DeSoto Square Mall closing in Bradenton was ‘long anticipated’

For a mall whose opening day in 1973 was so ceremonious, the DeSoto Square Mall

For a mall whose opening day in 1973 was so ceremonious, the DeSoto Square Mall had a quiet death.

On Friday, its last day in business, only four stores were open, and a handful of shoppers walked the halls – honestly, not too different from any other day at the Bradenton shopping center in the 21st century. 

My colleague, Jesse Mendoza, who was there for its last day in my absence, found a lot of those same familiar sights – empty hallways, boarded-up storefronts and a handful of shoppers. There wasn’t even a formal announcement about the end of DeSoto Square, just a sign posted at the door that said “MALL CLOSING FRIDAY 4/30/2021.” 

Over the years, DeSoto Square went from being the place to be in Manatee County with endless shopping options, entertainment and movies to struggling at the turn of the century to eventually having a palpable cloud of sadness permeating the building during business hours.

Over the years, DeSoto Square went from being the place to be in Manatee County with endless shopping options, entertainment and movies to struggling at the turn of the century to eventually having a palpable cloud of sadness permeating the building during business hours, even as management tried to blare ambient music to drown it out.

But DeSoto Square is hardly the only mall in America to have suffered this sad fate. As outdoor shopping malls became more popular, department stores consolidated and online shopping emerged and eventually dominated, conditions became increasingly dire for indoor centers across the U.S.