There was a time when the shopping mall was the destination of choice for consumers -- a convenient wonderland with just about everything under the sun, from appliances and clothing to CDs and books.

Now, those same items are just a click away at "destinations" like Amazon.

It's hard to beat the Internet for shopping convenience.

And that's likely a reason once-bustling malls are looking like the Main Streets they replaced: almost every other store front empty and few shoppers venturing into those hanging on.

That's what the West Manchester Mall looks like these days. All that's missing (aside from a good number of tenants) are tumbleweeds rolling across the concourse.

The mall's troubles have been brewing for a while, and one can't place the blame solely on the Internet -- although it surely didn't help.

Perhaps it's become sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy -- people don't bother to shop there because of the vacancies, and prospective businesses won't move in because there's so little traffic.

Whatever the reason, there's little incentive for a shoppers to put down their mouse and hop in the car.

Dallas-based M&R Investors, the new owner of the 750,000-square-foot property at 1800 Loucks Road, seems to think the recession contributed to its woes -- and the recovery is one of the reasons it decided to purchase the mall.


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"The economy is improving and retailers are expanding. The timing is right to attract potential tenants," said Tony Ruggeri, co-founder of the Texas firm.

Ruggeri said he also appreciated the mall's location -- "one of the best pieces of commercial real estate on the west side of York" -- and the socioeconomics of the surrounding region.

"The industry that drives the economy there is solid. As the recession hit, it didn't seem to hit York as hard as other areas," he said.

M&R is working on a plan for the West Manchester Mall, although Ruggeri wouldn't disclose the details.

He did say he sees an opportunity similar to that at the One Hundred Oaks mall in Nashville, Tenn., which was 55 percent vacant before M&R bought and revamped it. It's now 99 percent occupied.

If Ruggeri can pull that off, it will be a boon for the local economy and the ingredient that's been missing from the mall for so long -- life.

Convenience isn't the only reason people used to flock to shopping malls in greater numbers.

It was about a bustling atmosphere that made the experience feel like an occasion. Shoppers would while away entire afternoons with friends, hopping from store to store. Families would go together, split up at the entrance and meet back at the predetermined time for lunch or dinner.

It felt like a little community under one roof.

And you can't find that on Amazon.