The Fashion Center; Paramus, New Jersey

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Given the considerable buzz generated by our other Paramus mall posts, we present another: the largely-defunct Fashion Center. The Fashion Center is in many ways a true cousin to Paramus Park, because it’s located on the same big parcel of land and is accessible from Paramus Park via internal roadways. Note the way that there’s parking up on the roof, too–how weird!

Fashion Center is much older, however, and at this point largely continues to exist as an outward-facing big box center. The 446,000 square foot enclosed mall originally opened on February 15, 1967 as the first fully-enclosed mall in Bergen County, and at the time was billed as a miniature, suburban, enclosed version of New York city’s Fifth Avenue, and sported upscale, fashion-oriented tenants. The mall was anchored by large Lord & Taylor and B. Altman stores which collectively accounted for the majority of the mall’s total square footage: the hallway between them housed only 15 other stores such as Brooks Brothers, F.A.O. Schwarz, and Ann Taylor. A Best & Company store was also located on a freestanding parcel in the outlots; today it’s a Toys ‘R Us. Check out this vintage photo of the mall’s B. Altman store over at MallsofAmerica. A more complete list of the Fashion Center’s historic tenants can be found on the mall’s Wikipedia page.

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The defunct B. Altman store was replaced in the mid-1990s by a Bed, Bath, and Beyond and a TJMaxx, and by the early-mid 2000s the mall finally gave in to its much larger competition and began to convert to a big box format. The Fashion Center mall was closed in phases, and the center was converted to big box stores, including Best Buy. While neither of us have been recently to check it out, it sounds as though the corridors may still be open even though Lord & Taylor have closed their mall entrance.

fashion-center-01.jpgI only visited this mall once, in 2000, and I remember being struck by how odd it was. There are vestiges of the center’s vintage, such as the strange curvaceous staircase and balcony in the center court, and bits and pieces of classic decor throughout the mall. It also seems that at one point it was given a very lackluster make-over that I would imagine is responsible for the building’s weird rec-room decor, and perhaps that’s when the distinctively strange putting-green carpeting was added. While I’ve seen small, upscale malls before (Boston’s own Mall at Chestnut Hill and Atrium Mall are excellent examples) but the relative shabbiness of Fashion Center, combined with its strange tenant roster, gave it a strangely forgotten feel.

Prangeway took this photo set in August 2001; obviously the place doesn’t look like this anymore! DeadMalls also has some more insight into the former and current condition of the mall.

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60 Responses to “The Fashion Center; Paramus, New Jersey”

  1. Caldor, thank you very much for posting about this mall, which–prior to your post–I never knew even existed.

    I am very surprised that the Lord & Taylor here has never closed, given the fact that there has been a Lord & Taylor at the Garden State Plaza ever since that mall expanded in 1996.

    Now, please forgive me for my rudness, as I am about to go off-topic. However, I was wondering if you and Prangeway would please consider adding a message board to this site. Of course, if you don’t want to, I completely understand.

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    Ryan Reply:

    @Max, in that same year, discovery zone was built in the center of the mall

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  2. From the Wikipedia entry, it sounds like this was a great mall at first, but it was pretty much outclassed by the competition.

    You can tell from all the marble around that atrium that this used to be the place! That Lord & Taylor sign inside the mall was awesome.

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  3. Yes, Love the L & T sign… too bad they closed the mall entrance. That’s a death knell.
    It looks like this is one of those malls you hope would return to its former glory, but the owners followed the money to a power center.
    Scott

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  4. I love this place! I am only 14 years old, but I have been here plenty of times to enjoy it. I remember going into the arcade, when it was filled with stores. Now a Best Buy has taken over most of the arcade. The Lord and Taylor doesn’t have a mall entrance anymore.

    The Lord and Taylor is humongous. It is 3 floors, and carries just about everything. It has the older logo, unlike the one at the Garden State Plaza, but inside it looks just like new. It also has a really good, but expensive cafe on the 3rd floor. I really suggest a visit to all.

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    Ryan Reply:

    @Kyle, in 1996, Discovery Zone came in

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  5. I hope I don’t stray too far off topic here, but Kyle (or anyone), what does the “older” logo look like…? I tried doing some research on my own but with no luck.

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  6. Oh, so sad to see the photos of the Fashion Center in its current state. You can still see bits of its former glory. For instance, on the photo of Lord & Taylor entrance, if you look up you’ll notice that in inset lighting on the ceiling was in the shape of a flower. Those big white lights hanging down didn’t exsist, rather, there were fancy chandeliers with spun-gold thread hanging down.

    In the photo of the entrance where the Denny’s is, you can see an oval cut into the brickwork. That is where the Brooks Brothers sheep logo used to be, and the white wall behind the plant was a candy store.

    The mall used to have a dark marble center aisle, which was later carpeted, and the lightinng was subdued. I agree with the article in that it seems like a half-assed makeover occurred at some point.

    In its day, it was a very glamorous place. Does anyone else have photos of the mall from it’s glory days?

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  7. In response to your question Matt, the older logo is the one found here in the Fashion Center. The newer logo is found in newer locations, such as the Willowbrook Mall, Rockaway Townsquare, Bridgewater Commons, and most noticeably the store in New York City. The store in Boston, and also the store in Garden City and Stamford have the “older” logo.

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  8. http://www.siteride.com/srpl/p_snapshot.pl?subNum=40205000003

    Those are some pictures of the mall.

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  9. Kyle, thanks for the link. Let me know if you find any vintage photos of the Fashion Center back when it was swanky.

    I found an old “artists conception” illustration of the section pictured above from a 1966 newspaper article. The quality is poor, but it is still interesting. I’ll see if I can post it somewhere.

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  10. Kyle, that was a great link. Thanks for posting it. Seems odd how the mall is situated to the street. Seems kinda hidden.
    Maybe they should change the name. Fashion Center isn’t as hip as it once was.
    Scott

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  11. I am very surprised that Lord and Taylor did not close this location, as there as one 5 minutes away at the Garden State Plaza. However, this location is much larger, has 3 floors, a much bigger selection of items, and a cafe. I’ve been here quite a few times, and continue to go whenever I need to. It’s definately worth a visit, and I hope Lord and Taylor keeps this store running.

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  12. This mall used to be absolutely gorgeous. I am 32, and remember it in its heyday. In 1977, my grandfather bought me a Kojak Buick at the FAO Schwartz, and I remember rolling it around the black marble center of the mall. The center fountains was absolutely riveting to a young kid, the plumes of water would rise (quite high) and fall in the staircased-atrium while vividly colored lights would slowly change the water from Bright red, to green, blue and purple. There was a swanky French restaurant and a whole host of other high-end shops and services. There was a beautiful restaurant in Lord & Taylor too, that may well still be there, I don’t know. It was very sad (and actually kind of surprising) that this mall slowly died over the years. It is not even a shadow of its former self at this point.

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  13. The restaurant is still open, yes.

    Anyways,
    The plan for this mall is to get rid of the central arcade, and have freestanding stores. This is a good idea. I think that, to go along with Lord and Taylor, there should be another nice department store (Perhaps Barney’s New York?). The problem is, since this is Paramus, there are too many department stores, and most other high end stores are at the Garden State Plaza or the Riverside Square Mall. Moderate stores are at the Garden State Plaza, and discount stores are at the Bergen Mall. Barney’s New York does not have any stores in New Jersey, so the old B. Altman store might be a better fit for Barney’s New York than T.J. Maxx and Bed Bath and Beyond. Even then, I don’t even see a real need for a Lord and Taylor here, but it is very sucessful at this location, and is going to continue operation.

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  14. http://local.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=qtv5258tt9yb&style=o&lvl=2&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=2519568

    That is another pic of the mall (Lord and Taylor).

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  15. I believe the restaurant in the L&T was called “The Birdcage.”

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  16. Kyle, my mother for one still shops at this Lord & Taylor regularly. Why? Because it is as good if not better than other branches in the area, and the mall’s unpopularity makes it much easier to park, and contend with. Great location too. I have to admit I am surprised that what is now such a depressing mall (maybe only to those of us who remember how nice it used to be) can sustain a Lord & Taylor, but it sure does. I have been to this store several times over the past decade and it’s healthy customer traffic has always belied the sad state of the rest of the Fashion Center. In terms of demalling into freestanding stores being a “good idea”, I cannot agree, although I am aware that (and baffled that) my opinion is definately in the minority. I personally do not want to run between stores with my winter coat on. The Fashion Center was such a nice intimate mall to begin with that one never felt overwhelmed or intimidated by scale, as in the mammoth (and I feel opressive) Garden State Plaza. What I mean is, this mall is in theory great for quick in-out shopping. Maybe this answers my own question?? But the main mall concourse would seem to be a wonderful connecting passageway if nothing else, a convenience for shopper’s comfort who are running between stores. I just don’t get the demalling craze in the oh-so chilly northeast.

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  17. I went here today, and now there are only like 4 stores in the main part of the mall. Did Best Buy take up most of the hallway in the mall?

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  18. I remember this mall as a child from the 70’s-80’s. It was elegant, intimate, decorated beautifully at Christmas time and the FAO Schwartz had toys on display that you could play with like the electric dogs that yapped and wagged their tails, etc. My grandmother used to shop here and when she took us, I always had the feeling that it was ‘different’ and more ‘classy’ (ie: grandmotherly) than the other malls. We had to be on our best behavior and this led to me and my siblings making fun of it in high school by saying: ‘shall we go to Fashion Square?’ in a snobby voice. But the funny thing is, we still continued to go when we were able to drive in the late 80’s every now and again. Usually at Christmas time because it was not too crowded and easy to manage parking. This was a good mall to complement the craziness of Paramus Park during the holidays. Lord & Taylor had the most beautiful gift wrapping service and I used to love the fountains and the carpeting. It had a very peaceful, relaxing feeling. 10 years ago on a trip, I went to a mall in Houston that had a skating rink inside and for some reason, this unexpectedly reminded me of Fashion Square. Was it the buffered acoustics? Perhaps because the next time I ever saw carpeting in a local mall was at The Westchester in White Plains. It brought me back to the comfort feeling of Fashion Square. None compare, there really should be a book put together for this mall. It was in a class by itself!

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  19. After reading some comments above, it seems there is a discrepancy as to when the carpet was installed. It was not recent. However, I don’t live nearby and if there is really a ‘putting green’ type carpeting, that is replacing older. Because as far as I can remember, it was definitely carpeted in the 80’s. In the 70’s…maybe? I wish I could ask my grandmother. There needs to be a book on this gorgeous mall before people who can contribute pass on or move away from the area!

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  20. Can anyone tell me if they know anything about the TODD GALLERY that was open in this mall – any idea when it closed, and if it moved to another location? Have a piece of art with their label on it and was trying to find a date to go by since it’s not dated.

    Thanks

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    elise Reply:

    @Debbie, did you ever find anything out about the todd gallery? i have a similar issue. thanks!

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  21. Re: “The Fashion Center is in many ways a true cousin to Paramus Park, because it’s located on the same big parcel of land and is accessible from Paramus Park via internal roadways.”

    The fashion center isn’t connected to Paramus Park. There is a road (Winters Ave) and a large office building complex (Mack center) between the two.

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  22. Back in its heyday, Fashion Center was a classic as it fit the small mall pattern in Paramus. When B. Altman went out of business and closed their Fashion Center location (better than the one in Short Hills), the mall was doomed. True that Lord and Taylor was still successful, but with the size of land that mall was on, there was little chance it could expand and the only other way it could have attracted another upscale anchor at that time was to build a 2nd floor and design itself like the Mall at Chestnut Hill. Neiman Marcus was not ready for NJ at that time and all the current upscale anchors already had a Bergen Co location. I went in that Best Buy not too long ago and it was flat out depressing, knowing that it used to be a part of the interior of the mall.

    Lord and Taylor will continue to be open at this location as it is an excellent alternative for the northern Bergen County population to the traffic and congestion of Garden State Plaza (which just completed its 4th expansion with the opening of AMC, a new parking deck, a new wing and this month’s opening of Grand Lux Cafe).

    Speaking of Barney’s, they are opening a Co-op store at the Shops at Riverside this fall.

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  23. Yes the restaurant was the birdcage, iremember the one in Scarsdale always having good food.

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  24. In it’s day The Fasion Center was THE place for upscale shopping.
    It had the advantage of being enclosed more than a decade before the Short Hills Mall was enclosed and enlarged. The 2 anchors were full line stores both featuring extensive Furniture and Home Store departments, and both had great restaurants. B. Altman & Company’s large 3 level store was designed as a mini version of it’s famed 5th Avenue store complete with a Charlsten Gardens Dining Room, and wood flooring on it’s main level. Lod and Taylor featured it’s “Birdcage Dining Room”, this room then became The American Place Cafe, and now is the Larry Forigne Cafe. As famous as The Birdcage was, it’s decor, and menu was designed for the “Ladies Who Lunch” crowd and was frankly not a welcoming place for Men or Kids.

    In the palrking lot just to the south of Altman’s, was a building designed and fixtured for Best & Company. Best & Co., went out of business just as the building was finished, and it first sat empty, and was then run for a few years by the Britts Chain who opened it just as it was laid out for Best & Company. Later it became the Home Store for B. Altman, and today it housea a Toys R Us.

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    Michael Schaeffer Reply:

    @Ken, Where was the Furniture and Home Store departments located in Lord & Taylor?

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  25. They should open up a P.F. Changs, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Five Below, A.C. Moore, and more places and demall this place.

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    Dan Reply:

    @Joey, it is already de-malled completely

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  26. Isn’t it already demalled anyways?

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  27. Can anyone here provide an update on this mall? I no longer live in the area, but would be interested to see what is going on. Someone should stop by and take some photos and post an update. Mr. Labelscar?

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  28. I’m pleasantly surprised that this Lord & Taylor location never closed. There were two times in the recent past where I would have thought that this store was a goner: first, in 1996, when the chain opened a new store at the Garden State Plaza; and then, just a few years ago, when Lord & Taylor was in terrible shape. (Thankfully, the chain in now in the midsts of a remarkable comeback.)

    The Lord & Taylor location at The Fashion Center is by far the oldest in the state of NJ. It is also the only NJ location that originally opened as a Lord & Taylor if you exclude three stores that were built relatively recently: Freehold Raceway Mall, Garden State Plaza, and Moorestown Mall. All of the chain’s other NJ locations were former Hahne’s or Steinbach stores.

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  29. Max,

    You may notice that in Paramus many retailers have more than one store, L & T is just one of them.

    Macy’s 2
    Best buy 2
    Lenscrafters 5

    That is a short list,but you get the idea. Is this overkill or just a “Pinky & the Brain” situation. LOL.

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  30. Paramus’s traffic levels can get to the level of astronomical, especially during the holidays. I believe this is part of the reason that more than one store exist in the town. Paramus Park survives for no other reason than to provide an comfortable, less congested alternative to Garden State Plaza for the Northern Bergen County residents. Plus since companies see that their Paramus stores are #1 in the region (example: the GSP Nordstrom is #1 in the NE and has been since its opening) EVEN WITH THE BLUE LAWS, they’ll gladly open another.

    The Fashion Center’s design was outdated and since a viable upscale alternative did not open in B Altman’s place, the mall died in its orginal form. That Lord and Taylor is actually one of the more successful in the state and they’ll never give it up. And btw, Macy’s at one time had 3 locations in Paramus (4 if you include the Furniture Gallery in The Mall at IV).

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  31. The thing with 3 Macy’s in Paramus was a flook, you had Stern’s, A & S and Bamburgers, all being macy-ated at some point. Although Bamburgers was owned by Macy’s already. All they did was change the nameplate.

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  32. Lemme see,the only things I rember about this “Dump” is that play area called “Discovery Zone”
    And eating at the applebees(BTW the window seats looking out into the”dead zone” are creepy.).
    Yeah this place would be better as a strip mall.
    And for people who are afarid of a little snow I say awnings are a must for this “Strip mall” conpect.

    P.S SEAN You want over kill try 2 Gamespot’s in every mall LOL.

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  33. Gametop is strange, I don’t understand why they’d have more than 1 stor in a mall.

    Freehold has THREE.

    A Gamestop, an EB Games/Electronics Boutique, and a Planet X.

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  34. AceJay I have a theroy the floorplans at gamestops are very small so they other store shells to hold more stock.

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  35. That being said, I’m sure the rent for one slightly larger store would be cheaper than two tiny stores.

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  36. Actually, the primary reason, though not always, that there are multiple Gamestops in malls is from all the acquisitions there have been over the years with leases not yet up, either that or concept stores that have since gone by the wayside. For example, in Garden State Plaza, there originally was just a Babbages (Gamestop’s original name). In 1998 they opened the first Planet X store in the country, which was a newer concept. Right after in early 1999 EB opened their more upscale EBX concept as competition, and in late 1999 opened the country’s first EBKids store, also a test concept. In 2002 the EBKids concept was abandoned, the EBX name slowly phased out, and both stores were renamed EB Games. Sometime around this time the original Babbages closed, I’m not sure when. In 2005 the companies merged, leaving 3 in the same mall, and since none of the stores had the GameStop name, the former EBKids was quickly renamed. Confusing I know.

    The former EBKids seems to be the busiest of the three, and has a great location right near the carousel, so that was probably why it was chosen for renaming first. The former EBX and the Planet X are pretty close together, so when the leases start to come up, I wouldn’t be surprised if one goes. Both are kind of beat-up looking, so I’m sure the one that stays will get a remodel.

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  37. Went there tonight and what was left of the inside is gone.

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  38. Fairway market is now open in FC, and it’s loaded with all sorts of goodies.

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  39. The reason Lord & Taylor leaves this store (and many of its older (seemingly slow) stores open is primarily because it owns them. During the 60’s and 70’s, Lord and Taylor very agressively expanded to the suburbs in and around NY, NJ and Philadelphia. It was one of the first 5th Avenue Department stores to do so, and it has kept many of these stores open with little or no changes. Examples of other suburban L&T stores built during this period that are still operating outside of successful malls are Bala Cynwyd, PA and the one in Westchester (I think Scarsdale) and Garden City, Long Island. In Bala Cynwyd, the store shares a dillapadated strip mall with an Acme Supermarket!! But Lord and Taylor paid these stores off a long time ago and now these are essentially profit centers for them….and many of its well-heeled clientele certainly still live in and around the areas where these stores are. (the Bala Cynwyd store is right near Philly’s Main Line and Bryn Mawr areas, the Paramus store is close to the affluent Northern Bergen County suburbs and the Westchester and Garden City stores are in very well-to-do areas as well.) These stores are really cool examples of what department stores used to be, with their cafes and enormous square-footage and if you can, definitely get to one before they are gone.

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  40. Well into the 1970’s this mall was a snooty place, well above my mom’s middle of the road tastes, though I do remember her dragging me there a few times, including once to eat the fancy “french restaurant” known as “La Crepe.” It was a really a mid-line moderately priced table service restaurant that served crepes and salads, and looking back at it, it was really only a half a step up from a Chili’s or Coco’s. But at the time, it seemed a bit more posh to me, since out family’s usual dining out options consisted mainly of Howard Johnson’s or a local Greek-owned dineraunt. But I’m sure their target customer was a doctor’s wife from Ridgewood or a stockbroker’s wife from Saddle River who wanted to pick up one or two things from Lord and Taylor without making the drive all the way “into the city.” Over time, that type of customer vanished.

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  41. Fashion Center’s corridors are not open anymore, and the last corridor officially closed in summer 2008, for a new NYC based Fairway Market, which opened spring 2009

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  42. I worked for B. Altman & Co. around 1975 and remember Tom Vier who was the store mgr. then. If anyone who worked there remembers that wonderful store, send me your memories. I especially loved Christmas at Altman’s, and remember the people there so fondly. Would love to hear from any of them. Those were the happiest years of my life.

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    Joe McGuire Reply:

    @richard hultgren,
    Richard,
    I worked for B Altman from Christmas, 1976 to Christmas of 1987. I worked on the 3rd floor and loved it. I graduated college in 1976 and worked downtown but would run back to NJ 2 nights and every Saturday to keep my discount.
    I too think some of my happiest memories and fun times were had with my coworkers and customers.
    I miss Altman’s any time I go into a dept store.
    I know that many of the old-timers used to get together once a year but I am guessing that with time passed many are either gone from the area or passed on.
    Joe McGuire

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    Susan Becker Reply:

    @Joe McGuire,

    Hey Joe,

    Hope you remember me. Gosh how many years. Where are you? What are you up to? I still hear from Jean Cariello and Carol Uberti from time to time.

    Best,
    Susan Becker
    susanbeckerny@comcast.net

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    David P Reply:

    @Joe McGuire, Remember Mrs Brooks, the hostess at Charleston Gardens? What a lovely woman.

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    Susan Becker Reply:

    @richard hultgren,
    Hope you remember me, I remember you. I was at Altman’s from 1976 to 1984. I look back upon those years as some of the happiest of my professional life. It was a wonderful store full of great people. It is so long ago but I remember things very vividly. I search often for some of the people that I knew back then and have found few until now. I have kept in touch with a few people via Christmas cards. Two or three years ago after I had sent her the usual card, I received a note from Miriam Bross’ daughter in law that she had passed away. If you remember she was Tom Vier’s secretary. For well over twenty years she sent me a Birthday and Christmas card each and every year. She was a wonderful woman.

    Best,
    Susan Becker
    susanbeckerny@comcast.net

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  43. Does anyone know if Todd Gallery is still in business? They were once in the Lord and Taylor Mall in Paramus, NJ. I have an original watercolor purchased there about 30 years ago signed KRONISH and would like to get more info on it. Many thanks if you can help. I can be reched at HELNORN@YAHOO.COM, Melbourne, Florida.

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  44. CORRECTION: MY E-MAIL IS: HELNORM@YAHOO.COM. THANKS!

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  45. Hi,

    I remember this mall well. When I was a kid. How fancy and high class. Rogers Peet, Georg Jensen. I have a question. There was a sort of luncheonette sandwich shop. In the mall area. It made the best tuna salad. We always called the cheeserie. It had those iron ice cream parlor chairs. Does anyone remember this place or the name?

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    John Reply:

    @Ben,

    The restaurant was originally Schrafft’s. That changed at some point (1970s probably) when Schrafft’s got out of the restaurant business and concentrated on ice cream distribution.

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  46. Hi,

    I’m 52 remember this mall vividly. Does anyone remember the Charleston Garden? It had the best tuna salad. Wish I had the recipe! Now for the question of the day. Does anyone rember the name of that restaurant in the mall. With the metal ice cream parlor chairs. It had the ultimate tuna dalad. You can tell I love tuna! We always called it the Cheeserie. Also the beautiful winding staircase. We used to pretend. It was our own mansion!

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  47. @Ben Koffler, I’m pretty sure you are referring to the “Le Crepe” restaurant, which was in the center of the mall near the fountain.

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  48. Facade work is going on with the Bed, Bath and Beyond/TJmaxx front door.

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    Mr.D Reply:

    @Mr.D,
    It seems that this glass facade is going to hold an elevator bank, that goes to the third floor. And yes the third floor was lit up last night so I’m thinking something is going in there soon.

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    Mr.D Reply:

    @Mr.D, Buy Buy Baby is going up on the 3rd floor.

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