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.
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.
I 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.