I guess it’s a cliché, kids hanging out at the mall for fun, but so it was with me. I grew up in Yorktown and remember my (stay-at-home) mom (what was then called a “housewife”) going to the local mall several times a week in the summer and bringing me along. I loved it. I have very specific memories of the toy stores and department stores as far back as when I was five or six years old.
For us, the “local” mall was Coliseum Mall in Hampton, VA (it was actually a good little hike from home). I feel like I grew up there, in a lot of ways. When I think of my youth and the fun I had in the ’80s, my thoughts often take me to those large orange and brown floor tiles and water fountains, the zig-zag ceiling window arrangements, and the overall feel of the place. Early on it was the toy stores I was most interested in and, of course, and as I headed towards the teenage years, electronics and books stores came into the mix. I loved that mall and the experience of walking around in that thick ’80s atmosphere I remember so fondly.
Coliseum Mall was built by Mall Properties, Inc. (MPI) and opened on Halloween Day in 1973 along Mercury Boulevard in Hampton. It was the largest and busiest shopping area on the Virginia Peninsula. It’s original anchors were Korvettes, JC Penney, and Nachmans. In 1976 another wing was added, perpendicular to the original, bringing with it Smith & Welton and Thalhimers. Sometime in the early nineties the Cinema I & II movie theaters (I saw Return of the Jedi and Space Camp there!) were replaced by a food court with, as best I can put it together, an overall re-styling of the mall following soon after. (Bye-bye seventies-style orange tiles, hello boring white.)
As these renovations were underway the mall was in decline, not due in small part to the opening of Crown American’s Patrick Henry Mall in the Oyster Point area of Newport News in 1987. (At the time I lived in walking distance to the new mall and that, along with changing interests, marked the end of any frequent trips to Coliseum.) Coliseum Mall continued its slow decline until it closed its doors in January of 2007 for demolition the following month. It was replaced by an open-air shopping area known as Peninsula Town Center which is, at the time of this writing, on its third owner and doing rather poorly.
Over the past year I have been on the search for photos of the mall as I best remember it, with its original decor. There is almost nothing on the Internet showing the mall at that period. Having come up with little in the way of a photographic history, I contacted MPI (now Olshan Properties) in hopes they could help me. They gave the name of a contact in the City of Hampton who I was told might be able to help, as the city had prepared “a wonderful collage of photos” of the mall for former owner, Mr. Olshan. Happily, my city contact was able to provide me with a number of scanned photos, schematics, and newspaper clippings showing Coliseum Mall in its early days. Unfortunately, these photos are black and white, but a single color photo of the interior of the mall as it once was (that orange!) can be found in a post about the Peninsula Town Center Information Pamphlet (the collage that Olshan spoke of) at the That Mall is sick and that Store is dead! website. It’s the upper-right photo at the top of the page. (The owner of that website has requested I not use her scanned image on my site, unfortunately.)
In closing this post, I thought I would share a few stand-out memories I have of the place, as they come to me in the typing. These are all memories of things that took place sometime in the 1980s. Here goes.
My first computer, a TI-99/4A, was purchased around Christmas 1982 from (oddly enough) the Singer sewing machine store located in the “new” wing, just down from JC Penny. Soon after, I took a BASIC programming class taught in the store’s backroom. I bought lots of games and also an Atari 520ST computer from Games ‘n’ Gadgets (which later became Electronics Boutique). The only place I ever saw the “business portable” Commodore SX-64 computer was in a store called Computers & Electronics. I played lots of arcade games, including my first game of Marble Madness, at the Time Out! arcade. I used to love to eat lunch with mom in Thalhimer’s cheesy Sword & Kilt restaurant (upstairs). The only time I ever saw a Vectrex game console in the wild was in the Thalhimers electronics section. I used to like to browse the knickknacks sold at Penn’s — I got a cool little digital clock there, once. I spent a lot of time playing around with CP/M on a TRS-80 Model III on display setup out in the center of the mall, in front of the Radio Shack. Near that display I had a wooden carving of my name made (that I still have). My dad (who worked at NASA) and/or my sister, Claudia, would often meet mom and me for lunch at Piccadilly cafeteria. I had a thing for fancy pens, and I’d occasionally save up and buy one at Summit Stationers. I got my only pair of parachute pants at Davy Jones’ Locker, which was made to look like a submarine! I loved the meatballs at the tiki-styled Blue Hawaiian restaurant. I bought many an album (cassette tape) at Mothers, with its red shag carpet. At the Hobby House, my dad and I purchased the R/C airplane we built together. I got my first Swatch there. I found an Atari 400 for $25 at Children’s Palace as it was closing. I always wanted to get an Orange Julius shake-thing, but my mom would never let me (“oh, those are terrible”). I found out my sister was pregnant with her first child, my niece Karene, at dinner with my parents at the Steak and Ale satellite restaurant (when I was 10). Spencer’s was fun — wink, wink (though nowadays it’s gone pretty far out there). I bought lots of Transformers at JC Penny (a friend would be in the mall, see one I didn’t have, and hide it behind something so I could come grab it later!). When quite young, I loved the slices of lemon pie at the then-exotic Chick-Fil-A, where mom and I would often each lunch.
Looking at it, I guess a lot of my time there was about geeking out. Such nice memories.
September 6, 2015 at 2:35 am
I finally got around to reading this (sorry!) and I love the mention about my site, thanks.
I went to the town center the other day, its doing great. It’s almost at full capacity. It’s nice to see people milling around again.
November 4, 2015 at 12:11 pm
Ran across the site this morning and I’m glad that others enjoy the nostalgic feelings that Coliseum Mall produces. Moved to the area in the mid 1990’s so I missed the heyday, but worked and lived within a mile of the mall and my daughter grew up there. Many of the people I knew from the mall (workers) have returned to stores in the area so its nice to see familiar faces but it will never be the same. Thanks for taking time to put together the website.
April 2, 2016 at 3:18 am
That store was not Up Against the Wall, but rather Davey Jones’ Locker. Don’t forget Lazy Shirts!
April 4, 2016 at 2:16 pm
Right you are! And yes yes – Lazy Shirts was great!
May 12, 2016 at 3:52 am
In the summer of 1983 when I was seven, I saw Return of the Jedi at Coliseum Mall. I remember vividly slamming my thumb in the car door (1980 Oldsmobile Cutless Supreme with the massive, long doors). The door was locked and it took what seemed like hours for the nearest adult to get the door open. I let out a yelp that turned heads for miles around. We got a cup of ice from a snowcone vendor in the mall and I watched the movie with a throbbing thumb packed in ice.
My older brother and I spent loads of time in Mother’s and Time Out! My favorite thing about this mall was the dirty orange tiles. In particular, the orange tile ‘sculptures’ in and around the fountain. That fountain had a permanent whirlpool near the drain that we used to dip our hands in all the time. My brother harvested coins out of it to fund trips to Time Out!
I moved away in 1994 so I can’t comment on Coliseum’s decline, but I, too spent much of my teen years up the road at Patrick Henry Mall. That’s where we saw The Silence of the Lambs and Batman, though I was always careful with car door after the Jedi incident.
Thanks for putting together the site -very enjoyable.
January 5, 2017 at 8:39 pm
I have some history with Coliseum Mall. In 1976/77 I worked for the landscape contractor that took care of the plants inside the mall and mowed the grass areas outside. In 1977 I applied for a job with the general contractor building the Thalhimer’s store and was hired as his assistant. This turned into a job as the Shipping/receiving Supervisor for Thalhimer’s when the store opened. I work there for 2 year while finishing my studies at what was then Christopher Newport College of William and Mary . Once I graduated I moved from the area. I have fond memories of the time I spent there.
February 5, 2017 at 7:09 pm
I ran across this site when I did a Google search for Coliseum Mall. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I lived in Hampton until I went away to college in 1989. My favorite memories of my teenage years consist of taking the PenTran bus with my friends from Buckroe to the mall. We had to transfer at City Hall. We’d meander and people watch. We’d dare each other to go to the ‘over 18’ of Spencer’s. I got my outfit for the Eation Jr. High spring dance at Coliseum Mall. A pink taffeta dress, white lace fingerless gloves, patterned white stockings, and white pumps. I was so an 80’s girl
April 15, 2017 at 2:02 pm
I worked at NASA for nearly 40 years. I may know your father. Who is he? Please email. Thanks.
April 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm
Jeff, I feel like I remember your name from the Hampton Roads BBS scene in the ’80s and ’90s. Am I right? Anyway, my father is James Claude Patterson, Jr. Some info about him here on NASA’s website:
And I wrote a bit about him here, with a short video:
April 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
Stumbled across your site trying to remember the name of that video game store! We had to have crossed paths many times as I practically lived there. Not long ago I found dozens of the old game boxes in my mom’s attic. It was like going back in time. Enjoyed reading this post and many of the others. Keep up the good work.
Hunter Williams (HRA 91)
April 17, 2017 at 3:37 pm
Also being HRA ’91, we definitely crossed paths. 🙂 But, maybe in the game store, as well. Great memories from childhood in that many stores in that mall. It was much fun putting this post together, wandering down memory lane. Hope all is well with you and yours.
December 22, 2017 at 1:49 pm
I grew up in Newport News in the 70s and Coliseum was the place to go. I remember there was a store that sold sasuages, meat, cheese, candy. Was it The Swiss Colony? Anyway, me and dad would always go because they gave out free samples! When I was little the toy stores were the place to go. We didn’t have dedicated toy stores just the toy departments in K-mart and such. The Toys-R-Us on Mercury didn’t open till later. The B. Dalton book store was cool because there were bookedks other than fiction. There was a cookie place that had cinimon elephant ears. I think it’s also where we went to see Santa each year.
In high school I spent a lot of time at Three Guys Music and Mothers Records & Tapes. We would go into Three Guys snd try out the guitars. We’d see who could do the most blistering solo before the sales guy asked if we needed help! My friend Pete would spend a fortune at Time Out. I remember goofing around with Pete and pushing him into a light pole around the water fountain. The glass globe fell off and broke! Security guard almost kicked us out but it was an accident. The main reason we went was to pick up chicks. Fun times!
January 18, 2018 at 3:54 pm
Heh heh heh… I grew up in Gloucester County and was born in Hampton in 1972, so Coliseum Mall was a big part of my childhood and teen years. I used to love going there and Newmarket North. Later, it was Patrick Henry Mall, which I’ve heard has really changed and not for the better.
May 3, 2018 at 12:20 am
I worked at Korvettes, started there when opened, and closed it…I was the office mgr. lots of great memories …….
August 8, 2018 at 9:15 pm
Oh my goodness. Memories! I was born in Newport News, Va. Can still remember the outdoor vegetable baskets on Jefferson Ave. My Aunt lived in Hampton and visits to her meant shopping at the MALL. The most fun place for me was the Do-not shop. Oh my, my. Can’t remember the name of it but it was DEE LI CIOUS!! Montgomery Ward and Thalhimers. Lord have mercy. Being from a Military family, I can still remember the blend of races and kindness I found there. Still makes my heart sink thinking that it’s gone. I moved away but still go back for Yock a Mein, and the nostalgia of my hometown!
August 21, 2018 at 1:32 am
I hope someone can help me figure out the women’s clothing store I’m thinking of that was at Coliseum Mall. It was probably late 80s, early 90s, I know I was definitely in elementary school or younger. The store was down near what ended up being The Limited and the storefront I’m thinking of may have later been a Casual Corner or Petite Sophisticate? I feel like the store had wooden floors, or at least part of the floor was elevated and wooden? I know it definitely wasn’t Northern Reflections, (I remember buying mom sweatshirts there on the other wing when I was older :-)) it was almost down near where Hecht’s was located. If you were in Hechts facing into the mall it would’ve been the 3rd or 4th store on your left. I remember going with my dad to buy my mom a nice shirt for her birthday and neither of them know what store I’m talking about and it’s been driving me crazy! I’ve only been able to find an original tenant list, even if someone has an idea where to find any updated lists that would be helpful.
Also, by any chance, does anyone remember what the building was at the end of Riverdale, it was across from Pizza Hut, by the car dealership (and where the building was is soon to be a Valvoline Oil change)? I think it was a two story building.
August 5, 2021 at 6:31 am
Way back it may have been Luther’s BBQ. I think that sat where the gas station is now. At the end of that row, it was the original location of Langley Credit Union. A few doors down from Andrea’s and The Scotsman.
October 15, 2021 at 2:16 am
This has bugged me for years. My mom used to shop at this store. I remember the floor, it had a sensor at the door that dinged, and they had a large clothing steamer.
March 21, 2023 at 3:18 am
The store you are thinking of down near Thalhimers/Hechts sounds exactly like Casual Corner.
August 21, 2018 at 3:41 am
Are you thinking of County or Country, I cant remember Seat. I believe it was either next door to or turned into The Casual Corner.
August 21, 2018 at 1:02 pm
I’m almost 50 so my memory is a little foggy, but maybe the store was 5-7-9?
September 24, 2018 at 2:58 am
Was it Lerner’s?
August 8, 2019 at 12:58 am
No, but I spent plenty of time in there. I remember being offered a job because I used to shop there so often. I figured that would be even worse for my wallet, haha.
Thanks everyone for the replies. I’m glad I could ask a question and forget to bookmark the page to look for responses. Duh.
December 16, 2018 at 9:43 pm
Met my wife there in May of 1990 at Radio Shack in the mall while trying to purchase a cell phone which by the way was in a bag the size of a duffle bag. I was stationed in Norfolk on the USS El Paso and was with a friend. I am still married to her nearly thirty years and 3 kids later. Fond memories
December 26, 2018 at 7:16 pm
JC Penny should be “JC Penney” and Chic-fil-a should be “Chick-Fil-A.”
May 11, 2022 at 10:43 pm
Mandela Effect strikes again
July 11, 2019 at 10:33 pm
We were stationed at Langley from 79-82. Coliseum Mall was my first “big city” American mall after living in England the previous 3 years. I was 13, and saw The Empire Strikes Back there. Like others I spent as much time at Time-Out as possible 🙂 One thing I remember from that time was that Sears, JCPenny and Montgomery Wards were all at 3 different malls/locations. As a kid I asked my dad if he ever thought Sears would go out of business. He said no, but thought Wards would go first. How right he was.
I need to go visit the area again. Its been a long time. Thanks for keeping a record! 🙂
July 17, 2019 at 1:21 am
The story building was are one time Hampton Roads Business College
And that store in mall was the Casual Corner with the wooden floors. CC came after the popular Kanters…ah when life was teenage and fun!
August 8, 2019 at 12:57 am
Thank you so much! 🙂 I’m glad to no longer be racking my brain.
October 16, 2019 at 1:26 pm
What was the name of the restaurant across the street from Bennigans (where Goodman & Sons is located now)? Nice place with a second floor special feature. Want to say it was a wood-sided building? 1980s or so,.
October 21, 2019 at 1:03 am
Darryl’s. I loved that place! They had the best beer I’ve ever had, the Pig Pounder. It was a custom beer for Darryl’s chains. And they had a Mrs. PAC-MAN cocktail cabinet in the bar. Had many nice early dates there, and earlier family dinners.
March 2, 2021 at 2:18 am
We were stationed at Langley AFB from 1986 to 1999. Darryl’s was a favorite…loved their ribs. Celebrated my husband’s Staff stripe with Mountain Jack’s prime rib and a bottle of wine. Also remember Rock-O-La Cafe and Po Folks…kkjo
August 16, 2021 at 11:04 pm
Hi..could you tell me when the Darryl’s restaurant closed down..it was across from coliseum mall..I think it was still open in 1990..please email me if you know..thanks
December 19, 2022 at 9:37 am
Dary’s was awesome! Loved the jail bars upstairs. And Nancy, I am not sure what year they closed, but I worked at Chili’s up the road from 1989-1993 and it was still open then.
December 20, 2019 at 4:51 pm
Two words: Golden Pizza. Used to occupy a spot that was open on two sides right near the center of the mall, before they added the food court. I was a kid, but I definitely remember them being the biggest, greasiest, tastiest pizza slices ever.
After they closed, the Golden Pizza sign from the mall ended up at Anna’s Pizza on Warwick near Hilton (I guess the two businesses were related). Might still be there, who knows.
September 22, 2022 at 1:33 am
A guy I knew worked there. He was not really fond of washing his hands.
January 13, 2020 at 8:17 pm
Does anyone have any pictures from Time Out? I have a token and a free game ticket for getting weekly high score. I would love to put them in a frame with a oicture or two of the place. I have found pics of Time Outs in other cities and will use that if I have to but would love to actually have one from Hampton.
December 19, 2022 at 9:32 am
If you Google “Time Out Hampton” a bunch of photos will appear, mainly of exterior. Tried to copy an image on here but couldn’t.
February 11, 2020 at 7:24 pm
That outdoor mall replacement was a bust, they wanted DC shops, $$$, Hampton is a wannabe DC suburb, despite being blue collar, a beer in this place is $8.00. at their fake pub.
Having gone bankrupt pretty much out of the gate, the stores have morphed into tired strip mall. The streets are extremely narrow, I see more apartments are being built over where the brand new Macy’s building was, was torn down, lovely, you live over, in a mall, especially you.
JCP, Barnes & Noble, Target, a baby Pet Smart is holding it together, I have not walked any deeper then the first time we went into it.
What is bad is the City of Hampton took out millions, I think it was 30 million, cannot remember, in bonds for 30 years to help pay for the infrastructure, the city owns that parking deck, sidewalks and streets now, They hid this behind the tax payers backs via of a paper entity issuing the bonds.
They at one time slapped on a shopper’s fee on top of the regular federal and state taxes to help pay for it, worse they cut taxes on the restaurants, stores to encourage the builder to build this place . I believe some are 50 percent tax cuts. So all that tax revenue is redirected to bond payments, reduced, for something that will be torn down again as soon as the loans are paid off, , or 30 years?
At first they drove a few of the other businesses out of business, there was a Mongolian restaurant right across from the mall, and a new one in this mall, it folded under pressure from lost of customers, then the mall one folded, leaving nothing.
In Newport News stores are moving out of Patrick Henry mall back into big shopping centers, Old Navy comes to mind, just not the same experience on a hot summer evening visiting the mall.
December 19, 2022 at 9:25 am
I agree. Indoor shopping malls were and are classic. PTC in Hampton has not done well. Made no sense as Coliseum Mall closed, in big part, due to lack of revenue. It had gotten to be a hang out spot. Why bring a more upper class, “Short Pump” style complex to Hampton when the area was not supporting the mall?
April 14, 2020 at 3:28 pm
I got one for you….where the post office and bingo city is now in Grafton, what old department store used to be there…trying to figure it out
May 13, 2020 at 4:03 pm
Gibsons! I remember going there.
December 10, 2020 at 4:59 am
What was the name of the drug store that was next to Joe and Mimmas in Grafton
December 26, 2020 at 2:58 pm
To the left of Joe & Mimma’s was Wornom’s drug store.
June 19, 2020 at 9:03 pm
I have a table of some sort that belong to Hampton Hobby House. It has a sticker on the side with the name and about film developing. It also had a strip of paper that has several different measurements on it. I would love to know more about this piece if anyone knows about this place. The owner also worked at NASA.
September 9, 2020 at 1:11 pm
Did anyone ever remember the name of that bakery that sold the cookies & elephant ears? It has been driving me crazy for a month!
January 2, 2021 at 12:24 am
Was it the Original Cookie Company?
March 21, 2023 at 3:41 am
Are you thinking of Tiffany’s Bakery? It was outside of JCP in the late 70’s/early 80’s
April 3, 2021 at 6:43 pm
What was name of restaurant across from Darryls and Bennigan’s?
August 13, 2021 at 11:50 pm
Steak and Ale
May 12, 2021 at 7:39 pm
Do you know what year the Darryl’s restaurant closed down..it was across from coliseum mall in newport news Virginia
September 8, 2021 at 2:51 am
Ahh ! the Good Old days of the mall I use to work there on the Security Team Mall’s Bike Patrol I Filmed the training video for them and wrote the Coliseum Mall Rap that talked about the mall’s rules of conduct. and I wonder if Roger Tucker and Raymond Tripp still there today ? I went by the name of Lt. Alexander Perry a.k.a AC . Perry and if any one have a copy of that video forward it to email@example.com and as always my favorite spot was two places The Arcade and Cinna Bun at The Food Court.
March 23, 2022 at 12:24 pm
When I lived in Hampton in 1999-2001, I would go to the Dairy Queen in the. Coliseum Mall food court. Every single time the owner made my Dairy Queen Blizzard, he would turn it upside down and shake it without the lid, just to show you how well it was made. I’ve never had anyone else do this at any other Dairy Queen I’ve been to in the US. We’ll, that’s my Colosseum Mall story
May 3, 2022 at 9:22 pm
When I graduated from high school in West Virginia I got a job at shipyard in Newport News , Feb. 1974. I had never seen a mall. Coliseum Mall was fairly new at the time. I remember going there just about every weekend. It was always packed. It was so much fun being just 19. Met a lot of people hanging out there and at Strawberry Banks. Good Times!
June 28, 2022 at 11:30 pm
Where’d you live in WVA ? I lived in Hinton in mid-60’s .
September 22, 2022 at 1:31 am
Found your blog when I was googling Coliseum Mall. I lived on Village Green three houses in from the intersection with Oyster Point. Also saw Return of the Jedi at Coliseum Mall, my family had just moved there a few days earlier in 1983.
December 6, 2022 at 7:53 pm
The restaurant was actually called Blue Hawaii and not the Blue Hawaiian. We had one in Virginia Beach (where I grew up) at Haygood Shopping Center as well. There was also a third one at the Janaf Shopping Center back in the day!
December 19, 2022 at 9:20 am
Such a great article and pics! Great memories!