Rediscovering Rivergate Mall: A Goodlettsville, TN Legacy

The Dawn of Rivergate Mall

Rivergate Mall, a landmark in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, opened its doors on October 6, 1971. This event marked a significant moment in Tennessee’s retail history, as Rivergate Mall emerged as the largest shopping center in the state at that time.

Developed by the Retail Planning Corporation, an Atlanta-based mall developer, the mall was strategically located just outside Nashville, along Two Mile Pike, positioning it as a central shopping destination for residents and visitors.

The original structure of Rivergate Mall was notable for its size and the variety of stores it housed. At its inception, the mall boasted three major anchor stores: JCPenney, Castner Knott, and Cain-Sloan.

These anchors were pivotal in drawing many shoppers, establishing Rivergate Mall as a bustling hub of commerce and trade. Alongside these anchors, the mall also featured other prominent tenants like Jo-Ann Fabrics, Walgreens, and McCrory, offering a diverse shopping experience to its patrons.

As the mall progressed through the 1970s, it underwent its first major expansion in November 1978. This expansion increased its size and significantly enhanced its retail offerings.

The new phase introduced 55,000 square feet of retail space, accommodating 22 new stores and 74 supporting shops.

This expansion responded to the mall’s growing demand and popularity, further cementing its status as a key shopping destination in Tennessee.

In December 1986, Journeys, a well-known retail chain, opened its first store in Rivergate Mall, adding to its appeal, especially among younger shoppers.

The late 1980s saw another major shift in the mall’s retail landscape. In 1987, Dillard’s, a prominent department store chain, acquired Cain-Sloan.

This acquisition was part of a larger deal that included three Nashville-area locations. The entry of Dillard’s into Rivergate Mall was a significant development, as it brought a new dimension to retail offerings and further diversified the shopping experience for visitors.

Rivergate Mall’s early years were marked by growth, expansion, and a dynamic retail environment. It was a prime example of a successful shopping center, attracting many customers and offering various shopping options.

For those looking for things to do in Nashville, Tennessee, Rivergate Mall was, and continues to be, a go-to destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

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Challenges and Changes (1990s-2000s)

The 1995 Tornado Impact

In May 1995, Rivergate Mall faced a challenge when a tornado outbreak swept through the region. This natural disaster profoundly impacted the mall, causing part of its roof to collapse.

The incident injured several individuals and marked a crisis for the mall. The damage necessitated immediate repairs and raised concerns about the structure’s safety and future resilience.

This event was a stark reminder of the vulnerability of large commercial properties to natural disasters and the importance of robust emergency response plans.

Ownership Changes and Renovations

The late 1990s brought significant changes in the ownership and structure of Rivergate Mall. In June 1998, CBL Associates & Properties, a notable name in the realm of real estate investment, acquired the mall for $247 million.

This acquisition was a strategic move by CBL, reflecting their confidence in the mall’s potential despite the growing competition in the retail sector.

In 1999, with the looming threat of Opry Mills, a new shopping center in the vicinity, CBL undertook a series of renovations at Rivergate Mall.

These renovations included the addition of new carpeting and a revamped entranceway, aimed at enhancing the shopping experience and retaining customer interest in an increasingly competitive market.

Anchor Store Shifts

The early 2000s saw shifts in the anchor stores at Rivergate Mall, indicative of the changing retail landscape.

In 2001, Proffitt’s, a department store chain, was replaced by Hecht’s. This transition was part of a larger deal involving the sale of nine locations.

The change from Proffitt’s to Hecht’s represented a shift in the mall’s retail mix, adapting to new market trends and consumer preferences. 2006, another major change occurred when Macy’s entered the mall, taking over the previously occupied space by Hecht’s.

This introduction came after Federated Department Stores, now known as Macy’s Inc, acquired Hecht’s parent company, May Department Stores.

Macy’s, a nationally recognized brand, was a significant addition to Rivergate Mall. It offered shoppers a new range of products and services and reinforced the mall’s status.

Decline and Current Challenges (2010s-Present)

Sale and Management Changes

In 2013, a pivotal change occurred in the ownership and management of Rivergate Mall. The mall was sold to an offshore investor for $176 million, signaling a new era for this once-thriving shopping center.

Subsequently, the management responsibilities were handed over to Hendon Properties, an Atlanta-based company.

This management shift was a strategic move to revitalize the mall and adapt to the evolving retail landscape.

Hendon Properties, known for its expertise in real estate and property management, faced the challenge of reinvigorating the mall amidst a changing retail environment.

Store Closures and Impact

The latter part of the 2010s brought significant challenges to Rivergate Mall, particularly with the closure of key anchor stores.

In March 2019, Sears, one of the mall’s primary anchors, shut its doors as part of a nationwide plan to close 80 locations.

This closure was a significant blow to the mall, as Sears had been a major draw for shoppers for many years.

The following year, in 2020, Macy’s also closed its Rivergate Mall location. The departure of these major retailers profoundly impacted the mall’s foot traffic and overall appeal.

The loss of these anchors affected the mall’s revenue and position as a preferred shopping destination in the region.

The Anchors of Rivergate Mall


JCPenney has been a cornerstone of Rivergate Mall since its opening in 1971, playing a pivotal role in the mall’s retail landscape.

As one of the original anchor stores, JCPenney brought a wide range of merchandise, from clothing to home furnishings, attracting a diverse customer base.

Over the years, JCPenney has undergone several transformations, adapting to changing market trends and consumer preferences.

Despite the evolving retail environment and the mall’s challenges, JCPenney has remained a constant, continuing to draw shoppers with its blend of quality, value, and variety.


Dillard’s story in Rivergate Mall began with its 1987 acquisition of Cain-Sloan. This transition marked a significant change in the mall’s retail offerings, as Dillard’s introduced a new era of fashion and luxury goods.

Over the years, Dillard’s has established itself as a major anchor in the mall, known for its wide selection of clothing, accessories, and home decor.

The store has been instrumental in attracting a segment of shoppers looking for quality and upscale products. Dillard’s presence in the mall has been a stabilizing factor, especially during change and uncertainty.

In its current role, Dillard’s remains a major draw for Rivergate Mall, contributing significantly to its retail mix and customer appeal.

Notable Stores and Their Stories

Fashion and Apparel

Rivergate Mall’s fashion and apparel segment, featuring a variety of stores catering to different styles and preferences, has been a vital part of its retail experience.

Aeropostale is a popular clothing store among teens and young adults. It offers trendy and casual apparel, making it a go-to spot for fashion-forward shoppers.

American Jewelry, another key player, offers a range of elegant and stylish jewelry pieces, appealing to those seeking sophistication in their accessories.

Hot Topic, known for its music and pop culture-inspired clothing, attracts a niche market of customers seeking unique and alternative fashion items.

These stores, each with its distinct style and customer base, contribute to the diverse shopping experience at Rivergate Mall.

Specialty Stores

The mall also boasts an array of specialty stores, each offering unique products and experiences.

Guitar Center, a haven for music enthusiasts, provides a wide selection of musical instruments and equipment catering to amateur and professional musicians.

The Next Level Games is a paradise for gamers, offering a variety of video games, board games, and gaming accessories.

Toy Box, catering to the younger crowd and the young at heart, is filled with a delightful assortment of toys and games, making it a favorite stop for families.

These specialty stores diversify the mall’s retail offerings and create unique attractions that draw various customers.

Jewelry and Accessories

Rivergate Mall houses some notable stores in the realm of jewelry and accessories. Ashcroft & Oak Jewelers stands out with its exquisite fine jewelry collection, offering everything from engagement rings to elegant watches.

This store is a destination for those seeking high-quality, timeless pieces. Trust Jewelry & Repair, on the other hand, offers a range of jewelry services, including custom designs, repairs, and appraisals. It caters to customers looking for personalized attention and care for their precious items.

These jewelry stores add a touch of luxury and refinement to the mall’s shopping experience, attracting customers with a taste for elegance and quality.

Dining at Rivergate Mall

Fast Food and Casual Dining

Rivergate Mall offers a diverse range of fast food and casual dining options, catering to the tastes and preferences of its visitors.

Panda Cafe is a popular choice for those craving Asian cuisine. It serves a variety of delicious and quickly served Chinese dishes.

Teriyaki Express, another favorite, offers Japanese-inspired meals known for their flavorful teriyaki dishes and sushi rolls.

These fast-food outlets provide convenient and tasty options for shoppers looking for a quick bite or a casual meal while exploring the mall.

Unique Eateries

The mall also features unique dining experiences that set it apart from typical shopping centers. With its catchy name, Greasy Fingaz is known for its indulgent and savory fried chicken, attracting those with a penchant for comfort food.

One Spunky Spud stands out for its innovative potato-based dishes, offering everything from classic baked potatoes to creative potato-based meals.

These eateries offer distinctive culinary experiences, drawing in food enthusiasts looking for something different from the usual mall fare.

Snacks and Treats

For those with a sweet tooth or needing a light snack, Rivergate Mall has plenty to offer. Pretzel Company Unlimited is a go-to spot for freshly baked pretzels, available in various flavors and toppings, perfect for a quick and satisfying snack.

Tea and Boba offers a range of refreshing beverages, from aromatic teas to popular boba drinks, each customizable with various flavors and add-ons.

These snack and treat options provide a delightful break for shoppers, adding to the overall enjoyment of their visit to the mall.

Entertainment and Services

Entertainment Venues

Rivergate Mall is not just about shopping and dining; it also offers a variety of entertainment options for all ages.

Bounce It Off Inflatables Adventure Center is a family favorite. It provides an exciting and energetic environment where children can enjoy a range of inflatable play structures.

It’s a perfect spot for families to have fun while taking a break from shopping. Smash n’Go Table Tennis, on the other hand, offers a more active and competitive form of entertainment.

This venue attracts casual players and table tennis enthusiasts, providing friends and families with an enjoyable and engaging experience.

Health and Beauty Services

Rivergate Mall houses several health and beauty services for those seeking relaxation and pampering. Elite Nails & Spa offers a tranquil retreat for nail care, massages, and beauty treatments, making it a popular destination for those looking to unwind and beautify.

Kings and Queens Barber & Salon caters to men and women, offering haircuts, styling, and other grooming services.

This salon is known for its skilled stylists and barbers, ensuring that customers leave looking and feeling their best.

Rivergate Mall
Rivergate Mall Carousel” by jimmyyyy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Community and Spiritual Spaces

The mall also serves as a community hub, featuring spaces catering to visitors’ spiritual and communal needs.

City of God Church is one such space, providing a place of worship and community for its congregation.

It’s a welcoming environment where individuals and families can participate in spiritual services and community events.

Connection Pointe Church is another community-oriented space within the mall, offering a place for worship and fellowship.

These churches serve the community’s spiritual needs and contribute to the mall’s role as a central gathering place for people from all walks of life.


The journey of Rivergate Mall is a tale of transformation and resilience in the face of an ever-evolving retail landscape.

From its grand opening in 1971 as the largest mall in Tennessee, Rivergate Mall has experienced periods of significant growth, challenges, and reinvention.

The early years were marked by expansion and the introduction of major retailers, establishing the mall as a premier shopping destination in the region.

Adding stores like JCPenney and Dillard’s, as well as various specialty shops and dining options, contributed to its vibrant and diverse retail ecosystem.

However, the mall faced its share of challenges, particularly in the 1990s and 2000s. The impact of the 1995 tornado and the subsequent changes in ownership and anchor stores reflected the mall’s ability to adapt to external pressures and internal shifts in the retail industry.

The closures of key stores like Sears and Macy’s in the late 2010s further tested the mall’s resilience, leading to a decline in foot traffic and a shift in consumer perception.

Looking to the future, Rivergate Mall’s potential lies in its ability to continue adapting to the changing retail environment.

This may involve embracing more experiential and community-focused initiatives, integrating technology and digital experiences, and continuously diversifying its mix of retailers and services.

As consumer preferences and shopping behaviors evolve, Rivergate Mall’s willingness to innovate and reinvent itself will be key to its ongoing relevance and success in retail.

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