People around the world love to shop, there’s no doubt about that. Then, there are those that want an absolute spectacle when they go shopping, which is why they hit up some of the biggest malls that mankind has to offer. While most of the largest in the world reside in Asia, there are some here in North America. Larger than any of them is the West Edmonton Mall, the 26th largest in the world, and up until the boom of Asian malls in the 2000s, it was the largest. While you’re familiar with it now, how did it get its start?

During the 1960s, a company called Germez Developments was started by the Ghermezian family, who still operates the company. The Iranian-Canadian family started out by selling rugs when they first moved to Montreal, which led into them getting into real estate and eventually oil production. The latter business would help to really put them on the map, and they became interested in land development within Edmonton.

There was a lot of potential for development in Edmonton at the time, and the family spent $18 million to finance their first foray into retail. What some didn’t expect, though, was that the mall was going to become the largest that many had ever seen. Construction and development on the mall started in 1974, and it took a lot of red tape to get through before the original West Edmonton Mall finally opened its doors to the public in 1981.

That doesn’t mean that the mall was finished, though. The Ghermezians expansion projects took place over the next four years until it truly became the largest in all of Canada. More expansion projects continued through the rest of the 1980s and all throughout the 1990s, all while the same family was developing the Mall of America in Minnesota. Now, decades after its original opening, the West Edmonton Mall is home to more than 350,000 square metres of retail space, having hundreds of stores and attractions throughout.