Auburn Mall; Auburn, Massachusetts

Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts

A few days back, I posted about the now-dead Worcester Common Outlets in downtown Worcester. I feel that it’s more interesting to post about malls in metropolitan area groups, which brings us to discuss the other (less dramatic) malls serving the Worcester metropolitan area.

Except for one big “but.” The Worcester Common wasn’t exactly done in by any of its suburban cousins, because by and large the other malls are just not all that big. Depending on how you define the Worcester metropolitan area, Worcester Common was arguably even the largest mall in the Worcester area, and if not, it was close behind. Case in point: The Auburn Mall.

The Auburn Mall is a mid-sized (600,000 sqft. or so), dumbell-style mall located in central Massachusetts. Strategically located about 5 miles southwest of Worcester at the junction of interstates 290, 395, and 90 as well as MA-12, the mall (which is nuzzled in a valley between I-290 and I-90, with prime visibility from both) serves are a large swath of rural central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut. It is the only enclosed mall for almost 50 miles in several directions, although there are many others going east, north, or southeast.

Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts

I’m not sure of the exact year that the Auburn Mall was built, but I would wager it was constructed sometime in the mid-late 1970s. Initially, the mall’s anchors were Sears, a two-level, aged Caldor (which retained the orange, 1980s vintage logo until its death), and a junior anchor in Cherry & Webb. A rather extensive renovation in the early 1990s (Around 1994 or 1995, I believe, likely as a response to the revitalization of Worcester Common) added Filene’s as an anchor off center court. Several years after the death of Caldor, Filene’s also took their space at the Auburn Mall’s eastern end, splitting the Filene’s store into two. The mall’s anchors today are therefore Macy’s (with two spaces) and Sears. The Cherry & Webb space is today an Express.

Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts

Design-wise, Auburn won’t win much praise; it’s a functional, mid-level mall that always does great business but isn’t a destination for anyone but people who live in its immediate trade area. Its most notable features are the strangely sloped ceilings and the larger court areas, which distinctly peg the mall to a somewhat earlier era.

Recently, the Shoppes at Blackstone Valley, a large lifestyle center located one exit away on I-90, has stolen some of the Auburn Mall’s thunder, and is now the largest shopping center on the south side of Worcester. The two centers share little overlap, however, and Auburn seems to chug along just fine. The Auburn Mall is today owned by Simon, and these photos were all taken August 2006.

Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts
Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts
Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts
Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts Auburn Mall in Auburn, Massachusetts

33 Responses to “Auburn Mall; Auburn, Massachusetts”

  1. I’ve got some pictures of this mall from around August 2006 as well. Actually I remember seeing this mall on our rides up to Boston wondering if it was a decent mall. Back then, and for the longest time, It used to have a Caldor anchor operating in a really old building where the brand new Filene’s/Macy’s stands now.

    I finally visited Auburn Mall this August on my way up to do some photographing in the Boston area and realized it’s a really lame, one-level mall which makes Connecticut’s Enfield Square look like a winner. It wasn’t a dead mall, just a really dry one in much need of a second level and more attraction. If you want to see something interesting here, check out the old signage off the highway – some of the remaining vestige from it’s original era.

    If you’re going I-90 to Boston, I suggest you don’t miss the exit or else you’ll be backtracking (well that’s I-90 for ya) whilst realizing how much time you’ve wasted going out of the way to stop at this mall.

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  2. I love the roof on this place! Gives it character.
    Scott

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  3. Two great examples of May Company architecture here.

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  4. According to Wikipedia the mall was built in 1971.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auburn_Mall

    Usually you would expect all single floored malls to be gone, or be largely vacated, but it seems Auburn Mall is the exception.

    more rare is retro roof architecture, kind of looks like a tent.

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  5. Here’s a seriously missing piece of history about Auburn Mall many here might be too young to know. The Sears anchor/Caldor building was originally a branch of The Outlet Company of Providence. Outlet Co was actually a rather large retailing (department and specailty stores) and broadcasting conglomerate based in Providence and this was one of, maybe four of their stores.

    In 1980, Outlet co, who had been watching their department store profits dwindle pretty rapidly in the early 80’s recession, The Outlet Co. sold the all their chains (including Edw Malley Co of New Haven, who they had purchased in 1978) to focus more on their broadcasting division. Their new owner, United Dept Stores of NJ ended up bankrupting the entire acquisition and Outlet, Malleys and the other stores were mostly gone by by Fall of 1981. It was shortly after that that Caldor took over the space from them.

    Their label scar actually lasted for many years, long after caldor took the space.

    I wonder if anyone local has photos of Auburn Mall when it was built?

    Happy 2007!

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  6. I have been to the Auburn Mall a few times but pass it every time I go to Cape Cod or Boston on the MassPike. Considering the mall is a little bit of a ways out of downtown Worcester and close to many small towns I think it does a pretty good business. Around the mall are the usual strip malls but there arent a ton of then which draw away from the mall itself.

    Another tidbit of information for all malls in the Worcester area is that the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets which has over 170 outlet stores and draws people from all over is about 39 miles southeast of the Auburn Mall

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  7. The Auburn Mall’s been humming along pretty steadily since 1971. I know the food court is a semi-recent addition…it was built in space that formerly contained a Weathervane store and a York’s Restaurant. Bed & Bath was right next door, in front of that was a Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk, the only one I’ve ever seen. In addition to being located RIGHT next to the Mass Pike and the intersections of that and Interstates 395 and 290, plus US 20 and MA 12, Auburn’s the only mall serving the nearly rural northeastern Connecticut (Woodstock, Putnam, Thompson, etc.) and the reasonably prosperous southern suburbs of Oxford and Webster, plus suburbs as far west on MA 9 and the Pike as Brookfield and Sturbridge, who are slightly closer to here than they are to Hadley or Holyoke. I imagine that’s how the mall survives…I used to work at the former Barnes & Noble south on MA 12, and it seemed that the bulk of the customer base consisted of NE CT residents and people from the western ‘burbs.

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  8. I drove past this mall quite a few times on my way back and forth to college, and I’m quite sure that Denholm’s, a Worcester-based department store, was once on the eastern side of the mall. When the Denholm’s chain went out of business, I think Forbes and Wallace, a now defunct Springfield store, took its place. I only went into the mall once, and, like others have said, there was not much there enticing me to go back.

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  9. I remember passing Auburn Mall in the 1970’s on the way to Boston from the suburbs of Hartford. I remember it being an Edward Malley, from New Haven being in the mall. Now living in CA now a very close friend shops there all the time and she informs me that is has decent choices for shopping.

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  10. I visited this mall every year from about 1971 to 1981 during visits to see my grandparents who lived in Rhode Island near the Mass. border. It was a great mall in its day with an incredible fountain. I took my wife and kids to see it on a recent visit to New England and was disappointed to see what had happened to it, but of course everything changes. None of the parking deck structure existed in those days. The main anchor was a Denholms which had a huge, great script logo on the building. Around ’74 it became a Forbes and Wallace, then the Outlet, then Caldor. Heck, I didn’t even notice what it was on this last visit, the place has changed so much. In the 70’s it had an indoor Friendly Ice Cream restaurant (home of the awesome Fribble milkshakes) with a white sign and great raised gold lettering. It also had an Anderson-Little men’s store where my grandparents bought me the latest in 70’s kid fashions. Really the only thing I recognized on our recent visit was the unique curved wooden ceiling which, as your photos show, is now painted white. In the 70’s it was stained a very cool-looking dark brown. Thanks for the memories!

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  11. I remember when the Auburn Mall opened in 1971. Had a pal who was a sales clerk at Denholm’s (along with a girlfriend and a cousin). We rolled Js in the parking lot near Denholms during his breaks. The Auburn Mall was a pretty cool place to shop in then – I enjoyed going there very much. They had a great Chess King store in there that sold the latest trends in young adult fashions. By ’77 or ’78 the decline began and it hasn’t stopped…

    And the Worcester Center Galleria was also a great mall in those days. I had high hopes for the Worcester area then, but Worcester started taking an economic beating in the late ’70s that has dragged all of Central Massachusetts down…

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  12. As mentioned in the Norwichtown Mall thread, this was “the” mall in the late 70’s/mid 80’s to be ‘seen’ at. Warwick Mall and Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI were bigger, but the younger crowd (80’s mallrats, us) preferred Auburn for the cooler stores. Was rarely a Friday or Saturday night not spent here cruising and buying the latest 80’s fashions and time at Spencer’s. The parking lot was capacity (before the parking deck) and traffic was a nightmare. NE Connecticut kids were the major consumers here for sure.

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  13. I used to work for Spencer Gifts, and when I first visited this mall in the 90’s, prior to the remodel, I noticed that the Spencer store there looked NOTHING like the normal store layouts I was used to (like most retailers, Spencer Gifts models all of its stores in the same style, updating as needed). I asked my manager, and she told me it was a prototype style that they had decided not to use, and they kept the store in that style, not remodeling it later because Aubusrn Mall was declining. In the late 90’s, when the mall was remodeled, the Spencer Gifts store moved to the Filene’s court, and was designed in the normal store format.

    I wish I would have taken pictures of the older weirs style store, those would be fascinating to see. I remember it had an odd (maybe red) awning in the front.

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  14. DOes anyone remember if the Sears in the Auburn Mall once had a small restaurant? This would’ve been in the early 1980’s

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  15. How far is it from Foxwoods?

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  16. Foxwoods is about 50 miles due south of the Auburn Mall off I-395.

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  17. The Auburn Mall is a great place to go shopping or just looking around. It has many “peppy” stores for those girls and guys who love up to date styling as well as Macy’s, Sears, Payless Shoes, and lots more. [Abercrombie, American Eagle, Aeropostle, Hollister, The children’s Pace, Food court,Lens Crafters]
    This place is a wonderful place to enjoy a rainy day. Plenty of place to park, and has daily security. Also has a photography area near Sears Workshop for guys.

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  18. I shopped at the newly opened Auburn Mall in preparation for my wedding in May, 1971. Sears was an anchor store along with Denholm’s. Denholm’s main store was on Main Street in Worcester. Unfortunately, both Denholm locations closed soon after. The former Denholm location has seen many changes over the years, and is now Macy’s Home Store.

    John – I don’t ever remember a restaurant in Sears.

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  19. Yes, there was a small cafeteria style place to eat on the second floor of the Sears store. My sister worked there for 16 years and I worked in the mall at So-Fro Fabrics for 4 years before it closed and merged with the bigger Lincoln Plaza store. The small cafeterias in Sears was mainly used by the employees and I sometimes ate there with my sister. It was however open to the public. They had awesome patty melts.

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  20. Yeah, when the AM opened in ’71, Denholms anchored the end opposite Sears. A number of other stores took over that space (Forbes and Wallace, anyone?) before the Outlet settled in….and eventually Caldor, now Macy’s. We used to joke that that space was cursed. I remember as a kid going to York Steak House on Sundays for dinner. During the days of the Blue Laws, Yorks was the only place in the mall that could open on Sunday. There were velvet ropes sectioning off the rest of the mall from the restaurant crowd. I’m disappointed to see the ceiling is now painted white. It probably makes the place brighter, but I liked the dark-stained wood that used to be there.

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  21. What was the name of the jeans store next to Cherry & Webb in the mid-1990s? I used to tightroll my jeans from there when I was cool. If anybody can remember please let me know.

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  22. For whatever reason, my mother insisted that we do our shopping @ the Auburn Mall, rather than the cooler Galleria at Worcester center – probably because it had Sear’s as an anchor store, whereas the Galleria had the (slightly) higher-end Jordan-Marsh or Filene’s and, as she used to tell us (constantly) , “We’re not made of money!”

    I remember the Auburn Mall as being a VERY 1970s mall: the mall court outside Sears had this very odd fountain shaped like spools of thread (painted fluorescent orange!) and the water wiould bubble on down from the top. Not very dramatic, but kinda cool in a “Brady Bunch’ sort of manner.

    Even as a 4th grader I knew this mall was carering to the Lawrence Welk crowd: it had a Singer Seewing Center, an organ store (!) called “Sharps & Flats”, another store called “Fireplace Village” which sold (surprise!) fireplace accessories, Anderson-Little (where my parents bought me an awful powder-blue leisure suit in 5th Grade. It was truly HIDEOUS!) and one of those “Eva Gabor Wigs” stores.

    I may be mistaken, but I seem to remember the Eva Gabor store’s walls (yes: WALLS!) were covered in HOT PINK SHAG CARPETING! Very racy for Worcester County.

    It has never been anything but ‘practical’ – and has never aspired to be anything but ‘practical, either.

    Oh: and Betsy – I t-h-i-n-k the name of the jeans store your referring to was either called “My Store for Levis” – or simply “My Store” – but I could be wrong: as I said earlier’, my parents were too busy outfitting me in powder-blue leisuyre suits in Anderson-Little!

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  23. Buying concert tickets in the 1970’s was quite different than today. They usually went on sale at 10AM on Saturdays and they would be available only at a number of retail outlets within about a hundred mile radius of wherever the show was gonna take place (there was no ordering by phone until about noon, as I recall, so that those who stood in line would be guaranteed seats – the Internet was pure fantasy, of course). In the late 1970’s, about 1977 maybe, Neil Young was coming to the Springfield Civic Center and I was determined to get tickets.

    There was a ticket counter on the second floor of Sears and I had a friend who managed a sport store in the mall. Rather than get up at three in the morning, he allowed a friend and I to sleep in the back room of the store with the understanding that if we were somehow caught, he knew nothing about it and we would have to say we broke in.

    We got drunk and finally woke around 8:30. We went out a fire exit, tripping an alarm, and ran around the side of the building to get in the Neil Young line which was about fifty people long. The police arrived shortly and briefly questioned people in line as to whether they’d seen anyone come out of the mall, but most people were too stoned to even see, period. This was the 70’s for a Neil Young concert, remember.

    Anyway, that’s my best memory of Auburn Mall.

    BTW, Neil was effing incredible! To this day – and I saw EVERYBODY in the 1970’s and 80’s, from Zeppelin to Springsteen – that Neil Young show is in my top five of all time… Loved the Auburn Mall too – but it’s heyday is long over…

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  24. I was the manager of the regal shoe store in the Auburn Mall. I opened the store on March 29TH 1971. The Mall officially opened a couple of days later. We closed our doors 15 years later in 1986, along with 225 other Regal mens stores. We also operated the shoe dept in Shacks. Just as we originally did when Shacks was on main st in Worcester on the same side of the street as the Cottage doughnut shop. Not that anyone cares, but before Regal, I managed WILBAR’S (wilbur shoe) located directly accross from city hall, next to Kresges.
    Thank’s for the memories!

    Mike

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  25. In the 70s, my mom was the manager at the Viking Hϋs (House) sold Scandinavian merchandise. My mom would bring me in to work with her on the weekends from morning until closing. I would eat at Liberty Bakery owned by Frank and Joann in the morning, and Friendly’s at lunchtime. I remember watching cartoons at Impulse Electronics Store my third grade science teacher worked their around 1973 he was a teacher for the Charlton School District. My Father was a high school teacher at Auburn High. In the late 80s, early 90s I worked for Caldor’s in the Hardware Automotive Department I met one of my Closest friends he was the Assistant Store Managers Mr. Lovett. I have many great memories.
    A late friend of the family Joe Berthiaume, told me that the Auburn Mall was built in such a way that a second floor could be added why that didn’t happen when it was renovated I don’t know. But I do know that the Mall is not the same.

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  26. Interesting article. Were did you receive all the info from… :)

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  27. does anyone remember the area right in front of Cherry and Webb that was down a few steps where Santa used to sit at Christmas time. How about the “cement” statue play area. It was near the wig store. Please help – I seem to be the only one that remembers this. It was back in the 70s or 80s.

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    Donna Reply:

    @Jill, I remember the cement statue play area and where Santa sat at Christmas. There were three statues I believe, a turtle, a whale and an tall, structure with open areas in which one could climb. I was a child so it may just have seemed tall. I do remember the pond being filled in to make room for the mall. Anyone remember the pretzel kiosk near the front entrance? The carnival used to be held in the parking lot. York Steak House. Spencers had the hippie merchandise. Funky candles that came in shapes and different designs, black light posters and black lights.

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  28. Ticketron@Sears and the Viking House. Ouch!, I’m old. I better get a coffee first……………..what a throwback!!!

    River.

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  29. This is like one of the first malls I had ever been to in my life. Our family moved to northeast CT in 1974, and I remember going there when interstate 395 didn’t even exist. It was “Route 52″ at the time, and ended somewhere around Exit 4 in Oxford. Then we’d have make our way to 12 I think, and pass by the old Hawaii 20-20…

    Anywho, I probably first stepped foot in that mall sometime in 1978 at the ripe old age of 5. I can’t believe Sears is STILL there, it’s been what, 40 years now? I remember my grandmother buying one of those huge outdoor TV antennas from Sears in like 1977/8, came with the set top box that turned the antenna for better reception.

    I have so many memories from this mall I don’t even know where to begin. I remember buying Atari games at the KB toys, having numerous meals at the Friendly’s, and buying cassettes/CD’s at the old Record Town. I actually bought my first CD there in 1990, The Fixx, Reach the Beach, which I still have to this very day. I remember when I was in high school, going shopping there with my grandma, and sneaking off to the Rite Aid to buy a 3 pack of Trojans for later that day… lol, those were the days…

    I remember the York Steakhouse, the way they had those fat fries and red trays. I remember the last time I ate there, was with a date in 1991. Little did I know, when we walked out that day, it would be for the last time ever; we would never see York’s again…

    Spent a lot of time in that old Waldenbooks too, many comics were purchased from that place. I thought Chess King was tacky as hell, I recall it being particularly popular in like 1984, and around the time MC Hammer came out with his first album in 1990…

    I grew up with the Auburn Mall, I too remember the dark wooden ceiling, and what was that place? Hickory Farms? It was like a mini-grocery store in the mall next to Cherry & Webb, we used to get foreign soft drinks there…

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  30. Been going here for 40 years. Any pics of the old fountain near Sears?

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  31. I knew the mall used to have a Waldenbooks!! Wasn’t it when you walked straight out of Sears on your right next to the Lenscrafters and Payless Shoesource??

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  32. What was the name of the kiosk that sold naughty chocolate in the shape of a woman’s torso?

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