NYT Profiles Baltimore’s Dan Bell and the Area’s Once-Thriving Malls

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The inside of the since-demolished Owings Mills Mall. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A darker side of business in Maryland is on display in The New York Times this week, with a Baltimore-based filmmaker and YouTuber serving as the narrative guide.

Steven Kurutz’s “An Ode to Shopping Malls” summarizes a trend many of today’s consumers are familiar with: the gradual demise of the enclosed shopping mall. The Baltimore suburbs offer prime examples. The story describes Dan Bell’s haunting video tours of the Owings Mills and Marley Station malls, places he visited or frequented in his adolescence during the boom of the American shopping paradise.

“They had loud pop music echoing through the mall, and I’m looking down this corridor, and there’s no people, no stores open,” Bell said of a visit to the now-demolished Owings Mills Mall. “It was really a sobering moment.”

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Bell’s work before online. The Owings Mills visit became the pilot episode for his wildly successful “Dead Mall Series.” He’s made 43 episodes in all since that fateful visit in 2015, and has launched another grittier series called “Another Dirty Room,” in which he and his film crew seek out the nastiest of hotel rooms. His videos made around the Mid-Atlantic have earned him close to roughly 400,000 subscribers across both of his channels.

The NYT profile includes Glen Burnie’s Marley Station Mall, which The Sun reported was sold in January. Bell lived 15 minutes away from it and held jobs in various stores within.

As the story tells, Bell waxed nostalgic in January while filming an episode there, where he once worked at a Dolcis footwear store: “The shoe store was right in front of that sculpture. It’s now a Spencer’s, but at the time it was a Dolcis. And I worked there because my friend managed it. So I stared at that sculpture every single day from work.”

The storylines of the Marley Station Mall and Owings Mills Mall have ultimately diverged. The former was taken over by a new company and has since filled up many of its once-empty spaces, while the latter was shut down and ultimately demolished last year. Other area malls have met similar fates to that of the one in Owings Mills, including White Flint Mall in Montgomery County, which was shut down in 2015.

One wouldn’t imagine malls could be a touchy subject, but Bell said they do provoke strong feels from a generation of adults who spent formative years at the suburban oases.

“People who are in the malls, who went to malls, this is the mourning period right now, because we are losing a lot of malls,” Bell was quoted as saying. “It’s hard for some people.”

Click here to read the full story, and here to read our coverage of Bell’s trip to Cutty’s old boxing gym, as seen on “The Wire.”

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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