Arnot Mall; Horseheads (Elmira), New York

Center court at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY

Elmira’s Arnot Mall was perhaps my favorite of the malls I visited on my recent jaunt through upstate New York. The long, twisty center had several distinctly different areas built in separate eras, including some rather irregularly-shaped courts, surprise corridors, and even a few oddly-justified anchor frontages.

Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NYThe Arnot Mall is located just west of Elmira, New York in the town of Horseheads, along NY-17 (future I-86) in the central portion of New York State’s “Southern Tier” region. Chris, one of our readers, graciously offered some history on the Arnot Mall: The mall opened in 1967 as “The Mall” and originally included Iszard’s, a local department store chain with stores in Downtown Elmira and Downtown Ithaca, along with JCPenney and 40 small stores. MallsofAmerica has an excellent vintage photo of the mall in its original state, complete with the classic JCPenney logo. In 1980, the mall underwent a very significant expansion that more than doubled the center’s size, added a new wing that was longer than the original mall, a second level food court, and Sears, Bradlees, and Hess as new anchors while renaming the center as the “Arnot Mall.” There was also an indoor mini golf course! The new Arnot Mall held 120 stores spread across 1,050,000 square feet.

Iszard’s eventually became McCurdy’s, who were ultimately bought out by The Bon Ton. The Bon Ton also bought out Hess in 1994, but the mall today has only one Bon Ton: the former Hess became a Kaufmann’s and ultimately a Macy’s. Take a look at the mall directory:

Arnot Mall Directory

I got the clear sense that the western portion of the mall, the strange “T” wing with JCPenney and the Bon Ton, was much older than the remainder of the mall (this section also held a strangely-oriented Olympia Sports with an external entrance–possibly a former Woolworth or McCrory’s?). The remainder of the mall represents the 1980 expansion. Bradlees left in early 2001, and their space today is occupied by Burlington Coat Factory.

Bradlees Logo

Arnot Mall seems to do relatively well (despite some vacancies, mostly on the Sears wing) by virtue of being the only major enclosed shopping center for miles around, but I enjoyed it for its architecture. The mall’s large, airy center court features a second level food court and movie theatre, along with a Friendly’s restaurant whose dining room overlooks directly into the mall’s first level. The center court includes a stately old-fashioned clock (like the ones that used to be so common in classic malls) set on the side of a fountain, and the planters and conversation pits set in front of anchor stores only add to the ambiance. In addition, the strange orientation of Olympia Sports against the mall (Look at the floorplan and note how, when walking down the main corridor, it ends at Olympia Sports. Their dramatic interior facade makes them look like an anchor store; a truly unusual design element).

It was a cool little mall. I’m glad I went out of my way for it.

I’ve organized the photos below into three groups so they make the most sense. The first group is of the mall’s exterior, moving from the 1980 expansion backward towards the original 1967 portion:

Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY

Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY

The next group is of the interior of the 1980 expansion:

Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Macy's at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY

Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Burlington Coat Factory at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Center court at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Fountains and center court view at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY

Clock and center court view at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Center court from the second level at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY
And the last group is of the original, 1967 portion of the mall that spanned between JCPenney and Iszard’s:

Heading towards older wing from center court at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY

Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY

Author: Caldor

Jason Damas is a search engine marketing analyst and consultant, and a freelance journalist. Jason graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and a minor in Music Industry. He has regularly contributed to The Boston Globe,, Amplifier Magazine, All Music Guide, and 168 Magazine. In addition, he was a manager for a record store for over two years. Currently, he focuses on helping companies optimize their web sites to maximize search engine visibility, and is responsible for website conversion analysis, which aims to improve conversion rates by making e-commerce websites more user-friendly. He lives in suburban Boston.

42 thoughts on “Arnot Mall; Horseheads (Elmira), New York”

  1. I like this mall. It’s no show-stopper, but you won’t see it on every corner either.

  2. I wanted to drive 5 hours here to see the ancient Toys R Us located around the mall. Supposedly, it’s older than the only other old-style store in Clay (NY) and even has the throwback 1980’s brown road pilon. Maybe one day…

  3. It was one of the first malls I ever went to, that and the Oakdale Mall, which I’m sure will be shown here soon. I have fond memories of that mini-golf course (now the enterance of the movie theater complex) and the food court, since it was such a big thing when the expansion happened. The Olympia Sports location was a McCrory’s (Now you mentioned it here, the memory of it kicked in) and after its demise became a Klein’s All Sports for several years until the growth of the Dick’s chain put all the Klein’s out of business.

    Another thing that happened here was that in the late 80’s/early 90’s there was a fire that caused a fair amount of damage to the mall near the Sear’s area.

  4. I went to this mall on spring break (I drove there alone from plymouth nh) and sam goody’s was closing and burlington coat wasn’t yet opened. the mall had a 2 level cinema and an upper level food court. the mall was dingy in some areas. Toys r us across the street looks old and I asked a clerk when it opened and he said he was told 1988 or 1989.

  5. I noticed the Famous Labels store. Can someone please tell me why I can’t find an official website or anything on Famous Labels? I’ve seen their stores in many malls.

  6. Nice shopping mall, unfortunately it looks kind of vacant,and dark.

    Looks like some of the lightbulbs are burnt out in some pics,can’t they at least keep the mall in a some type of decent condition?

  7. Vacant and dark it is; in some regions of it (especially in the Bon-Ton/JCPenney original wing). I visited this mall recently and I must say; it’s still a gem. It’s a really nice, cozy mall that time hasn’t toyed with like many malls we grew up in. I especially liked the upper level food court and cinema overlooking the clock center court – I do however think it should’ve been more decorated to promote a more stay-and-relax setting.

    I’ve got about 100+ pictures of the mall inside and out; I didn’t seem to have any issues with security (not sure if they cared) when I brought along my subcompact camera. I also came around here taking interior shots at night on a Wednesday when the mall was practically dead. Luckilly, this mall has barely any cameras and lots of blind corners to forecast and or dodge security.

    What really keeps this place lively is the area around it and the fact that you’ll be driving many miles to find a competing mall. I’ll tell ya, if developers come out here and build something greater, this mall could be in very big trouble and I’d hate to see that happen.

    Oh yeah, and here’s that really old Toys R Us across the street I was talking about before… (scroll towards the bottom).

  8. Catch is, there’s not much within 30 miles in any direction, plus Chemung County (where the mall is located) has been declining in population for years. The one thing that was helping that location was the building of Consumer Square (across 17/I 86) from the mall, but now many of those stores are located in other places in the area, particularly in Ithaca (30 miles northwest of this mall).

  9. I want to visit this mall but before i do i wanna know what stores are in it and if its worth my time?!?! can someone help?

  10. so i read about this website a couple of weeks ago in boston’s weekly dig, and decided to check out the website and see if you’d reviewed my hometown mall, and you had! i grew up in horseheads, and i even worked in the waldenbooks there when i was in highschool! for being placed in such a poor, rural area, this is still one of my favorite malls. i even remember the fire from the early 90s that someone commented about eariler. i was on my way to the mall with my parents who wanted to buy me new shoes, and i remember we got to the parking lot and saw the smoke and fire trucks at bradlees, so we went home. i was a little kid, so i remember being really pissed that i didn’t get my new shoes that day.

    also, the toys r us across the street is really excellent. huge and very retro looking.

    it actually makes me feel really old to be able to say that i remember izards and miss it. although the one in downtown elmira was way better than the one in the mall. once izards in elmira closed, its been impossible for elmira to get any businesses to stay in the area. it might be an interesting case study to check out the history of businesses in downtown elmira, and how much they florished throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s, and then how the flood in 72 made everyone leave the area, and bringing about the eventual closing of izards in the early 90s and the complete desertion of downtown elmira.

  11. In your mall you have a store called the sunglasses hut. Well let me just tell you that you have an amazing employee by the name of jen huffner. Man is she hott!!! Tener Management did a great job hiring!! Keep up the good work.

  12. Hi.
    Good design, who make it?

  13. As a former of Corning up the road in Corning (!) I used to spend a fair amountof time in the Arnott Mall, wiling away jet lag out of hours or waiting till it was ok to meet with my girlfriend Karen who lives in Painted Post. Nice variety of shops ( stores – I’m British) and my Mum used to love me bringing back those Fanny Farmer chocolates – the miniature ones. Great memories of it all and I spent a lot of time and money there.

    The only shop that seemed out of place was that pet shop…

  14. Dec. 18, 2007, there was a church performing at Macy’s entrance.
    The sound quality was so poor, nothing could be understood.
    I was embarrassed for them and then to find out that it was the sound equipment that you provided & made them use.
    What a disgrace to the name of Arnot Mall.
    You discriminated against them, what do you do to other?
    You have no pride in quality that you offer to the public that shop in your stores.
    I am utterly disgusted with the way you treated a memeber of our society.

  15. Uh… I live in Horseheads. Our mall sucks. Like.. it’s dirty. It’s Small. And it’s where all the local teenagers hang out to smoke. I dont understand why it would be such a “great” mall.

  16. Arnot Mall is my favorite mall.I grew up up there and Live in Florida now and I miss my favorite mall.I have never found another mall I like quite as much as I did that one.I loved the way the elevator took you upstairs to eat seperate from all the rest of the mall and the glass elevator they had back then..(don’t know if they still have it).I see now they have alot classier stores then they did back then. We don’t have Macys or Burlington Coat Factory here.I miss Rosenbaughms that was there when my husband and I were in the area yet..will never forget discovering Estee Lauder Youth Dew there when we were teens..Still visit there when I get home.So many memories of that mall and the kids being afraid of the glass elevator and all the memories of shopping with family who still live there in Elmira and Corning area…Oh the good ole days!!!!!

  17. I miss Bradlees, there was something so seemingly innocent, and nostalgic about that store when it was in business that I just can’t put a finger on, heck it’s probably the same reason they went out of business,heh.

    BTW, IMO Burlington Coat Factory is downright boring, I deeply dislike that store. yuck.

    Although it seems from that photo it looks like they kept the Bradlees ceiling.hehe.

  18. this mall is great! i’ve been there before, and its not dingy at all…its very nice.

  19. I remember this mall before the 1980 expansion. I was only 10 years old when the expansion occured, but I remember it well. The two big stores were an Izards and Pennys.

    The sports store was a McCrorys. In front of the McCrorys was a small stage with a series of ramps…Santa would hold court there every year.

    I also remember the fountains…they had colored spotlights and were absolutely magical to me as a child. I don’t remember what was in the bottom of the the T (where it opens into the 1980 expansion) but I remember there was a set of theaters. I also remember the Baskin Robbins on the corner (same corner as the Theater) and the Spencer Gifts a few doors down towards Pennys.

  20. I remember a grocery store at the bottom of the T before the 1980 expansion. I think its name was Great American.. You’d turn the corner, pass Baskin Robbins on your left and stroll down this short stubby hallway to get to the grocery. There was a Marjax sporting goods store along this hall and I think it was the same era as the Great American. You could also access it from a parking lot in the “back” of the mall. I seem to remember that the parking lot was not fully paved.

    There were actually two expansions. I couldn’t swear to the dates, but the first expansion removed the grocery and pushed through to the center court. The food court opened then and, I think, Bradlees. A second expansion followed only a few years later and that’s when Sears was added.

  21. I am living in the area of this mall and being born, bred and raised here I must say that there are a ton of things to do in the area. We have just up the way, Harris Hill, the Soaring Capital of the World with gliders. Hang gliders fly off the backside. We are home to Ernie Davis, Hal Roach(director of the original Little Rascals), Sullivan’s Monument, Eileen Collins, Hal Brokaw, Samuel Clemmens and his wife are buried here (in case you forgot that is Mark Twain), and many others. This region is home to Watkins Glen International Raceway….for the infamous Bud at the Glen before they changed the name. We were the site of the civil war prison camp, Helmira….and several other historic things. You just have to know where to look and get with someone who knows the area and the fun things to find.

  22. Hello, I wish to thank Ms. Clarke, Manager of
    BonTon/Horseheads,NY…for her extremely
    efficient and very personable help with a
    BonTon billing matter at the Horseheads, NY,
    store location on Tuesday, June 22, 2010.
    She stayed at my side until I was completely satisfied with a phone call request to BonTon’s
    billing agency. She was very kind and helpful!
    Thank you BonTon for employing her as manager..
    I hope this thank you will find the way to her…
    barbara dick
    BonTon customer

  23. I grew up going to the Arnot mall. I remember the fire that was mentioned. It was caused by a hair dryer and it occured in a leather store. I remember this because I remember Carl Proper being on wetm news telling about it. I also remember When they built Kauffman’s which is now Macy’s. Does anyone remember the gliders that hung from the ceiling in center court by the elevator to get upstairs to the food court? I also remember the Organ/ Piano store that as a kid you didn’t dare go into because you where afraid of the people that worked there that you may get yelled at….

  24. I need some help with a little bit of Mall trivia. Many , many years ago – when I was young (I’m 50 now) there was a restaurant at “The Mall” in Horseheads, NY. It was located in the area that Ruby Tuesdays is at now. This was way before the expansion. They served steak, seafood etc. I am trying to remember the name and can not for the life of me remember.

    Anyone out there remember?

  25. I work at the Famous Labels in the Arnot Mall and I am just curious to know what that store used to be? It is huge, open, and the whole front wall is glass. It is located in the older wing between Spencers and JCP.

  26. I grew up in Big Flats, about a mile from the mall. There was originally a house, and I believe it was a one-room school house, that sat on the site where the mall was built in the 60s. In order to build the mall, the house was moved to the corner of Kahler Road and County Route 64 where it still sits.

    I got my ears pierced at Rosenbaum’s in the old section of the mall, and I worked at Foxmoors in the new section near the elevator when it opened in 1980. Most of my friends worked in one store or the other, and my older brother worked for a while at the movie theater (I remember being shocked that they were open 365 days a year!). The restaurant/bar that was near Iszard’s was the Flaming Pit.

    That part of the country is beautiful and has a lot to offer in terms of things to do and see, but it has never come back after the flood after Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The town of Corning had Corning Glass Works behind it, and CGW did a great job to keep Corning and the small businesses alive. Unfortunately, Elmira and Horseheads did not have the same support. And the devastation was incredible.

    Many things have changed up there over the past few years. 17 is now 86, and a good portion of 86 has been re-routed and changed. Rather than driving through the towns of Horseheads and Corning, now you just pass by them. There was a commercial development (I believe it was called Consumers Square) done at the corner of Chambers Road (the road the mall is on) and County Route 64 (about 1/2 mile from the mall) several years ago. This included a WalMart, a Sam’s Club, a Dicks Sporting Goods, and several other stores along with a grocery store.

    In the past couple of years, Consumers Square has turned into a ghost town because WalMart closed their store there and built a huge store closer to Horseheads (where the old A&P plant sat empty for years). Many other stores have opened up closer to the new WalMart. I don’t know how this has changed things at the Mall, but I know it’s still open and in business.

    I don’t think it’s anywhere near as nice as it was back in the 80s, however. Thanks for all the memories.

  27. @Joanne, I think the restaurant you’re thinking of was called the Flaming Pit. It was in the mall down near the Iszard’s store. Think that was it?

  28. Going out to the Flaming Pit was a big deal back in the 70’s. We dressed up and made a night of it. The Flaming Pit had an elaborate brick facade on it’s outside entrance which made it very distinctive. The Ruby Tuesday’s there today still makes use of it.

    The mall is located just a few hundred yards from the end of the main runway of the Elmira Corning Regional Airport and large aircraft take off and land just a few hundred feet over the mall. I remember hearing that a small plane coming in for a landing clipped the Flaming Pit facade and knocked some bricks off with it’s landing gear. That might have been a story though.

    Someone else mentioned the old record store located by Penny’s and as I recall it was just called “The Record Store”, or something similar. It’s a recruiting post for all branches of the military now.

    The original Waldenbooks just closed last year or so. It dated back to the original mall opening in the late 60’s.

  29. Does anyone remember the name restaurant that came after the flaming pit, it was in the 80s. It had lots of plants and peacock chairs.

  30. @Jessika- Famous Labels used to be a maternity shop in the late 80’s and early 90’s I think Mothercare?

  31. @Jay: The supermarket was called Loblaws.

  32. i believe that the restaurant was “maxwells”. there was actually a cafeteria style italian restaurant at the entrance of ruby tuesdays as well.

    as far as the famous label store, there were a few stores in that spot originally. cannot recall what they were, but i believe that they were womens clothing stores.

  33. @Rodney,
    The Flaming Pit was there first and then it was redone into Maxwells. Same owner. I worked at both of them. The Italian place at the corner where Ruby Tuesday is now was called Luigis, also the same owner as Maxwell and I worked there as well.


  35. FWIW, the center court with the clock tower reminds me of Penn Can mall in Clay (just north of Syracuse) which is now the Driver’s Village auto dealership. I wonder if they ownership was the same? There are other upstate NY malls that are, or at least were when built, twins to one another like that (Finger Lakes in Auburn and Sangertown Square near Utica, and to an extent the mall in Ithaca, for instance, all originally very similar through the food court and with their brick and tile work).

  36. My wife and I used to live in Horseheads about 1 mile from the mall during the 80’s before we moved to Washington State. We loved that area back then. We went to the mall almost daily after work during cold weather because there really was not much else to do in the winter. Someone mentioned Maxwell’s restaurant. We went there a lot, sat in the bar area that resembled a very nice Pub, and had great food and drink. We loved it. Nothing in Washington has replaced those memories yet. Upstate NY and especially the small town of Elmira and the Arnot Mall has a special charm.

    The mall was great back then. Izard’s and Hess’s department stores were wonderful places to shop. My wife also liked Rosenbaum’s for her clothes. I also remember the fire that started at the shoe store near Hess’s department store. We were afraid or one thing to do in Horseheads on a cold winter night was lost. The Hess’s department store manager told us that a firewall saved his store from destruction.

    Back then, we never would have guessed that the Chambers Road area would be built up so much as it has. We moved to Elmira in 1981 during a very hard economic time for the area as the A&P plant just closed. We thought it would never recover. We stopped by the mall last summer (2013) after being gone for 23 years. We could not believe the growth. Amazing.

  37. @Joanne,

    I think it was Maxwell’s.

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