This past weekend, I accomplished something semi-remarkable: With a swing through Southern New Jersey, I visited every mall in New Jersey–a state known for its malls, and a project that took six years to complete. Of course, I’m not kidding myself: New Jersey is truly the land of malls, and given how densely populated and suburban the state is, there has got to be some small enclosed malls hidden amongst the state’s thick nest of freeways. If you know of some particularly obscure malls anywhere in the state, then let me know.
On Sunday night, I spent the night on the boardwalk in exciting Atlantic City, New Jersey, meaning that I got an early Monday morning jump on the southernmost part of the state, including the Shore Mall, located in Egg Harbor Township just on the mainland side of Atlantic City. Unlike most malls in New Jersey, Shore Mall is worn out and showing its age. I was unable to find a concrete date for when the mall opened, but judging by the architecture I would lean towards the early 1970s (or possibly the late 1960s), and it clearly hasn’t received any major upgrades since. It was visibly built to serve the then-already-poor Atlantic City area, and in the intervening years has been bypassed by the middle class who has moved further out from the blighted, high-crime inner city in favor of suburbs like Hamilton, home of the larger and more modern Hamilton Mall. The Shore Mall’s current anchor stores are Boscov’s (purportedly the highest-grossing outlet in the chain!), Value City, and Burlington Coat Factory, the latter two of which tend to be signs of a dying mall. The Value City store was originally one of many locations of Asbury Park-based department store chain Steinbach (who has long fascinated me–I’d love to know more about them) and the Burlington Coat Factory was, until 2000 or so, a Clover location. There was also a KG Mens Wearhouse store attached to the outside of the Burlington Coat Factory, but their building was clearly a former Circuit City.
Architecturally, the building isn’t terribly distinct: there are three anchor stores lined up along the side closest to the Black Horse Turnpike, with a long, straight hallway leading back from between the Burlington Coat Factory and Boscov’s stores to the Value City store in the rear. The massive parking lot is pock-marked and trash-strewn. Large swaths of the space seem disused.
The same space, occupied in 2006 by Value City:
The Shore Mall was sold in January of 2006–I’m not able to find who sold it to whom, strangely–and the new owners announced that their plan was to disenclose the mall within three years. Given the nearby, prosperous Hamilton Mall–located in a safer area and in far better physical condition–this may be an unavoidable conclusion. The demographics of the immediate surrounding area are not strong, and many have concerns about safety in the area. We may be saying goodbye to this graying, crumbling relic before long, so if you find that you’re in the area, take the time to spin by.
Historic 1986 shots of former Sears and JCPenney stores, currently occupied by Boscov’s and Burlington Coat Factory/KG Men’s Wearhouse: