The French Market and the Continent opened in 1972 and mimicked a European village, with apartments above storefronts – a toy shop, an art studio, candle shop and other one-of-a-kind retailers. Unlike at enclosed malls, spaces were linked with outdoor sidewalks wide enough for crowds but not cars.
The only mall-like space was the adjacent French Market, believed to be the nation’s first food court. But unlike those that would follow, there was no McDonald’s, only locally owned shops selling baked goods, fresh produce, sandwiches and gourmet items that lured the tour-bus set.
It drew locals by positioning itself as an entertainment destination, including one of Ohio’s first multiscreen movie theaters and a mix of casual dining and bars.