Penneys Auto Center

Penneys Auto Center; Dixie Square MallTL;DR: Empty, unfinished retail. Would be worth nothing if not for its connections…

History: Originally-built in 1966 as an outparcel Auto Service Center for Dixie Square Mall’s JCPenney department store. Penneys Auto Centers featured full-service repair bays, with a small retail store in the front, and gas pumps outside. JCPenney would later discontinue its Auto Centers, and hardlines entirely by 1983; with Firestone and other chains taking over many of the leases for former Penneys Auto Center buildings.

Presumably, this structure first-closed with the actual store in 1978, and can be seen boarded-up in The Blues Brothers, as the Bluesmobile approaches the mall on Dixie Highway. At some point – judging by the early fourth-generation Camaro that was on the sign by Dixie Highway: probably in the early-90s – it was re-opened as the Dixie Automotive Center, with what appears may have been a Daewoo dealership in the part of the building closest to Dixie Highway. By 2001 or so, it was vacant once-again.

Dixie Square was finally demolished in 2012, leaving this structure as the last remnant of the legendary dead mall.

Stripped Dixie Auto Center sign Explore: This was the only part of Dixie Square that remained un-explored, and actually getting into the Auto Center was not originally planned on this trip. I stopped, here – en-route to shoot the doomed Lincoln Mall, further south – since it was recently undergoing renovations into a small strip of retail, and wanted to get a few exteriors. I wasn’t even planning to leave the car – until I went to turn-around on the south side of the building and found a door ajar.

The building was in pretty rough shape despite the new windows and doors, replacing the garage doors for the service bays (one of which could be found, mangled, inside). A trench had recently been dug for new plumbing, leading from the crappers to a large room that was inaccessible from-inside due to a later-built brick wall. In the middle of this brick wall was a hole in the ceiling, where an HVAC unit had fallen through not-long after the rest of the mall was demolished. Given the condition of the roof, and signs of fatigue along the brick wall, I wonder if this project will ever be completed. Someone on Facebook had looked into this place from the outside a few months prior, and it appears no work has progressed, since.

I looked everywhere but found absolutely no trace of its original identity, only the smashed remnants of its Dixie Automotive Center signage. I set the camera up on my only tripod: a worn Gorillapod, and using a found barstool for added-height shot what I could of what was otherwise a gutted shell…

Penneys Auto Center; Dixie Square Mall
Gutted Auto Center
Discarded Signs
Service BaysCity Life?
Lonely Chair Depository


Guess I was wrong… a nightclub called The Entrance opened here in 2016.

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