When Regency Square opened in 1975, it was the first enclosed mall in the West End. Julie Hall remembers how exciting that was. The mall was more than just a place to shop. It was also a social space that felt new and fresh.
Hall envied the kids whose parents let them hang out at the mall on their own. “It was definitely the place to go for independent middle school and high school kids,” she said. “Moms would drop off station wagons full of kids to wander the mall for hours.”
Hall didn’t have that freedom yet, so for her, the mall was a captivating place she visited with her family. She fondly remembers trips with her grandmother to shop for shoes, grab a slice at Orange Bowl Pizza or a burger from Burger Chef, peruse the clothes at Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers, and then stop by Hickory Farms for cheese — “all without ever moving the car.”
“Sometimes we rode the glass elevator by Sears just for fun,” she said. “That was a novelty back then.”
Hall also has vivid memories of going to Farrell’s for ice cream treats as part of birthdays and other celebrations and enjoying sandwiches at Mr. Dunderbak’s (a favorite of Hall’s mother, who is half-German). At the Magic Pan, Hall tasted crepes for the first time — and “they were fantastic,” she remembered. Perhaps most fascinating for Hall as a child was Spencer’s Gifts and its rich inventory of gag items, which were always good for a laugh and “sometimes an education since not everything was age-appropriate.”
“We were really drawn to Regency,” Hall said. “It was convenient, provided entertainment and you always saw people you knew when you went there.”
More than 40 years after its opening, Regency remains a local institution that aspires to be more than just a place people go to shop. The mall, which is the only indoor shopping center in the West End, is undergoing major changes designed to maintain that mission, said Julie Gordon, marketing director for Regency. That starts with the shopping center’s name, which dropped the “Square” to become just “Regency” — because as Gordon points out, “everyone calls the center Regency anyway.”
Among the changes are a series of road improvements along Quioccasin Road, designed to improve traffic flow and give the mall increased visibility from Parham Road. Regency also has almost 44,000 square feet of new retail development in the works, including new dining options that include Starbucks, Chipotle and MOD Pizza.
Gordon said other ambitious renovation plans include rooftop dining, a new movie theater and a trampoline park. The center will incorporate mixed-use concepts and strive to be more pedestrian-friendly with green space for concerts and kids’ activities.
Gordon has deep ties to Regency. One of her first jobs was working at The Limited during high school and college, and she spent more than eight years as a part-time concierge at the center’s information desk. She understands as well as anyone Regency’s legacy and the role it has played in many Richmonders’ lives. She said that history helps explain the support she has witnessed for its revitalization efforts.
“People are rooting for Regency to succeed,” she said.