The Fairgrounds Square Mall is one of two major malls serving the Reading, Pennsylvania area. Fairgrounds Square is located on the northern edge of the city between the Allentown Pike and the Pottsville Pike, and at 718,000 square feet, is only slightly smaller than the more successful Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing, but I’m of the mind that it’s a bit cooler!
Reading is roughly an hour northwest of Philadelphia, and at about 81,000 residents is the fifth largest city in Pennsylvania. Reading is typical of many aging industrial centers throughout the Northeast United States, and compared to the many other old industrial cities that dot the landscape in eastern Pennsylvania, Reading’s malaise seems, at least anecdotally, somewhat more acute than most. Despite this, Berks County has actually registered a population increase since 2000, largely due to transplants from the Philadelphia area seeking a lower cost of living. Reading is also notable for being the home of Boscov’s, one of the last true remaining regional, family-owned full-line department store chains.
Those transplants are not enough to keep Fairgrounds Square thriving, however. Although Fairgrounds Square was reasonably well-leased and sported a decent amount of foot traffic on both of our visits (in October 2004 and August 2007), the center seems a bit forlorn, complete with second tier stores. This is too bad, since Fairgrounds Square’s distinctly 80s tinker-toy architecture and interesting stair-stepping design are actually pretty cool.
I wasn’t able to find much about Fairgrounds Square on the web, which isn’t that surprising since malls like these tend to get no love. The southernmost anchor is a large Boscov’s store–and its likely good ol’ Boscov’s is a hold out because they call Reading home (we love Boscov’s for this very reason). There’s a large anchor at the mall’s center court–today, this is a Burlington Coat Factory, but upon our visit in 2004 it was a National Wholesale Liquidators, and before that it housed Jason’s Discount Furniture (who were also in the mall–in a different space–in 2004, as shown in the photos). This large store was originally a Montgomery Ward. At the north end of the mall, there’s a large JCPenney Outlet and another, smaller, more mysterious anchor; this is the space occupied by Jason’s in 2004, and now occupied by a shoe store. There is also a Cinema Center in the mall.
According to this presentation, The mall is apparently in the midst of adding a food court to the area closest to the cinema, but otherwise it doesn’t appear much is going on. Since I’ve come up short on information–which is pretty pathetic given this is the first you’ve heard of me in two weeks–feel free to fill in. What do you know about Fairgrounds Square? What used to occupy the Super Shoes space? Was there ever a time that this mall was more dominant than Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing?
Want a treat? Of course you do! Everybody loves treats! Some longtime readers of Labelscar may remember the crappy old VGA camera phone, my 2004 Motorola that was my first camera phone, and which I used liberally for some time to take really piss-awful pictures of malls. I actually have some of those classic, poster print-friendly shots of this place, from before two of the anchors swapped (note the National Wholesale Liquidators, along with my own namesake discount furniture store!). These were all taken October 2004: