Matthew Dutczak, better known by his alias “the mall guy,” started his YouTube channel Best Edmonton Mall in 2016. According to his channel’s description, Dutczak’s goal is to “look back on the largest mall in North America with rose-coloured glasses.” Dutczak now has over 23,000 subscribers, and his affinity for the mall remains firm.
“I went there as a kid, my first date was at West Edmonton Mall (WEM), I’d hang out with friends at the mall, I became a mall rat, and now as an adult, I take my kids (there),” Dutczak says. “For a lot of Edmontonians, it’s one of those places that’s just always been there, and it’s a really big part of our lives.”
The idea for a WEM-themed YouTube channel came to Dutczak after chatting with his younger colleagues one day about the now-closed Deep Sea Adventure submarine attraction at WEM. He decided to document his investigation, and Best Edmonton Mall was born. He says that when he started, he took a lot of inspiration from retro videos of old Disneyland attractions.
“I think my story is similar to a lot of Youtubers where you start off, and it’s a little bit rough, and then it just gets better and better,” says Dutczak. To this day, the channel is a one-man show. “I write, I create, I film, I narrate, I edit, I publish, and I also do live streams,” says Dutczak. “I’ve been told I need to let go of control, but I like to do everything, and that’s why the production sometimes takes a long time. But it’s all me.”
Best Edmonton Mall content has evolved over the years, with earlier videos focusing more on Dutczak’s own childhood memories of the mall to now having a much more robust research process. Dutczak explains, “I basically start with Google searches, and I like to find old newspaper clippings and articles about attractions.” He adds “I don’t have any formal training in archives or research or anything; I just start looking.”
For example, when researching the bungee tower that used to be in the World Waterpark, Dutczak says, “I found the gentleman’s name who created it. I reached out, and he said he would love to be a part of a production, and he shared a lot of the details about the bungee towers (that ended up in the final video).”
When asked if he has a favourite video, Dutczak says it changes every day of the week, but one that always stands out is “The Mall of America vs West Edmonton Mall: Which is Better,” which was released in 2019. It’s also a fan favourite with over 102,000 views and 500 comments. The video is about half an hour long and features content filmed at both malls.
In the near future, Dutczak looks forward to making a video on the now-closed-down Red’s Rec Room. He explains, “it was this mega arcade with a built-in diner, a performance stage, a pool hall and a bowling alley. It was really over the top.”
Unfortunately, the brainchild behind Red’s Rec Room, Michael McCall, passed away a few years ago. Dutczak says, “I read some articles, and you could tell he had a big passion for it, and I got the impression that he took a lot of pride in it.”
Reflecting on the past, Duczak says that when he first started the channel, he had no idea it would gain the traction that it has. “I was like, well, I’ll do it for a year, and then I’ll run out of content, and I’ve gone over five, almost six years now, and I still have topics that I haven’t talked about yet,” he explains.
For the last six months, Dutczak has been on a journey trying to figure out what the next steps are for Best Edmonton Mall. Whatever it is, it’ll continue to trigger those nostalgic feelings that his content is best known for.
Dutczak is now quite the local celebrity, with people recognizing him as “the mall guy” every time he steps foot in WEM. “I never imagined how many people would come up to me and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I love your stuff,’” he says. Even after almost six years, Dutczak’s passion for the mall still shines through.
Check out Dutczak’s channel at youtube.com/@BestEdmontonMall.