With 1.4 million square feet of retail space, The Mall at Greece Ridge is the largest shopping center in metro Rochester. Located in the suburb of Greece, about 8 miles northwest of downtown Rochester, Greece Ridge is a sprawling, Z-shaped one level mall, with 140 stores and restaurants and space for 16 anchors. Greece Ridge’s trajectory, from a two separate enclosed malls to the monster it is today, is an interesting and unique story worth sharing.
In 1966, Rochester-based developer Wilmorite began construction on the first of its four enclosed regional malls in the area. Called Greece Towne Mall, it opened May 1, 1967, and was the second enclosed mall in all of greater Rochester after Midtown Plaza, which opened downtown in 1962. It was located at the corner of NY 104 (Ridge Road) and Long Pond Road, in Greece, New ork, a growing post-war suburb of Rochester.
Greece Towne Mall was anchored by a 2-level, 150,000 square-foot Rochester-based Sibley’s department store, National Clothing Company, and a Loblaw’s supermarket. Complementing the main anchors were juniors David’s apparel and G.C. Murphy.
Here’s a vintage shot of the Sibley’s store and the east side of the mall, courtesy Malls of America:
Greece Towne Mall was a small mall, even by 1969 standards. It was designed with a T-shaped corridor, and center court featured a faux water feature called Wonderfall, which consisted of a statue-like thing surrounded by shimmering red fabric (or lights?) meant to mimic flowing water coming from the ceiling. To me, it looks like an elaborately hideous trophy being protected by lasers so it doesn’t get stolen, but you can use your imagination. It’s gone now, because it was apparently too cool to be there, but here’s a photo of it courtesy vintageviews.org:
Here’s what they have there now. The holiday decor is nice, but I imagine this is soulless and boring the rest of the year. At least it’s better than a blank tile floor.
And, just for fun, here’s a vintage shot of the north court at Greece Towne, from Malls of America:
And here’s a similar shot below in 2007 from a little ways down the same corridor, looking the same direction. The flowers-on-poles statement (is it a fountain? art?) that was there before is gone, and has been replaced by nothing. Just an empty tile floor. Whatever it was, it was pretty cool. Seriously. This is why people hate malls now. /endrant
Just as Wilmorite was busy dedicating Greece Towne Mall in 1969, McCurdy’s, another venerable Rochester-based department store, decided to also join the party in Greece by opening a 2-level, 116,000 square-foot free-standing store to the north of Sears, on October 2, 1969.
Next, McCurdy’s went a step further and decided to build an enclosed mall of its own, entirely separate from and directly adjacent to Greece Towne Mall. Right next to the already-open Greece Towne Mall, McCurdy’s built Long Ridge Mall, named after the adjacent intersection of Ridge Road (NY 104) and Long Pond Road, to connect their new McCurdy’s store to a Sears.
Some confusion here: I’ve now seen or heard four different dates the Sears supposedly opened. Wikipedia, mall-hall-of-fame, and others have said Sears opened as a stand-alone store predating both malls in 1959, while others have said Sears opened around the time Long Ridge Mall opened in 1971. I called the store myself and was told that it opened in 1967. What’s the right answer? See the thread in the comments for more details.
Long Ridge Mall opened in 1971, connecting Sears and McCurdy’s with a corridor of in-line stores between them. Long Ridge Mall also featured a 2-level, 123,000 square-foot J.B. Hunter discount store near the middle of the mall, along with Rochester-based B. Forman and Woolworth’s as junior anchors. Long Ridge was also significantly larger than its neighbor Greece Towne.
J.B. Hunter didn’t last long at Long Ridge Mall. In 1973, the retailer went out of business; however, it was swiftly replaced with Rochester’s first full-line JCPenney.
During the 1980s, the two adjacent Grecian malls competed with each other, and with metro Rochester’s other malls for shopper dollars and loyalty: Midtown Plaza, which opened in 1962 in downtown Rochester; Eastview Mall, which opened in 1971 in southeast-suburban Victor; and Marketplace Mall, which opened in 1982 in south-suburban Henrietta and became the area’s largest mall as soon as it debuted.
Greece Towne Mall also expanded in the 1980s, adding 10 more stores to the south end of the mall, giving it a cross shape. A 1-level 110,000 square-foot Gold Circle discount store, which was short-lived, was also added in the expansion. The Gold Circle chain was sold and dismantled in 1988, and the Greece Towne location became discounter Hills, and later on Caldor. In addition, a London Fog store (?) also operated as a mini-anchor at Greece Towne Mall, before closing and being split into Marshall’s and Michael’s in the late 1990s.
During the 1990s, both anchor changes and a major expansion would transform both Long Ridge Mall and Greece Towne Mall into the behemoth that exists today. In addition, Wilmorite brought a new mall, Irondequoit Mall, to Rochester’s retail scene in 1990, and expansion efforts transformed the average Eastview Mall across town into an upscale super-regional mega-mall seemingly overnight in 1995.
In 1990, the first of many anchor changes occurred at the two malls, when Sibley’s at Greece Towne Mall became Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann’s after May bought Sibley’s in 1986 and decided to consolidate nameplates 4 years later.
Sometime in the early 1990s, Wilmorite, which already owned Greece Towne Mall, acquired neighboring Long Ridge Mall with big plans in mind. In 1993, Wilmorite began constructing an enclosed corridor connecting the two malls, creating the largest mall in Rochester in the process. Opened in 1994, the new construction added over 50 stores and restaurants, including a 9-bay food court and a new 2-level, 164,000 square-foot JCPenney. The older malls were also extensively renovated to match, as best they could, the decor of the newer connection.
As part of the renovation, many works of public art in Long Ridge Mall were needlessly destroyed. For many years, Long Ridge Mall was home to over 40 works of public art on permanent display, designed by the mall’s architect, David William Bermant. These included a large kinetic ball sculpture and others, and most of these were thrown in the trash by Wilmorite when they gave the mall a uniform look. I’m not sure how this beats this? I would much rather shop, and linger, in the latter.
Many other changes came along with connecting Greece Towne Mall to Long Ridge Mall, the first of which being the mall’s name. Both of the old malls’ names were scrapped, and a new name was chosen: The Mall at Greece Ridge Center.
Second, many anchor changes took place around the time the malls were sewn together. The old JCPenney was subdivided between Burlington Coat Factory on the upper level, and Boston-based Lechmere on the lower level. Woolworth’s also closed around this time, and was replaced by Pittsburgh-based Dick’s Sporting Goods. B. Forman and Loblaw’s closed too, and McCurdy’s was rebranded as Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann’s. Kaufmann’s parent May bought McCurdy’s, and due to antitrust issues, Kaufmann’s was not allowed to rebrand both Sibley’s and McCurdy’s stores as May plates, so May chose to move Kaufmann’s from the old Sibley’s store in Greece Towne Mall to the better location in the former McCurdy’s. Bon Ton moved into the old Sibley’s store, and operates there to this day.
Other big box anchors opened at Greece Ridge in the mid- to late-1990s, while a couple closed. They included Michael’s (1999), Marshall’s (?), Bed Bath & Beyond (1998), and Circuit City (1998) in the former Greece Towne Mall wing, and Dick’s Sporting Goods (1994), Kaufmann’s Home Store (1998), Barnes & Noble (?), and Old Navy (1994) in the former Long Ridge Mall wing. About the same time all of these stores opened, Caldor closed, and was replaced by a new Hoyt’s 12-plex movie theater in 1999. Lechmere closed too, in 1997.
The presence of all these box stores as anchors is an innovative way to use up space in a mall that is probably too big to effectively and successfully use the same space for smaller in-line shops. However, the former Greece Towne Mall corridors feel a bit barren due to the facades of the box stores, and the overall tone of the mall changes quite a bit between the barren, darker former Greece Towne Mall section and the newer, vervier 1994-95 addition.
The 2000s have been tantamount to success at Greece Ridge. In late 2000, a stand-alone 124,000 square-foot Target was added in the parking lot near Sears, and is considered part of the mall complex. In 2005, Burlington Coat Factory swapped space with the former Lechmere store, which had been located beneath it and was vacant since its closure in 1997. Also in 2005, Macerich acquired Wilmorite and the mall dropped the word ‘Center’ from its name.
An anchor change took place in 2006, as both Kaufmann’s and Kaufmann’s Home Store got eaten by Macy’s after May Company was sold to Macy’s parent, Federated, who consolidated all of the former May banners to Macy’s. Finally, Circuit City, in the former Greece Towne wing of the mall, closed in 2009 when that chain flopped.
Today, Greece Ridge is a successful top-tier mall, and is both the largest and second best mall in the Rochester region, after Eastview. With three traditional anchors and many box store anchors, Greece Ridge is able to hold on to its size and still be successful. Without the box anchors, there would probably be too much space in the mall to fill, but having them both creates traffic and uses up space.
I visited Greece Ridge in December 2007 and took the pictures featured here, obviously sans the vintage ones that were taken before I was born. I really liked the franken-mall feel of this one, and even despite efforts to make the center uniform, there are definitely three separate tones the mall takes as you go through the long and winding corridors. The middle of the mall definitely feels (and is) newest, and is the vervey heart and soul of the mall. The design is very typical of modern Wilmorite, with the A-frame and skylight over the middle of the corridor, and the ancillary design accoutrements like the hidden mickeys and lighted archways. And, while the ancillary wings aren’t dead, the presence of many box stores leave some areas feeling a bit barren, especially in the old Greece Towne wing. As usual, feel free to leave your own comments, reactions, and experiences.
Elsewhere on the web:
- Mall-hall-of-fame’s write-up of these malls
- A fansite about dead Rochester retail, with articles and many photos of the old malls