Since this blog is sub-titled retail history, I figured that our inaugural mall from the Granite State might as well be, um, history.
The Nashua Mall was the first enclosed shopping mall built in New Hampshire, opening in 1969. The 350,000 square foot, 35-ish store, simply laid-out dumbell mall served for many years as the sole enclosed mall serving the city of Nashua, which sits on the Massachusetts state line. Originally, the mall itself hosted Woolco and Almy’s as anchor stores, and the sprawling outlots included a Montgomey Ward, a large plaza with (I think) a supermarket, Child World, and–probably built sometime later–a Shop ‘N Save/Hannaford supermarket.
There were some expected shifts, with the roster of anchors you see above: mainly that the Woolco became a Bradlees in the mid-1980s, Almy’s became a Burlington Coat Factory in the late 1980s, and the Montgomery Ward (which closed in 1997) became an Ames before that store also closed in 2002.
The Nashua Mall’s downfall was twofold:
- It looked extremely old, because it clearly never received a significant face-lift during its entire lifetime. I wish I’d had the foresight to snap some pictures before it was too late, because the Nashua Mall was truly a gem. Despite that it was one straight-shot hallway, it was wide and with high ceilings, decorated with diagonal wood paneling and extremely groovy, dangling 1960s vintage light fixtures. The high ceilings employed an old Frank Lloyd Wright architectural trick (though I seriously doubt it was intentional) wherein there were dramatic changes in the ceiling elevation, causing some “low” areas broken by very “high” areas. Wright built this into many of his structures to cause people to move throughout the building, because lower ceilings in hallways and foyers encouraged people to move towards the more open central areas. Oh, there was also a beat up penny fountain in the center court, and Bradlees had a massive wall clock at the front of their store.
- A change in demographics in the Nashua area. Unlike most malls that die, Nashua’s demographics improved as the city experienced a major development boom throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Included in this boom was the new Pheasant Lane Mall, a large two level mall constructed on Daniel Webster Highway on the state line on Nashua’s extreme south side. Because the New Hampshire border towns are a popular place to shop for Massachusetts residents due to the lack of sales tax, this mall would become widely popular and steal much of the business away from the Nashua Mall on the city’s northwest side. Similarly, the sprawling northwestern corner of Nashua also developed its own major commercial strip, but it was all located one exit to the north along route 101a, away from the Nashua Mall. With a population of 85,000 proper and many dense suburbs located nearby, Nashua could’ve easily continued to support two malls, but the Nashua Mall never received the necessary cosmetic love to make it viable.
Strangely, despite the mall’s horrendous condition, it soldiered on quite well until its death in the early 2000s and even included some mid-market tenants such as Brookstone and Cherry & Webb. The first major blow was when Bradlees closed with the entire chain in early 2001, leaving Burlington Coat Factory as the lone anchor. Kohl’s announced they would be taking the space, but they demolished the Bradlees building and built their own structure that was freestanding yet on roughly the same footprint. Not long after, the half of the mall closest to Burlington Coat Factory was shuttered and dramatically reworked to host a Christmas Tree Shop, which did also not have access to the mall. This left a small area of the original unrenovated enclosed mall for a couple of years. DeadMalls has some photos of it in this state.
This final portion of the mall would close in early 2004. The last of the mall was bigboxed, and the center today hosts Kohl’s, Christmas Tree Shops, Burlington Coat Factory, LL Bean, Home Depot, and Starbucks amongst its anchor stores. If you happen to be in the area, make sure to take note of the Burlington Coat Factory store, which is the last vestige of the original mall–the building is even still in the old Almy’s style!
Our friends over at From Woolworth to Wal-Mart have an even more complete history of the Nashua Mall, including a few more precise details than I’ve included here and some illustrative graphics to show how the mall used to look. The only truly original visual I have to offer up is the mall’s logo above–I scanned that off of a promotional flyer given out at the mall in 2000 or 2001. Despite the way it looks, it isn’t really *that* old!
Want to see something really strange? I’m not sure how long it will last, but if you load the Ask.com map page and zoom in and out intermittently, you can see the footprint of the mall before and after its conversion to a strip center!