Ryan: Who will save our shopping malls now?

Photo by Kevin Ryan

A woman in a black-and-white sweater vacuumed Gardner-Collier jewelry store. No customers. No reason to vacuum.

Penn Central Mall in Oskaloosa, Iowa, a town of roughly 11,000 people. The building looks like hell, attached to a Hy-Vee and a Goodwill.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

But on Feb. 3, 2020, the mall showed hints of activity in anticipation of Democratic presidential nominee Andrew Yang. Three or four dozen people, all wearing Yang 2020 apparel. Including the cheeky "MATH" hat.

"Is he here?" they kept asking.

Yang had spent the past few weeks with Dave Chappelle, who performed a few shows, and made calls, including this gem.

And now, with the caucuses in a day, it was time to let Iowans decide.

Walk through the tinted doors into the south entrance of Penn Central Mall, and to your right, for an uncomfortably long distance, a wall of trinkets and knick-knacks and replica souvenirs. Useless trophies. All the other hallways throb with wallpaper that clearly hadn't been updated since 1980, so the whole place resembled the hotel from Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining."

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Besides the Yang supporters, there were only a dozen other people, and they seemed to walk in circles, saying nothing.

No kiosks. No food court. Not even a Wetzel's Pretzels.

Photo, caption: The same cheesy song blared out of a boombox around the corner as a color-guard team practiced, huddling into one corner of the giant carpeted promenadePhoto by Kevin Ryan

Then, turn left, past the Merle Norman Cosmetics with an old green sign. Toward an arcade — now abandoned, chain-locked, doors tinted. You can still see banks of pinball machines and air hockey tables and videogame cabinets like at the old-school pizzerias.

Across from the shuttered nail salon with no window was Andrew Yang's 2020 Presidential Oskaloosa headquarters.
He Intentionally chose abandoned malls like Penn Central Mall for his campaign sites.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Because he believes in the cultural and commercial revitalization of these American institutions. His idea is an extension of his human-centered capitalism: "Humans are more important than money. The unit of a Human Capitalism economy is each person, not each dollar. Markets exist to serve our common goals and values."

With the American Mall Act, Yang would "redirect tax incentives away from big-box retailers and toward more sustainable employers—or even non-commercial uses."

What's more American than a shopping mall?

Unfulfilled

In the 22nd season of South Park, the town gets an Amazon fulfillment center, which quickly becomes a monopoly, and it destroys local business, employing everyone so that their wages become a kind of company scrip they use exclusively for Amazon purchases, a reference to Amazon's "gamification" system.

The villain, Jeff Bezos, resembles Star Trek's Talosians, the ghastly, bulb-headed aliens, who plan to capture the USS Enterprise and enslave its crew for the purposes of breeding. Bezos monitors the townspeople through their Amazon Echo devices.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

In "Unfulfilled" the ninth episode, the factory workers go on strike, and Bezos cuts off their accounts. Unexpected heroes emerge from a derelict mall, former employees who've been trapped there so long they turned green and mangled and rotten, hideous creatures based on the Morlocks, an underground-dwelling from H.G. Wells's novel "The Time Machine."

The mutant mall workers become scabs and the fulfillment center. And, after a bizarre revolution that involves Santa Clause and a cannabis farm and a talking piece of feces, the entire town shows up to City Hall to tell Bezos that they're taking their town back.

Dead Malls

There's something post-apocalyptic about dead malls. A once extravagant giant, eroding. Former cathedrals of consumption slumping into vacancy and disrepair.

So naturally the disintegration of a once-vital cultural institution has both alarmed and intrigued us. You know how there's a subreddit for everything? Dead Malls is a running catalogue of all things Dead Mall, and with 78,000 subscribers.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

One estimate holds that roughly one in four malls in America will close by 2022.

The dead mall phenomenon began in the early 1990s, as the vacancy rate started to rise and the consumer traffic began to dwindle.

Department store giants like Macy's and JcPenney, bring traffic, serve as anchor tenants, that draw people to the mall, making them vital for the success of the smaller businesses that rely on passersby.

Enclosed shopping malls, once an emblem of Post-War America, began losing customers to big-box stores like Walmart, Ikea, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond.

Department store giants began to feel the hit. And when they hurt, every part of the shopping mall ecosystem suffers.
Then — Bezos.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

E-commerce accounted for 12 percent of retail sales in the country, amounting to $3.46 trillion, up from 3.6% in 2008.

2007 marked a tipping point, the first time in 50 years that no new enclosed shopping malls were built in America. Not one. It was five years before another was built, City Creek Mall Center in Salt Lake City. In 2010 came the retail apocalypse, when brick-and-mortar retail stores began closing at a steepening clip.

The first thing everyone I talked to about this story said, "Malls are dead because of Amazon."

Yes. But research indicates that the issue is far more complicated, with numerous variables involved. Real estate research group Costar pointed to the cost of upkeep, shifting demographics and out-of-date tenants.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Our expectations for a shopping experience have evolved. More often, open-air markets and outlet malls give us what we once found in the massive concrete compounds of enclosed shopping malls.

There are a few oddities. Ulta Beauty, the cosmetics chain, is booming in malls. Dave & Busters, with its flexible real estate model, has done incredibly well, with 10 percent growth a year, a third of their locations are inside malls.

The commentary about shopping malls is often either bleak — malls are dying and will soon be obsolete — or optimistic — malls are just evolving to fit the needs of our digital world.

In reality, it's a blend of both.

The way we shop has changed, with Amazon. Because we're also changing the way we spend money. And we're never going to go back. But that doesn't mean we have to get rid of malls. And not all malls are in trouble.

And we can always rest our hope on Gen Z.

Shopping Mall Ecosystem

The success or failure of a mall usually depends on the area it's located. Malls in wealthier communities continue to thrive.They've undergone a revitalization. Malls in middle-class and lower income areas, however, are suffering.

Abandoned malls also happen to be bad for neighborhoods, with less traffic and industry, the crime rates increase. When a mall sinks, it brings the surrounding neighborhoods down with it.

Malls are ranked on a three-tiered system. Class A, Class B, Class C, with A being the most successful and C the least. These are determined by sales per square foot, the average revenue divided by the selling area in square feet. At the very top of the foodchain, you've got Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, which stands as the most valuable mall in America, boasting $1,450 sales per square foot, with a $5.74 billion total asset value.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

So pick a city. Take my hometown, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for instance.

Class A malls are the thriving malls Simon Property Group, General Growth Properties, Macerich and Westfield, with $500 or more in sales per square foot. Like Woodland Hills Mall, near Broken Arrow. It boasts Tulsa's only Apple Store, of the 272 nationwide. Owned by Simon Property Group, it has two bus routes, 580 seats in its food court. There's even a Texas De Brazil Brazilian steakhouse. Located in a thriving area, with big-box stores and restaurants. It's the mall you go to when you want to see the fancy Santa.

The drop-off from Class A is fairly sharp. Class B malls aren't doing well at all, with $300 to $500 in sales per square foot. Promenade Mall has fiddled with repossession — did you know that malls can be repossessed? — but the traffic is still decent because it's more centrally-located. In April of this year, the JCPenney will be closing, Dillard's will be the only anchor store. But while vacancies are noticeable, there are tenants to replace them, however unconventional. Like how the former Mervyn's has been converted into a Sky Fitness & Wellbeing, a Tulsa-based gym chain.

Class C malls are in bad shape, sometimes worse than bad. Less than $300 in sales per square foot, with high vacancies, usually in lower income areas, on the brink of bankruptcy or abandonment. And "greyfields" are malls where the annual sales-per-square-foot drops below $150.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Eastland Mall, in East Tulsa, the most inaccessible of the three, in a less developed area. A gradual slide from the 1990s. Closures in the early 2000s. Unable to find brand-name tenants, the owners leased to dance studios, martial arts schools, even a country music bar and a wedding chapel. By 2006, it had become a dead mall, and the Simon Property Group put it up for sale. It's at this point of a mall's life when things can get pretty ugly. But Eastland serves as proof that even a gutted mall can be brought to life.

A North-Carolina developer bought it for $2.8 million, rebranded it as Eastgate Metroplex, renovated it, and now it's used as office space, with call centers for Coca Cola, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Capital One. A University of Phoenix campus, a food-handler permit training center, a family health clinic, and a DMV, with the mall's entire lowel level as its waiting area.

Recycling

A 17-minute drive from Washington D.C. at the Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Virgina, Macy's , a homeless shelter, with 60 beds and toilets uprooted from an abandoned Lord & Taylor.

Google offices at Mayfield Mall in Mountain View, California.

A hockey rink at Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch, Tennessee.

Following a tornado in 2011 that killed 161 people in Joplin and ravaged the high school, students relocated to Northpark Mall for several years. A few blocks from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, the Galleria at Erieview, known for its glass exterior, once served as a massive urban greenhouse farm called Gardens Under Glass, which has since closed, but the mall has since been remodeled as a YMCA.

Last November, the Mall of America, the biggest mall in the nation, opened a walk-in medical clinic, with a pharmacy, a radiology room, and laboratories.

Fitting, then, that the oldest shopping mall in our country, the Arcade Providence, in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, repurposed its upper two floors into 48 micro-apartments — between 225 and 775 square feet. On the first floor, various boutiques, as well as a bar, a coffee shop, a pizzeria, a bookstore, and a spa.

House of the Lord

The earliest Christians met in their homes or synagogues, not churches. It wasn't until 230 years after the death of Jesus Christ that the first church, the Europos church, was built as a place of worship.

The Bible doesn't include guidelines for where, specifically, Christians have to worship. Joel Osteen holds services in the 16,800-seat arena that many Houstonians still call The Summit, home to the Houston Rockets for 28 years.

Lexington Mall in Lexington, Kentucky, built on the former grounds of Eilerslie estate, constructed by Abraham Lincoln's father-in-law. It began to decline in the early 1990s, and in 2005, the lost the only remaining retailer, Dillard's. Southland Christian Church — an evangelical megachurch founded in 1956 — has several satellite campuses around northeast Kentucky. It bought Lexington Mall in 2010 for $8 million, and rebuilt it into official campus of the church. They use the Dillard's for nurseries and classrooms.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Coffee and hot chocolate, open mic nights , blood drives, concerts, game nights at Church in the Mall, in Heath, Ohio Indian Mound Mall, a C Class mall, a ghost town, with $242 sales per square foot, and no restaurants except a Wetzel's and those are the sloths of the restaurant kingdom — like, not terrible, but would you rather see a sloth or a killer whale?

For a while there, every Sunday and Wednesday, you could find worshippers at the Euclid Square Shopping Mall in Euclid, Ohio. In the old Lane Bryant, was New Praise Ministries. Across from it, in a former One Price Clothing outlet, was World of Faith Christian Center. In total, there were 22 other churches inside the mall. It closed in 2016, because of leaks, demolished two years later. In its place, an Amazon fulfillment center.

Yang Arrives

In Oscaloosa, Yang's supporters all huddled into the crowded shopface of the room, scoping around to catch a glimpse of Yang out the back door. They'd bottle-necked into the room and they appeared to be stuck, clogged.

Yang's bus chugged down the sidestreet behind the mall.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

His wife had traveled along with him. Pictures of the two of them leaving a canvass lunch in Davenport had sprouted up on Twitter.

His red-and-beige scarf, his boxy shoes.

Yang gave the entire speech through a karaoke speaker with a distorted microphone.

He looked tired, indifferent. Maybe, in that moment, he was sick of campaigning.

When he finished, Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack" started playing through the karaoke speaker. After that, Drake. Fittingly, "Started from the Bottom." Because Yang started from the bottom now he's here.

People asking for selfies or blurting out phrases. To my immediate left, an older man missing some crucial teeth kept shouting, "Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!"

When Yang turned in the man's direction, the man thrusted a wiry baseball hat and a Sharpie toward Yang. A dozen people formed a wall between Yang and the man. But this guy was adamant. Yang stared back, as if perplexed. Nodded, smiled.

Then the man turned his wiry cap around to reveal a giant iron-on patch of a marijuana leaf. "Sign my hat, Andrew!"

Before Yang could fully react, one of his campaign staff ushered him out of the room, apologizing to the YangGang with a sense of imperative.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Then he was off again. Outside briefly before shuffling back onto the Yang tour bus. From there, he returned to Des Moines, to wait for the results of the caucuses. Then on to New Hampshire, where his 2020 campaign to become president will come to an end.

Still, it's worth remembering Yang's campaign slogans: "Not Left, Not Right, Forward".

New stories come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter. Send all notes, tips, corrections to kryan@blazemedia.com

CNN’s Brian Stelter had a shocking moment of clarity Sunday when he acknowledged what everyone but the liberal media has known since before the 2020 presidential election: President Joe Biden's son Hunter has been up to some seriously dubious dealings overseas, and his father was almost certainly involved despite his repeated claims to the contrary.

On "Reliable Sources" Sunday, Stelter spoke with first lady Jill Biden's former press secretary, Michael LaRosa, about whether Biden is likely to seek a second term in 2024.

“I hope he runs, and I know he’s going to run. I think he's planning to run ... I don't see why he wouldn't run,” LaRosa stammered.

"What about his son? What about Hunter?" Stelter cut in. “Hunter [is] under federal investigation, charges could be coming at any time. This is not just a right-wing media story. This is a real problem for the Bidens."

Unluckily for Stelter, "The Hill's" Joe Concha can remember all the way back to the fall of 2020:


On a recent episode of Glenn TV, Glenn Beck discussed the most recent findings in the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. Don't get distracted by the seemingly endless stream of scandalous photos and videos, Glenn warns, it's what's coming out about Hunter's overseas business dealings that should be all over the media, because Joe Biden is involved too.

Watch the video clip below or find the full episode here.

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VOTE: You decide who gets a Badge of Merit (Round 3)

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Purple Heart in George Washington's time was not given for being wounded. This award went to ordinary soldiers for doing something of merit—something that would find favor in the eyes of God. Washington knew they couldn't win if they weren't on God's side. And if they were on God's side, God would bless them.

I've been looking for people who deserve a George Washington badge of merit. Many of you have submitted nominations. Thank you for the love, respect, and consideration you have shown in doing so.

From your hundreds of nominations, we have narrowed it down to three finalists. Now, it's up to you to decide who gets this honor.

Here are this week's candidates:

1. Dana, the Mom to Many

Dana and her husband Brian run a nonprofit called Dogwood Ranch in southwest Missouri. According to their website:

Dogwood Ranch was created by family, for family. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to live the life for which they were created. Our mission is simple: to provide support for survivors of trauma as they journey towards wholeness. This includes creating a new heritage for foster children and youth who have been abused and neglected, by providing them with safe and healthy forever families. We are also committed to offering a place of belonging for foster teens through individualized transitional living services. Additionally, we offer specialized support through our equine assisted counseling program, which focuses on bringing restoration to foster youth and other at-risk populations, including our honored military veterans and their families. Through the operation of Dogwood Ranch, our desire is to allow those we serve a new way to experience life, family and true redemption. Everyone deserves a chance to find their way home.

According to her nominator, on top of their work at the ranch, they personally foster young girls and have had "over twenty foster girls they now call family."

Her nominator wrote:

They take the toughest cases that come up. On several occasions, I would reach out to see if she could go out, and she would say she couldn’t because they were on suicide watch that night. Young girls have tried to stab her, have stolen her car, and have come to call her Mom…She is an incredibly hard worker, no-nonsense, and full of life and joy. She is constantly making our community and our world a better place.

2. Francine, the Joyful Servant

Francine, who also goes by “Frannie,” and “Fran,” not only has multiple names, but wears multiple hats. At home, she is the mother of two boys with serious disabilities. At work, she is a caretaker for the elderly, and everywhere she goes, she is a ray of sunshine.

Her nominator entrusted her mother, who has since passed, to Francine's care at a nursing home. She said, whenever Francine was working, she would breathe a sigh of relief. She wrote:

While most of the aides looked at the work as just a paycheck, and some of them were actually cruel to the most needy patients, Fran treated each and every one of them like royalty. She saw each individual as unique and worthy of love and understanding. Every patient adored her, because they knew they were in good hands.

Her nominator wrote that she saw treatment of elderly patients that “made her skin crawl.” There was a woman at the nursing home with severe dementia who had become so antagonistic that other aides, to avoid feeding her by hand, would simply not feed her. When Fran was working, she made sure to sit with her while she ate. She even hosted “dinner parties” with multiple residents to ensure they were fed, and happy.

Her nominator wrote:

When Fran was on shift, people who needed help going to bed never had to wait long. Besides, they didn't mind waiting for FRANNIE. She always did everything with such love and care and class! Then, after a long eight hours (or sometimes a double shift!) she would go home to more of the same routine. And in spite of it all, she did it all with a smile on her face. I've never known anyone like her. She was a godsend to my mother. If it hadn't been for her, and a handful of others, Mom's time at the home would have been unbearable. This woman really does deserve an award.

3. Michael, the Godly Father

Michael was nominated by his three children for modeling how a true man of God lives, loves, and serves his community. After serving as a corpsman in the Vietnam War and then working as an elementary school teacher, his children say he was the “solid, and consistently Godly male role model” in his grandchildren’s life. His children wrote:

My father helped raise his grandkids when my sister was a single mom, even though he had already raised his own kids.

Michael shares the gospel in one-on-one Bible studies with young people who have just gotten out of jail. He raises donations for clothing, food, and blankets for the homeless. He meets weekly with young men for Bible studies, to mentor them, and help them mature into men of God.

Michael has taught true love to his children by the way he treats their mother–his wife of 42 years. They wrote:

He is a solid rock of unwavering love for her, which has had a huge impact on how my brother and I treat our own wives. Mike's steadfast love for our mother has taught us the meaning of loyalty, love, commitment, sacred covenant, compassion, honor, and what a true husband looks like.

Most importantly, they say their father "instilled in us an absolute love for our Creator and compassion for our fellow man. He is our number one role model showing us what a godly man is.”

Who do you think deserves a badge of merit? Cast your vote below.


'Really SCARY': The IRS just spent $700,000 on AMMO — and plans to add 87,000 new 'enforcement' agents

Photo by (left) Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images/(Right) Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Democrats' wonderfully named "Inflation Reduction Act," which passed in the Senate on Sunday, includes a massive expansion of the IRS. President Joe Biden wants to hire 80,000 new agents, and of course, this is for totally non-nefarious reasons, like cracking down on all those evil billionaires committing tax fraud.

Financial expert and author of "The War on Small Business" Carol Roth joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to explain who she believes this expansion will really target.

"The Democrats like to pretend that they are the party of the middle and working class, and the Biden administration has continued to find ways to extract wealth from the middle and working class," Carol began. "We saw it in the American Rescue Plan, where they raised the reporting threshold for any sort of hobby site you might have ... down to $600. Now, and this was part of Build Back Better which we thought was dead but now is just coming back in pieces, and this piece has survived — $80 billion for the IRS. Half of that ... is going to hire 87, 000 agents for 'enforcement,' okay? We don't need 87, 000 agents to go after what was 800 or 900 billionaires ... so, who do you think they're coming after?" she added.

"They're going to come after you," Carol warned. "You should pay your taxes that are due, but that doesn't mean you're not going to get audited, and that doesn't mean you're not going to have to justify every single thing that you do and waste your time and money so they can try and extract a few more dollars from you."

Glenn mentioned that the IRS has recently purchased nearly $700,000 worth of guns and ammo to go along with these 87,000 new "enforcers."

"That is really frightening," Glenn said. "They're not going after the rich ... they're going to go after anyone who disagrees with them. And because it's now public-private partnerships, any business that doesn't agree with them."

"Yeah, this is really really scary," Carol agreed. "And the crazy thing is the number of people who gave feedback and said, 'Well, if you're not a tax cheat, what do you have to worry about?' You've hit the nail on the head, Glenn. The politicization of this is they're going to come after people, they're going to harass you, they're going to tie up your time, they're going to tie up your money, regardless of whether you have followed the rules or not."

Watch the video clip below to catch more of the conversation. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

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'Sanctuary city' Democrats upset over a few thousand migrants, meanwhile here's what's happening in border towns

(Left) Photo by Bill O'Leary - Pool/Getty Images/ (Right) Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) are in an uproar now over a few thousand illegal immigrants coming to their cities — even though both places claim to be "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, the number of illegal immigrants coming into border towns is expected to exceed 6 MILLION by the end of Biden's term if things continue at the current rate.

As the Democrats ask the Biden administration to declare a federal emergency, Glenn Beck took a few moments on the radio program to compare their immigration problems to the massive influx of illegal immigrants flooding our border towns.

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.