Inspired by the open-air shopping arcades of Italy, the Arcade Mall on Main Street has stopped passersby in their tracks for over 100 years. Built in 1912 and completed a week before the Titanic sunk, the Arcade Mall has changed over the past century. In 2016 it underwent a renovation + began welcoming several new businesses.
Today we’ll take a closer look at the history of the Arcade Mall and the businesses that make it a modern-day bustling lunchtime spot.
Located next to the Barringer Building, Cola’s first skyscraper, the Arcade Mall was Columbia’s first indoor shopping center. The two-story, L-shaped mall is just a block from the State House in a well trafficked area of Main Street, especially during 9-5 business hours.
The mall has been updated several times since opening, each time maintaining the Renaissance Revival style of architecture original to the building.
Where you see chandeliers now, you used to see blue sky. A partial roof was added around 1932 and then the mall was fully enclosed in the mid-20th century. Thanks to a skylight, the sun illuminates the indoor architecture and revives the open-air feel of the original design.
Down Under Columbia
Ever been curious about those giant metal doors that lead beneath the arcade? The basement of the Arcade Mall has intrigued Soda Citizens for years.
From 1972 until 1977 Down Under Columbia sought to mimic the popular Underground Atlanta — a development of underground bars that attracted 3.5 million visitors in 1972. While it was short-lived, the abandoned clubs are now filled with dust and memories, but Historic Columbia offers occasional underground tours. If your curiosity won’t allow you to wait, you can experience the basement tour in virtual reality thanks to Jacob Cohen.
Open for Business
Unlike traditional malls, the Arcade Mall is home to several types of businesses. The second floor has law offices and artists studios, while the ground floor offers everything from Odd Bird Books and Le Chic Hair Salon to Ophidian Tattoo parlor, the first in the Main Street District.
From 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Mon.-Fri., Swanson’s Deli is the mall’s main attraction. Diners fill tables lining the center of the mall and patrons queue up out the door for the popular lunchtime spot that serves a variety of signature sandwiches.
Try this: One of those sandwiches is the “Underground Club” — a Roast beef, turkey, bacon, and swiss sandwich that pays homage to the mall’s basement + history.
With the addition of Stoner’s Pizza in January 2019, the mall opened more to a post lunch-time crowd. The pizza joint is popular for lunch and dinner because of its convenient location to student housing in the downtown area. With even more downtown student housing on the horizon, the Arcade Mall could continue to benefit from the extra evening foot traffic.
Coming (back) soon is Takosushi, a restaurant and bar rooted in southwestern and Asian cuisine, that will become the new anchor restaurant for the building with the windows of the dining + bar area open to Main Street. No open date has been announced, but when you glance through the glass, the bar area is well put together with the restaurant’s logo prominently displayed on the wall.