If you’ve been following along, you know that about three weeks ago I took a big trip down to New Jersey for the weekend to try and see the last of the malls that I hadn’t yet visited. The last one I grabbed before coming home was this one, and it was somewhat on a hunch: I didn’t even know for sure that it was enclosed.
Hidden in the hills northwest of Paterson, the Wayne Hills Mall is a small enclosed shopping center in a shopping district located amidst a densely populated and largely residential section of suburban Wayne, New Jersey. Unlike Wayne’s other malls, the Wayne Hills Mall is far from major highways and was clearly always intended as a smaller, more convenient mall to serve residents in the immediate surrounding area. Together with the neighboring Preakness Shopping Center–which hosts a standalone Macy’s (former Stern’s), amongst much else–it provides a decent amount of retail space to residents of the area without trekking to the larger malls to the south.
This little, T-shaped mall was anchored by Meyer Brothers, a small local chain department store described as being like Stern’s (and which is now occupied by a Burlington Coat Factory), and a Kmart that is accessible only via an external promenade across the parking lot. The mall also counted Child World (closed 1992) and a Pathmark Supermarket (closed 2001) as anchors in the past. The floorplan at Wayne Hills Mall is strange, essentially there is a small enclosed mall that, at the center’s eastern end, leads to an outdoor promenade that crosses to a strip mall with a Kmart and a gym. It’s very strange (you can see it in the pictures) but pretty neat, and a good example of how to integrate strip-center uses and an enclosed mall.
…or at least it would be, if the mall had any stores. As you can tell from these photos, there isn’t much going on at the Wayne Hills Mall anymore (I’d say it qualifies as a “dead mall“). While the mall is in good shape, due to a (seemingly recent) renovation, there are very few stores still operating in the mall’s interior, and almost no patrons walking around. See these photos? They weren’t taken at 10 at night; it was seven, and during the Christmas shopping season. Ouch.
One of our readers, who often posts here with the moniker “DayGlo!,” was helpful in piecing together some of the history of the Wayne Hills Mall, and sent me some great stories about the way it used to be. I want to include some of her email below:
The weird thing about Wayne Hills Mall, to me, was that the dead mall aura hung over it long before it actually died. Neighboring Preakness Shopping Center, a leviathan in the days before big box centers came into vogue, always seemed much busier despite being open-air. Still, the mall was well-situated enough that it did okay. I don’t remember the names of a lot of the smaller stores simply because it’s been a looooooooong time since I’ve been to that mall, but even when businesses left, they were replaced pretty quickly. At one point, there was a sit-down restaurant/coffee shop whose name evades me, but one of my mom’s friends worked there as a waitress, so trips there usually meant free ice cream. Pretty sure it was gone by the time I started high school. There was a store called Peacock Fashions, which was like Hot Topic before there was a Hot Topic. It was the place to go for band shirts, posters, and other “head shop”-type stuff the chain music stores wouldn’t touch. That closed when I was in high school. There was also a Select-a-Ticket outlet, which got my patronage in high school; there were no Ticketron or (later) TicketMaster outlets where I lived, and Select-a-Ticket always scored the good seats anyway, albeit at a price. Other than that, lots of mall basics. I’m nearly positive that the Foxmoor where I got my Michael Jackson jacket back in the day was in that mall. I remember a Sam Goody moving in at some point when I was in late grade school or high school, and I’m pretty sure there was a Kinney Shoes. Meyer Brothers was the anchor. A small local chain, it was comparable to Stern’s (which was in the Preakness Shopping Center before the rebranding) or Hahne’s (which Rockaway’s Lord and Taylor was in its previous incarnation) — not quite on the same level as Macy’s, but more upscale than Sears and J.C. Penney. At one point, there were three stores listed on the bags — Wayne Hills, Paterson, and somewhere else I don’t remember. The downtown Paterson store remained the flagship even after the Wayne Hills store opened. It stayed open long past the point where the other big department stores pulled out of the inner cities, but was destroyed in a fire in 1991. The Wayne Hills store closed maybe a couple years after that. I was kinda surprised that none of the retail juggernauts offered to buy out the store, as the surrounding area is very well-off and has the purchasing power to support more upscale retail, but that didn’t happen. The outlot stores included Fayva Shoes, KMart (which the store locator indicates is still there), and Child World (which is a Toys R Us now, even though the Totowa store is only 5 or 6 miles away and huge in comparison). What always struck me as odd was that there was a Kmart by Wayne Hills and a comparably sized S.S. Kresge in Preakness well into the ’80s, if not the ’90s. I thought all of the latter stores were rebranded to the former long before.