Remembering the mall in its original iteration

Table of Contents Malls like DeSoto Square were a focal point of daily lifeShifting dynamicsDeSoto

  • Malls like DeSoto Square were a focal point of daily life. More than just shopping places, they were cultural touchstones, pivotal to growing up, economic mobility, leisure and social interaction.
  • As important as it was to Bradenton, however, the DeSoto Square Mall eventually struggled. From the day it opened in 1973 until the early 21st century when things started to really go downhill, DeSoto Square Mall traced the arc of the rise and demise of malls as a center of U.S. commerce and culture.
  • DeSoto Square Mall was built during an era that could be referred to as the great American shopping mall boom.

As a teenager in the mid-1980s, Iris Pitnikoss worked at Ritz Camera, the film and photo equipment store in Manatee County’s DeSoto Square Mall. 

She sold cameras – professional devices like Nikons and Kodaks, as well as smaller models like Fujifilms, which were more for everyday candid snaps. The store even had a machine where photo negatives could be processed in under an hour.

“We used to get really busy in there, have a lot of rolls of film to print, and this was one-hour photo,” Pitnikoss said. “I always loved Nikon cameras so it was fun to sell those.” 

When she finished work, her boyfriend at the time, Daryl Solodar, would sometimes be waiting for her in the mall hallways with a bouquet of carnations. He would drive over an hour from his home in Clearwater just to see her after work. 

Eventually, Daryl asked her to marry him. Iris Pitnikoss became Iris Solodar. At their wedding, the manager of Ritz Camera was the photographer. Back then, the whole staff at the store had a passion for taking pictures – including Iris, who went on to a career in sports photography. 

Subscribers:Attorney: DeSoto Square Mall closing in Bradenton was ‘long anticipated’

Malls like DeSoto Square were a focal point of daily life

Stories like Solodar’s are typical of people who came of age in the latter half of the 20th century. Malls like DeSoto Square were a focal point of daily life. More than just shopping places, they were cultural touchstones, pivotal to growing up, economic mobility, leisure and social interaction.

Sure, you could go there to buy things. Stores like the Vogue Shop, Lane Bryant, Waldenbooks and Camelot Music at DeSoto Square always had the latest in fashion and entertainment. But it was more than that.

https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/business/2021/11/18/remembering-manatee-county-desoto-square-mall-bradenton/7772470002/