping has created something similar…just not Woodward’s.”

Karen says “Market Mall memories.  Went to the Grand Opening and it seemed like a gigantic place to a child my age. It was the first time I tried Tiger Icecream in the bright food court and probably the last🍦

Kristy Archibald

Contributor at Calgary Citizen

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