Friday, July 22, 2011

The Last Stand

Miracle City Mall - there ain't much else.

Walk into the Miracle City Mall and at first breath you'll want to turn around and stick out the 96 degree Florida summer. The strong, overpowering, thick smell of mildew immediately whacks you in the face. It fills up your lungs and makes you cough for a few hours after (at least it does to me).

Putting it mildly, time has not been friendly to this building. The Miracle City Mall has exactly four stores: its flagship JC Penny's, GNC, a travel agency, and Dave's Hot Dog Stand. And um, this is a mall. All of the other stores have long since left. It's like a ghost town. No, it IS a ghost town. Like a scene from Dawn of the Dead, minus the zombies, thankfully.

As a newcomer to this area of Florida, I've always viewed this mall as a glimpse of what once was a booming, magical time for the Space Coast. When astronauts were revered like celebrities, and people actually knew where you were from when you said "Cape Canaveral". I guess in a way the mall is like a strange microcosm of this city. It is an old relic from a better time, somewhere struggling so desperately to hold on it, but mostly forgotten.

But like a small town, it has fascinating little stories about people who have stuck through the good and bad times. Like Dave's Hot Dog Stand. To a newcomer, it's a strangely amusing holdout in the middle of a nearly deserted building. Dave's is literally the last stand. My coworkers and I had lunch there today - Chicago dogs, nacho dogs, reuben dogs - and it was decent enough. This is nothing against Dave, it's just that hot dogs in general never send me into a state of tubed-meat nirvana. Conversely, I've never had a shitty hot dog. It can't get worse, but it doesn't get that much better. Just my opinion.

We sat at the counter and had our hot dogs, watching to our surprise several people come and go. Curious as we were to this strange scene, we asked Dave questions about the mall's past - and whether or not he was going to move his business if the mall eventually shut down. He informed us that his family had owned the stand for forty-one years. A hell of a lot of hot dogs. And no, he wouldn't move his beloved business if the mall closed. He was getting on in age, and by the time he would reopen, he'd be too old for it. We were even treated with an old photo of the stand, which pictured cheerful looking girls in fashionable mini dresses. Oddly enough, it looked like even then some of the stores were closed. Maybe in transition?

Then and Now

To an outsider like myself, it's an interesting story of local history. I am detached. To citizens of Titusville, this place is an icon. Dave's Hot Dog Stand has a facebook page with 2800 fans. Holy crap. People who have long sinced moved on still rave about it, and pine away for strawberry smoothies and hot dogs. A coworker of mine talked about how intertwined her own memories are with the place. Even if this mall is one year away from being another abandoned building, people still flock to this tiny stand.

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