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I Still Love You, Rotunda

There is no one to blame but ourselves for the Rotunda's sad shape.

Rotunda Shopping Mall of Hampden, you have taken a lot of abuse over the years. You’ve been neglected, mistreated, talked badly about, and promised renovations that never materialized.

I know it’s been a tough descent from your heyday Rotunda, but I want you to know this North Baltimorean still loves you.

Of all of Hampden’s oddities you are the most unique. If only for your astonishing abundance of blandness, and that you are still in existence. You are truly bizarre.

It’s not fair Rotunda, that other Hampden anomalies suck up all the weird-cred that defines the neighborhood. Rest assured though, that unlike the John Waters inspired “trashy-chic” aesthetic, or the odd blending of blue collar and hipster cultures, or Jack "the Nose" Barr, who walks the street clothed in an assortment of fake rubber noses, your bizarreness is genuine.

Much like the crematorium on Falls Road that fills the late night Hampden air with the aroma of incinerated death, you’re odd in a purely un-ironic way.

And that’s why I love you Rotunda.

Yes, I admit it’s true; that I've been known to describe you to the unfamiliar as “were the Towson Town Center to have a cancerous growth removed, the resulting luster of infected cells may resemble the Rotunda.” But do not take this as an insult. 

It’s your anti-malliness that I find so attractive.

You’re special, not inferior.

It's great being able to get a haircut (Hair Cuttery), look through comic books (The Amazing Spiral) and pick up groceries (the ironically compact Giant) without having my senses O.D. on the mega-stimulation input present in most malls.

I can even deal with the ever present trepidation at the possibility of actually having to sit down in your only restroom.

I’m fine with the fact that your food court isn’t so much a court as a single eatery. I mean it’s darn fine pizza. They don’t even charge for the extra grease.

Seriously though Casa Mia’s rocks.

However, I have to admit Rotunda, you disappointed me just a little when your Cinematheque  switched from art house films to more mainstream fair. But it is still nice to see action blockbusters in a theater that feels like the ones I visited as a kid in the 1980s. It even offers a nostalgic admission price of $5 on Tuesday nights, and I think you can actually still smoke in there.

I know you were promised a massive renovation by Hekemain, which purchased you a few years back, but the economic downturn of 2008 put the brakes on that. Don’t feel bad. The same thing happened to the Go Green movement (remember that guy?).

Besides, I like you the way you are. I shudder at the thought of you becoming a White Marsh Avenue type or a Hunt Valley Towne Centre.

You are the punk rock mall Rotunda.

I just wish you would be more embraced by the same artsy/hipster population that has made Hampden’s 36th Street a hotbed of non-mainstream commercial activity. Just imagine an indoor mall full of vintage clothing stores, independent book sellers and coffee shops, and small local art displays.

What I’m saying is, it’s not you Rotunda, it’s us.

Keep your head up, and your leases reasonable.

Meghan June 14, 2011 at 09:39 PM
^ hahaha!!!
Joe Schmigel June 15, 2011 at 04:23 AM
Good article, Mike. The Rotunda could use some serious love. Even Tomlinson Craft has abandoned her. I wish that the Cinematheque would devote one of the three theaters to foreign/artsy/independent films. But, Five Dollar Tuesday is a real find in this recession.
Anna June 15, 2011 at 01:31 PM
Quite possible that The Charles is still able to have clearance over The Cinematheque which would limit what they are able to get from film distrubutors. Previous operators had the same problem with this. I too grew up going there and try to get back when I can. And yes...Casa Mia's rocks!! PS GREAT article...I love irony!
cartoonbear January 04, 2012 at 07:26 AM
So, I'm old, and back in the day, I was the inventory control girl at Recordmasters. That meant that *no one but me* knew whether anything was stolen. Also I worked at Service Photo, where I was allowed to smoke at work, play with the expensive Polaroid, and get 50% off photo supplies back when those contained real silver. Then, at Gordon's Books, they had a carpet, but old Mr. Gordon was too cheap to buy a vacuum, so we used one of those sweeper-things. Also, if a book didn't have a cover, it was basically free. However, we were NOT allowed to read "on the job." Back in the 80s the Rotunda was not lame as much as it was comfortable, safe, and neighborhood-y. It makes me sad now to go there, because I spent a long four years working and shopping in its weird-ass halls. It was a good place.. Also, the neighborhood is neither Hampden nor Roland Park but its in-between cousin, HamRoll.
cartoonbear January 04, 2012 at 07:32 AM
Oh and a side note on the single restroom? I am really trying to remember but I truly believe that is actually the only restroom in the mall. I keep trying to think about the numerous stores I worked in and whether they had their own potties and honestly I do not think they did, we all went to that one bathroom! Which might explain part of its sad decline--who wants to open a store with no employee bathroom? I mean who but a cruel lunatic who might also make employees "vacuum" with a glorified swifter or allow them to smoke in the store? :)

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