A couple of years ago, Invisible published my first book, a collection of short stories called Everything Life Has to Offer. I’m now finishing up a second book, but this one’s entirely different. It focuses on Toronto’s Galleria Mall—a shopping mall in the city’s west end that was built in 1972 and is known for its stuck-in-the-past aesthetic.
This project has been on my list of things to do for the past five years. I worked on it when I wasn’t busy with other projects, like writing short stories. It all started in July 2013 when I began taking pictures at the mall. I’d been living close by for five years at that point, and had always been fascinated by the place. I was amazed at how time managed to stop at this little one-storey mall while many others have progressed into the 21st century. Dead and dying malls aren’t uncommon these days, though, and this mall is just one example of a larger shopping mall epidemic. Developers tear apart buildings like this at their first opportunity, so these types of structures vanish and are long forgotten. Ultimately, I thought it was worth preserving the Galleria in book-form.
I first snapped one photo of the mall, then there were twenty, and later there were hundreds of them. I loitered in the mall for a year, from July 2013 to 2014, and grabbed shots of everything from the ceiling’s pot lights to the inflatable vampire in the Halloween display.
While the mall is a little dated, it’s offered services to the community over the years. The grocery and liquor stores have been quite important, plus the place is a second living room to many, particularly to older Portuguese men. Until recently, there were independent stores selling everything from luggage to Jesus figurines. These businesses were just evicted, leaving behind the bank and chain stores, like Planet Fitness. At least it’s still possible to get cash out of the machine to pay for a gym membership so you can use a treadmill to chase after nothing.
If you’re familiar with the short stories in my collection, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that this new book is humourous, despite its focus on a mall that has faced years of neglect and will ultimately disappear. In place of this mall will be a condo development slated to include eight towers and many levels of underground parking, offering plenty of opportunity to lose your car.
My growing interest in shopping malls led to research on the topic, which is more fascinating than it may seem. I also looked into the industrial past at the Galleria’s site at Dufferin and Dupont Streets. Plus, I hoped to discover how the mall managed to keep such an authentic retro look, and I did uncover some answers. Aside from the 100+ captioned photos, the book includes information on the rise and fall of shopping malls in addition to local history and details of the past, present, and future of this particular mall.
The book would appeal to those interested in shopping malls, urbanism, Toronto history and landmarks, authentic time capsules, and Galleria Mall, of course. It would also be fascinating to people curious about little pockets of the city that often go unnoticed. The book’s both humourous and sad, and will memorialize the mall until the end of time.
The imprint Salted Pepper Projects will release the book later this year. A Kickstarter campaign is running now until October 25th to offer pre-sales and help fund the book’s production. The book, Galleria: The Mall That Time Forgot, will be out later this fall.