Lease My Food Court!

George Singleton

“Empty Food Court, White Flint Mall” by dan reed! is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Dear President, or Head Chef, at the Culinary Arts Institute of the United States with Travel Abroad Opportunities in France, Mexico, Italy, Peru, and Louisiana/Mississippi:

Hello, my name is Fleming Rostan, Jr., and I am the CEO of RPM (Rostan Property Management). Maybe you’ve heard of us. We own fifty-six (56) malls in the mid-Atlantic states, from Florida to Virginia. Because of the pandemic, RPM has found it necessary to file for bankruptcy protection. To be honest, I don’t see this thing getting any better. If our president had right away rightly pointed out how everyone needed to rightly wear masks if they had to leave home for, say, a nice ensemble from H&M, or Belk, or JC Penney, then maybe things would’ve turned out differently, right? And if Belk, et al, had enough forewarning, maybe they could’ve placed some overpriced five-ply masks there at the registers, you know, point-of-purchase purchases because everyone feared dying from the Plague.

We know that didn’t happen.

Anyway, RPM has a slew of malls that might not make it, and that’s where I think you might be able to slip in and help us!

What’s your stance on extending the Culinary Arts Institute of the United States with Travel Abroad Opportunities in France, Mexico, Italy, Peru, and Louisiana/Mississippi’s reach, with regard to satellite campuses? Think about it! Not everyone can afford to come to your campus up in New York, but I bet prospective local wishful chefs and cooks and restauranteurs could drive over to, say, my Two Creeks Mall, pay their tuition, and take classes.

Here’s what I have in mind:

Our Food Courts die off. There’s a whole, unused arm of the mall, down at one end, with ovens, stoves, refrigeration units, prep stations, et cetera. Mixers. Blenders. Microwaves. 

I can go further or farther: Students need dorm space. Answer: The Regal 16 Movie Theatre. We might have to put up some drapes to section them off, but there are plenty of nice cushiony seats that can work as futons, at the worst. They’re college students! I remember sitting upright sleeping more than a few times during my college years.

You got Great American Cookies: Good for your Baking and Pastry Arts classes.

You got Sbarro: Good for both Pastry and Italian.

I looked at your list of classes, and I’m thinking that students can walk right across a Food Court, from a class in Stocks, Soups, Sauces; to Saute, Shallow-fry, Grill; to Stewing, Braising, Roasting without even the ten-minute interchange between normal college classes. 

Teach Catfish at Kelly’s Cajun Grill!

Teach The Barbecue Arts at Smokin’ Wings!

Teach Meat and More at the old Johnny Rockets, or Charley’s Philly Steaks, or Chick-fil-A.

Look, I don’t give a damn, I’m just trying not to die bankrupt, you know? My father, Fleming Rostan, Sr., might’ve done a little better than me. So be it. Those were different times. He dealt only with Ronald Reagan.

And then maybe someone will figure out that those vacant stores like Finish Line or Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Foot Locker or Macy’s or Montgomery Ward, should become, I don’t know, complete stations for either old folks homes, or—goddamn—substitute hospital. Spencer’s Gifts, Dillard’s, Kohl’s, GNC, Hallmark, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Zale’s, Victoria Secret, Williams-Sonoma—any of those places would be easy to retrofit into valid living quarters or MASH-type units. I foresee the Piercing Pagoda as being a place for a security guard to hang out. Anyway, all those people need to eat, and most of them aren’t going to be able to drive anywhere.

My bankrupt malls could even become makeshift morgues, what with how things are going. Morgues need attendants and ambulance drivers and coroners. They’re going to get hungry. Maybe they’d stride straight over to the Culinary Arts Institute of the United States with Travel Abroad Opportunities in France, Mexico, Italy, Peru, and Louisiana/Mississippi—Two Creeks Mall campus, and buy their lunches. Now you got tuition coming in, plus a steady income without any real overhead. It would kind of be like how barber colleges and cosmetology programs offer cheap haircuts and bobs.

I don’t want to brag, but it seems like a win-win idea for both of us. And then your graduates would soon be capable and worthy chefs ready to go out into the world and conquer the best restaurants in America.

Well, when we have restaurants, again, in America.

I hope to hear from you soon.


Fleming Rostan, Jr. 

George Singleton’s latest collection is You Want More: Selected Stories (Hub City Press, 2020). He has published eight collections of stories, two novels, and a book of writing advice. Over 200 of his stories have appeared in magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Playboy, the Georgia Review, the Southern Review, the Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Corrington Award for Literary Excellence. He lives in Spartanburg, SC, where he holds the John C. Cobb Chair in Humanities at Wofford College. Follow him on Twitter at @HubCityGeorge.

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