North Texas Daily

Mini Malls display treasures past and present

Mini Malls display treasures past and present

Mini Malls display treasures past and present
April 22
23:42 2015

Erica Wieting / Staff Writer

A dolphin in a wine glass. An Egyptian sarcophagus. Cheerful animal cookie jars.  Since the 1980s, unique and interesting items have been going in and out of two eclectic stores on the Square.

Denton’s Mini Malls I and II can be found on Locust Street between Oak and Hickory Streets. They are located one store away from each other, on either side of clothing boutique La Di Da/ShoeFly.

Mini Mall I, opened in 1984, was originally a Bell’s sandwich shop. The old kitchen, located at the back of the store, is still vaguely noticeable. Mini Mall II used to be a fabric store and was opened a few years later.

When owner Leo Will first took over the Bell’s establishment and started his business, he said there were only two dealers in the store. He was one, and the other was a woman named Glynnis.

Brendon Ship, Will’s grandson, said his grandfather sold all of his things on the main floor, while Glynnis ran a toy store upstairs.

“She called her little toy store ‘Glynnis’ Wonderland,’” Ship said.  “Glynnis was something else.”

Ship, who was still very young at the time, said there used to be a marquee sign hanging upstairs with the toy store’s name scrolling across.

Because running the store was difficult with just two people, Ship said Will’s next move was to recruit two more dealers, Leslie Thompson and Marie Render. Thompson’s booth is still located directly to the left of the counter when customers walk into the store. Render is no longer with the store, opting for a position at Good Samaritan.


A red M&M reclines underneath a checkerboard-style lamp.  The random nature of items found in Denton’s Mini Malls is what draws customers in.

The store now boasts 47 booths in the original location, employeeJohn Shrader said. In combination with Mini Mall II, the entire business possesses nearly twice that many booths.

“What we do is we rent out the spaces to different people, and they just bring in what they find,” Ship said.

Jamie Crawford, a vendor at each store, said she doesn’t have a specific type of item she tries to sell. Instead, she brings in anything she can find at a reasonable price she thinks people will buy.

“Usually it’s the things that I don’t think will sell that sell first,” Crawford said.

Shrader said the fastest-selling objects in the store are usually local Denton items, particularly antiques.

He said one such item, an old barrel with “Haper-Graham Co” barely visible in faded stencil lettering on the side, was brought in just last week.

English senior Erika Graham said she is fond of of Denton-local items, especially  handmade trinkets, because they remind her of the town she lives in.

“I’ve found a lot of recycled art and small accessories that were handmade by Dentonites, and their intrinsic value has become important to me,” Graham said.  “They’re like little mementos of my time here.”

With many interesting items being sold through the Mini Malls, Will said he had to devise a precise system to keep track of how much each dealer makes every day. Dealers each choose a patent mark they will use to distinguish the items they bring in to sell. The marks can be found on tags attached to the items, which are removed and immediately filed when an item is sold.

Crawford’s dealer logo is JC, her initials.

“I think my initials are pretty cool,” Crawford said. “Some people go by numbers.  When you work here long enough, you learn all of them.”23_mini_web3

Old license plates, horse shoes and a Texas star are situated on a shelf.  Many booths in Denton’s Mini Mall contain unique Western items. 

Ship said he already has all of the abbreviations memorized after just over a year of working at the store.

Crawford, who currently works at the original location, previously worked at Mini Mall II for over a year. She has now been at Mini Mall I for a few months.

“What else am I going to do, other than work?” Crawford said.  “It’s a really fun atmosphere.  You meet a lot of people and see a lot of stuff.”

There are so many things to look at in the stores that customers cannot possibly see everything with one visit, Crawford said.

The seemingly endless maze of shelves, displays and counters inside Denton’s Mini Malls contain many treasures to count.

“Asking about the most interesting item in this store is like asking which of the pieces of hay in a hay bale is longest,” Ship said.  “It’s impossible.”

Crawford said she often sees things come across the counter she wishes she had found herself.

“It’s like, ‘I wish I would have seen this,’ or, ‘I wish I could have bought that,’” Crawford said.

The success of the Mini Malls stems from more than just the diverse items found within their walls. Graham said she thinks the Mini Malls have become an important piece of Denton because of how well they reflect the city’s artistic and indigenous atmosphere.

The Mini Malls are also supportive of other small, local businesses, she said.

Despite their very humble beginnings, the Mini Malls are now some of Denton’s most beloved and distinct landmarks. Ship said the stores are even on a few road maps of Texas, attracting people from all over.

“We get to see a lot of walks of life that come in and shop,” Crawford said.  “Everyone loves the Mini Mall.”

Featured Image: Beanie babies overflow one booth in Denton’s Mini Mall. Customers of all ages love the collectible animals. Photo by Erica Wieting – Staff Writer 

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