For most of my youth, The Continent and French Market was the second coolest place to go in Columbus (behind COSI). If it were built today, this area would be considered a Lifestyle Center – a mixed-use property consisting of a mixture of retail and housing. Why was it so good? For one thing, it literally had something for everyone in our family. For me, it had the best toy store around, a great record store, an arcade, and lots of choices for places to eat that were just a little bit out of the ordinary. The whole experience was just so different from your standard mall. The outside section was designed to look like a European street, with apartments above the stores. It always felt incredibly alive. The indoors French Market part had even more interesting stores, an almost maze-like floor plan, and the first food court I remember experiencing. Our family went up there quite often for many years. Eventually, as shinier new options began showing up all over town and our schedules kept us from going to Columbus as often, we went less and less often. When we would go, we started noticing that fewer and fewer options existed.
I don’t remember the exact time (some time in the early 2000s), but (for me) the absolute day The Continent died was the day they demolished The French Market. Sure, all the stores had gone years before, but that building was a crucial part of the complex, and I really hated to see it go. Every so often, you’ll hear a story about potential redevelopment, but you never hear about anything actually happening.
Today (as I write this) I went back and walked around The Continent for the first time in 12 years. Here’s a quick photographic tour of what I saw today, and a few happy memories about times long gone.
The Screens started life as a Sony Branded theater. It’s an 8 screen multi-plex with floor level seating. There are posters for new movies, but their online schedule shows mostly 2nd-run movies, and a large selection of Indian movies.
The building with the awning has been many nightclubs over the years. It was probably best known as the Yucatan Liquor Stand. Sadly, in May of this 2017, a shooting happened at the club, which seems to have closed permanently just a couple weeks ago.
This was the original home of the legendary Funny Bone Comedy Club. The second floor balconies used to have large painted caricatures of comedians like Eddie Murphy and Jay Leno.
There is work being done here. Many of the buildings are getting a fresh coat of paint (left) and most of the old stores have new windows and doors.
A name I recognize! This was a call center for Sears, it has been closed for several years.
For a few years in the 1990s, local Top 40 radio station WNCI headquartered in this building. As I was heavily in my alternative rock phase by this time, I blamed their terrible music blasting through the complex for the downfall of The Continent.
They refer to this area as the French Quarter.
Another closed down bar.
This was the main drag of The Continent. Both sides loaded with quirky little stores. One of my favorites in the area was called Stooge-O-Rama. It mostly sold Three Stooges merchandise, but had an eye to other early Hollywood stars as well. Cool store.
This building held The Toy Box. Anybody roughly my age that ever shopped here will tell you this 2-story toy store was THE BEST TOY STORE bar none. It was rough seeing it in this shape. The windows and doors seemed fairly nice… but missing ceiling tiles, insulation on the ground, and a caved-in ceiling? I don’t know if this is long for the world.
I noticed that many of the other buildings that used to be at this end of the center were gone as well. There used to be a large Damons. There used to be a great record store that shared a long building with Tropical Trends. And, there used to be The French Market…
If you look closely, you can see the outline of the French Market building in the grass. I stood here for a few minutes, and I remembered so many details about this area. It’s been a long time, but it’s amazing how clear some aspects of my memory of this place is.
I hope for those of you that experienced The Continent and The French Market, you enjoyed seeing these pictures. And for those that never experienced it, I hope I’ve given a little bit of an idea about why this place was so special.
There were people out painting buildings today. There are people still trying to keep this place alive. I’ve read that occupancy of the apartments is still pretty high. This would be a nice, quiet place to live (with tons of parking!!) I don’t know whether the retail will ever come back. It would take a big influx of money…but weirder things have happened.
There’s not much media out there about this place when it was open. The best video I’ve found is this one (not mine) on Youtube. I always wish they’d have taken more time looking at the stores outside, but it’s great to have this, even without original audio.
If you’d like to visit it for yourself, here’s a map!
Thanks for reading!