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The Small Mall is Big in Happy Holiday Memories

by Suzanne Licata

Among the many happy memories of Christmases past is one so dear, so classic that it practically has its own alumni group (especially among Northlanders) – The Small Mall at the former Antioch Shopping Center. The iconic just-for-children teeny Christmas mall within the mall was the brainchild of the elves at Curry Real Estate Company who for more than 40 years built the Small Mall, furnished it, stocked the gifts on display and provided the “sales” staff who helped little children shop for and wrap presents priced $2 – $12 all on their own – no adults allowed!

“It really was magical for kids,” said Ellen Todd, president and CEO of Curry. “Just imagine going into a store built just for you while your parents waited outside, picking out the gifts you would buy, wrapping them with the help of Curry staffers and then being able to really surprise those who received your presents on Christmas day. It was such a cool experience!”

Todd said the Curry staff loved everything about making the Small Mall happen – building the sets, selecting the items to put on the shelves, decorating, helping the children shop and giftwrap their presents. “It was a lot of work but so much fun,” Todd added. “We knew we were making some amazing memories for generations of families.”

Also iconic to the Small Mall experience was a visit to Santa Claus. Ed Wolters as Santa gave up his vacation from the Kansas City Police Department for 30 years to greet and cheer the long lines of children each holiday season at Antioch Center. Known in the metro for his genuine portrayal, he often was referred to as the “real Santa” among kids and adults alike. Gary Dull later embraced the role, continuing the tradition of delighting children as Santa until the mall closed.

Curry opened the Antioch Mall in 1956, the first shopping center mall north of the river and the second in the metro following the Country Club Plaza. The Small Mall was just one of the holiday attractions Curry created that helped make the retail center a real community gathering place. There was the whole Winter Wonderland where Santa presided over the dazzling snowy set of brightly lighted trees and white reindeer. Rudolf Rail, a holiday train that took little children on a ride through Toyland. Special events like breakfast with Santa and pajama parties kept the holiday spirit going.

“There was nothing else like it,” added Todd. “The Small Mall was such a treasure. It caught the imagination for generations and now, for so many of us, it is one of our most cherished memories of Christmas time as a kid. For Curry, it was just such a pleasure to be able to bring that kind of joy to the community. Makes me happy just to think of it.”


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