As a kid, I remember the Norwichtown Mall in its heyday. The mall was successful in having a variety of independent and chain businesses with more than 25 stores. The stores I remember the most were the larger ones such as Styles, Caldor, and Burr's Card and Gift Store (which later became Suburban Stationers).
Contributors to the Labelscar, Caldor Rainbow, and Thread City websites provide a complete trip down memory lane of the names and photos of stores, restaurants, and services that called the mall home during its 43 years. They have included: W.T. Grant, McDermott's Jewlery, Debutante, H.A. Bruckner's Business Attire, Two Legs Jeans, Dazzle, Fayva Shoes, Shetucket Harness Outfitters, Tech Hi-Fi, Russo Opticians, All Sleep Water and Air, Kaplan Travel, The Amber Room Salon, Vernon Drugs, Buster Brown's, Tons of Fun Arcade, Puppy Love, University Music, Booksmith, K&M All Star Sports, Waldenbooks, Cutting Crew, seasonal Day by Day calendar kiosk, Radio Shack, a computer software store, Chelsea Groton Savings Bank, Westies Shoes, Delilah's Silks, Swords & More, Weight Watchers, a Tommy Toy Fund Distribution Center, a community meeting room, and Bob's Discount Furniture.
Food outlets included Nature Foods Center, Treats Bakery, Bradford House Restaurant, Pickadeli Bar, Golden Star Chinese Restaurant, House of Nuts kiosk, Nancy's Carousel, Bee Bee Dairy Bar, Newport Creamery, Dunkin' Donuts (inside Stop and Shop) and Nathan's (inside Caldor).
After Caldor closed in 1999, other stores slowly started closing in the the 241,000-square-foot mall.
This past summer, the last of those stores included Stop and Shop with its pharmacy and People's United Bank, Dress Barn, GNC, Fancy Nails, and the Dollar Tree. The barren mall was being used more by mall walkers than by shoppers. Its many empty storefronts with cold metal gates would have made for a good horror movie.
The recent purchase of the mall by Winstanley Enterprises from Edens and Avant means that New London County's dying shopping mall can be revived with a complete makeover.
The developer, Adam Winstanley, will convert the enclosed mall into an outdoor 150,000-square-foot shopping center.
Smaller enclosed malls just aren't feasible anymore, he claims. However, just 15 miles away lies the successful and slightly larger 300,000-square-foot East Brook Mall in Mansfield featuring three department stores, an 8-screen cinema, and a fitness center. The much smaller 200,000-square-foot enclosed Wakefield Mall in Wakefield, R.I. is also doing quite well with just 17 stores.
Norwichtown Mall is following a similar path as the 1968 New London Mall (also about 15 miles away). In 1998, the 290,000-square-foot enclosed mall, built with 35 stores, was renovated into an outdoor shopping center with five separate buildings and 20 tenants.
Other small Connecticut enclosed malls that closed or became outdoor shopping centers included Bristol Center Mall, Naugatuck Valley Mall, Farmington Valley Mall, Meriden Hub Mall, Ansonia Mall, Civic Center Mall, Chapel Square Mall, and Charter Oak Mall.
Construction on the Norwichtown Mall will begin in February which will include demolition of the section between Dress Barn and the former Caldor.
It is expected the new center, which will be called Norwichtown Commons, will have seven to twelve businesses. The developer is currently having discussions with 30 potential clients and is working to get new tenants that do not already have a presence in Eastern Connecticut.
While Norwichtown might be losing its enclosed mall, hopefully it will gain a renewed and popular shopping center.
What are your memories of the Norwichtown Mall? Please post your stories and photos.
What would you like to see open at the new Norwichtown Commons that does not already have an Eastern Connecticut presence? Would you like to see an additional location of a store or restaruant that is already in our region?