Fairgrounds Square Mall; Muhlenberg Township (Reading), Pennsylvania

Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania
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.

Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, PennsylvaniaThose 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?

Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania

Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania

Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania

Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania

Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania

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:
2004 shot of Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania 2004 shot of Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania 2004 shot of Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania

2004 shot of National Wholesale Liquidators store at Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania 2004 shot of Jason's Furniture store at Fairgrounds Square Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania

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, PopMatters.com, 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.

61 thoughts on “Fairgrounds Square Mall; Muhlenberg Township (Reading), Pennsylvania”

  1. I’m coming up short on this mall too, but I have a hunch that at least one of these anchors was either Gee Bee, Hills or Phar-Mor at some point.

  2. I’m nearly positive that mall had a Hill’s. Went there a couple times in the late ’80s because my mom was a big fan of the outlet stores downtown.

  3. Boscov’s has an inordinate amount of stores located in dead malls. In fact, I remember reading (somewhere on the Internet) that Boscov’s tends to do really well in such malls. Does anybody know why Boscov’s succeeds in dead malls while so many other department stores fail? (Personally, I love Boscov’s for all of the different types of merchandise it sells; indeed it is my favorite currently-operating department store. However, this does not explain to me as to why Boscov’s is so successful in dead malls.)

    Also, Boscov’s has another store in Reading at the Reading Mall. Which one of the two Reading stores is their flagship?

  4. I’ve been to all the Reading Boscov’s stores, and none would be considered flagships. Boscov’s used to name them in Reading on their region in town, i.e. Reading Mall would be Boscov’s East, Fairgrounds would be Boscov’s North, and the former store on the West side pre-Berkshire would be Boscov’s West.

    The Berkshire store probably serves as the flagship, since it is the newest of the 3, and the largest. It’s also in the economically wealthier area.

    The Berkshire store opened 3-4 years ago in what was a Strawbridge’s temporarily, but opened into the mall as a John Wanamaker. Berkshire, the last time I was there (early 2006) was in bad need of a remodel. Fairgrounds looked newer inside than Berkshire.

  5. Speaking of Boscov’s, there is a great one at the Palmer Park Mall in Easton, PA that was built on the site of the abandoned Clover anchor in the late 90’s/early 00’s. That mall had been on a downswing prior to Boscov’s, but now seems to be thriving, especially for a mall of smaller size. Boscov’s also recently opened a new store in the former Strawbridges at Lehigh Valley Mall in Allentown. I’m sure they will do well there, but I’m afraid that it will reduce the impact of the Palmer Park store (and the entire mall), which had previously been a major attraction because it was Boscov’s’ only Lehigh Valley location and drew shoppers from the entire area.

  6. Looking at the website for a Boscov’s, it looks like a really neat department store. It beats out Carson Pirie Scott and Macy’s. It is doesn’t remind me of any store. It is nice to see a unique department store and some cookie cutter department store that sells the same merchandice.

  7. There was indeed a Phar-Mor at this mall. The space that’s now “Super Shoes” was the old Phar-Mor (and the second location for Jason’s after it moved out of the old Wards).

    If this mall ever had a Hills I’m guessing it was in the Phar-Mor space.

    By the way, this mall is owned by Jager Management, who also owns a few other malls — Northland Center in Southfield, MI; Burlington Center in Burlington, NJ; Mountaineer Mall in Morgantown, WV. all of these malls have mostly discount anchors (except Burlington, which has JCP/Macy’s/Sears), dated decor, and mostly ghetto stores.

  8. That’s interesting, because I’m familiar with Burlington Center and that’s another mall that seems stuck in this particular kind of unexpected malaise (with many lower-tier or kind of downright ghetto stores) that’s very similar to this one, and in both cases it was surprising to me.

  9. Correction: I meant to say instead of some cookie cutter department store

  10. Check out the store directory on the mall’s website, they have pictures of storefronts for all the stores, and there are some funky ones.

  11. Actually that Nirvana’s Closet looks more like a former Suncoast to me.

  12. Boscov’s survives in dead malls because it’s self-supporting. People like their completeness and the momentum transfers to some of the other stores nearby.

    Anyone know when this mall opened? I’m guessing somewhere around 1980.

  13. I just think that Berkshire Mall is in a safer, better area.
    I don’t go to Fairgrounds, cause its kinda low class, bad area, and just looks cheap.

  14. It amazes me how bad Berkshire Mall looks, especially given its prime location in upscale Wyomissing.
    The exterior alone looks like a dead mall and its large sign out front is the worst of 70s ugliness. The owners really need to spruce up this property.

  15. Hints at a 90’s renovated Wilmorite mall – only there’s no fountain or planter elements. The “community” look of the website has… charm.

    Good to see you back in action, Mr. Damas.

  16. I remember this mall from childhood and this mall had many fountains and planters before the mid 90’s remodel that added the Montgomery Ward store. Phar-mor was the former occupant of Super Shoes location and JC Penny was a regular store until the mid 90’s. That theater is also kinda new, the old one had 2/4 screens.

  17. Hi There I have left a few comments on this site before, mostly of PennCan Mall that is I’m known as the Penncan historian! Just a few things here, my father lived in Reading between 1973-76 and he used to attend every year the local stock car races that used to be held there, that is before the mall was built. The grounds of the mall used to be the local Reading Fairgrounds. I believe my father told me that Boscovs opened around 1970 so that was there before the mall was. JC Penny and Boscovs were the only original anchors there at the time being that the former Montgomery Wards in the front and where PharMor used to be, in the rear were added on years later after the center was built.Just for the record that was sometime in 1980! I don’t think there was ever a Hills there but there was one across the street at what is still refered to as Madeira Plaza.

  18. I’ll forever refer to this mall’s interior architecture as “tinker-toy” now. What a perfect name!
    The PowerPoint presentation seemed a little sophomoric. I wonder if it is working for them.

  19. Boscov’s flagship store is the Mt Penn (East) location. Regading Fairgounds Square -as mall fever hit the country in the late 70’s early 80’s this land was purchased and developed the mall concept. The Fairgrounds Square name is derived from the fact that this was the home of Reading Fairgrounds and Racetrack for MANY years. Boscov’s (North) was enlarged and built over part of the original racetrack. JCPenney was the other orig. anchor. Montgomery Ward opened center court years later but filed bankruptcy shortly thereafter. The Super Shoes store was a PharMor. Penney’s want from a fine store to an Outlet that I would not set foot in today. You can actually buy items on sale at the Lehigh Valley store for less then Reeading’s “outlet” prices. I think part of the lack of appeal of this mall is that Reading people no longer had a place to hold their fair and old timers resented it and went to Berkshire Mall instead. For years tents would be set up on the back parking lot of the mall. When it rained there were so many people in the mall you could not move!. The fair has since moved to outside the city and has never had the crowds it did prior to the mall being built. For those that recall the Boscov tent sales on the 80’s & 90’s …back in the early 70’s they would hold clearance sales under the racetrack grandstand at this store. And one more note-Boscov’s Berkshire was once Boscov’s West in Sinking Springs, PA on Route 422. A stand alone very DATED store that looked nothing like what you see today.

  20. I really love the mall’s website. Why can’t every mall have storefront pictures?

    Sharp Dressed Man has such a funny name. And “The Nature & Discovery Store”? Was this a real Discovery Channel Store at one time?

  21. Scott: The PowerPoint did look a little undernourished. It does look like a high school freshman designed it. Maybe it was. “Here son, I need you to make something for the mall”….

  22. You guys should have seen the page about a year ago, when they only had a map of about 1/3 of the mall (a very blurry black and white one too) and “MORE MAPS COMING SOON” in big bold text next to it… You couldn’t even click on the tiny map to enlarge it.

  23. That whole stretch of 5th Street Highway has gone downhill IMO. I’ve lived in the area for 15 years, and when we first moved here we used to shop in that end of Reading all the time! Now we barely go there since other and better centers have opened.

    I remember Hills was across the street from the mall and was awesome. I also remember Phar-Mor being in where the shoe place is now, and I miss it. The Fairgrounds WAS good, and we used to shop there all the time too. I feel though that the mall started to “Jump Shark” when Monkey Wards went out, and then JCPenny turning into an Outlet. I do like Burlington being in there, and I also shop JCPO for deals, but that’s about it. I dislike going into the main mall because it’s depressing anymore. = \ Yeah Boscovs is there too, but it’s also at Berkshire, which I like better. This mall has a bunch of empty slots, and the stuff that IS in there is nothing to write home about.

  24. Fairgrounds is in bad need of better stores. Another reason the mall has never done well is there is a bit of animosity among older folks over it being built over the racetrack and Fairgrounds. Many people were not at all happy about that.

    Oh well, money talks.

  25. The mall needs a little love. Throw in a discount bigbox, Old Navy, a few snack shops, maybe a dollar theater (on a second level, maybe?), a handful of outlet stores, a handful of normal mall stores, and cool specialty shops. Then place it within a mile or so within my home.

    Am I asking too much???

  26. A thing about Sharp Dressed Man which is located in the Fairgrounds mall…I was in the area shopping for a christening gown for my daughter (and I’ve been everywhere) so I stopped in Sharp Dressed Man to get a new suit for the occasion. The majority of their suits cater to the urban crowd but the had good suit I liked. I told them about my problem finding a christening gown and they told me they can order them from one of their suppliers. I have to say I am more than happy that I went there.

  27. Caldor should stop by the Mall office and talk with the Mall Manager about what the history and future is at the Fairgrounds Square Mall. We have made many positve changes in the past 5 years. I think you would find it very interesting.


  28. The SuperShoes location used to be a Phar-Mor in the early to mid-late 90’s

  29. Also with the loss of Burger King, Chick- Fillet, Arby’s the mall kinda took a hit

  30. this mall was built over the fairgrounds and dirt race track. Boscov’s was there since the 60’s and has expanded many times. This Mall was never popular with people because it destroyed the fairgrounds. The 1st addition added phar-mor wing by JCPenney. JCPenney was a regular store until mid 90’s when it be came a outlet. What Reading needs is a new Mall with real stores other than BOSCOV’S. It needs a Macy’s.

  31. I think the Fairgrounds Mall lost a lot of traffic after the Super WalMart opened a few miles farther out of town. I didnt live in the area when the mall was first built but I did go to the Reading Fair every year when it was held in the back parking lot/grounds of the Mall.I haven’t been to the fair since they moved it.

  32. i have lived around here 4 years and recently iv been trying to track down a store that used to be in this mall when i was you it was a chinese food place that sat ont the corner across from gattoes pizza it was the best chinese food ive ever hadin my life i have tried everywhere to try n find somthing like it but cant so my plan is to track down the owner n somehow get the recipie its gonna be very hard because this was 10 to 13 yrs ago so we will c what happens if any one has any info mess me at juggalo_rellik@yahoo.com

  33. they should of never got rid of Your Place Restaurant I loved that restaurant

  34. A few Fairgrounds memories. As a kid Boscov’s had dirt track race cars hanging (I kid you not) from the ceiling as a nod to its origins as a race track. At one point it had at least two record stores one being the Wall, but as of 2009 only an FYE. When the movie theater was expanded several stores bounced around (including You Bet!, and Golden Eagle Comics) and some of these never returned.

    Fith Street seems like it’s trying to clean itself up at least on the out skirts of Reading, but whether or not this has any postive impact on the mall has yet to be seen.

    One final note I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but Target has opened two new store’s near two of the weaker Boscov’s store. The Fairgrounds location and the Reading Mall (which is Boscov’s corporate HQ) are both really slow. You could literall run each store 4-6 employees so it will be interesting to see if these stores hang on.

  35. @kasey stokes,

    Try The Amazing Wok on Rockland St.–especially recommend the shrimp toast.

  36. @mrmdn,
    Re: Tartget. Yes, the new Target about 1 1/2 mi. North of Fairgrounds is indeed a ghost town. They also have a Super Wal-Mart 1 1/2 mi father north from it, so they are “bookended.” Giant Food stores in that strip is thriving, and you can’t get near 5 Guys Hamburgers, but at Target, you don’t need a handicapped placard to find a good close parking spot. Actually, it’s a pleasure to shop there–the store is all yours!

  37. My family moved to Boyertown in 1981, and we went to this mall frequently… definitely more often than Berkshire Mall.

    It was not the sad second or third-tier shopping plaza it seems to be today.

    It was busy and had a good selection of stores.

    There was a Coles Bookstore and a York Steak House at Fairgrounds … plus a Chik-Fil-A (But we always went on Sundays, so it was closed.)

    I don’t remember a Hill’s there, but I do remember Boscovs and a retail Penneys (not an outlet)

    Back then it seemed liked the “hip” mall compared to Berkshire… probably because all the glass and mirrors and the unusual step design made it feel more modern.

  38. bring back your place restaurant and pub

  39. @Keith, So, when it was the actual fairgrounds, when it rained…where did the people go?

  40. @Edward Oswald, Too bad those older folks that “kept the mall from doing well ” don’t have that power with more important issues.

  41. @Todd Reber, can Reading people afford Macy’s?

  42. well, I live near the Fairgrounds Square Mall. The mall is not a “dangerous place”. its not like ur goin to walk in there and got shot. kids actually go there just to chill wit there friends. They got debs in there which is a nice not “low class” store. Just because we dont have our mall located in “spoliled rich white ppl area” doesnt mean our mall is low class. and its not all Ghetto stores in there. Nirvanna closet is the farthest from ghetto. how about u go in the mall and see it b4 u start saying shit.

  43. @Shelly,

    this is so true. i live rite by the mall as well. these motherfuckers need to keep their overprivelidged mouths shut.

  44. While I’ve never been in this mall, it still looks far from a “ghetto” mall, but I guess everyone has their opinions. Reading itself isn’t necessarily a ghetto area, at least when you compare to some of the other places around Philly or New York City.

  45. @Bobby, this was actually a movie themed store much like suncoast, i can’t remember the name.

  46. Why would anyone think the Fairgrounds is in a bad or unsafe area? Once you get past the strip malls around it, it’s the suburbs. There are areas in Reading that might not be safe, but this isn’t one of them (not that I would consider the Fairgrounds to actually be in the city proper, anyway).

    I used to be a mallrat, in the ’90s, and I don’t think they did themselves any favors by kicking out people who were standing around without shopping bags. My friends and I might not have left with bags full of purchases, but we did spend money in the arcade (which, unfortunately, went downhill after they moved it away from the old movie theater – it got a lot more traffic when it was right inside the door) and the various eateries (I probably ate once a week each at Chik-Fil-A, Burger King, and Arby’s, none of which are there any more). Supposedly, our presence bothered the older shoppers. Never saw their numbers drop when a lot of us were there, or rise in later years after we stopped going there as often.

    The security company’s been switched out a few times since then, so I don’t know how they feel about people who don’t have shopping bags these days. Hopefully they understand that some of the businesses there sell things that don’t go in a big plastic bag.

  47. I remember the 2 record stores, The Wall and Recordtown, and then there was Saturday Matinee or something to that effect. I still have a cd with one of those Wall lifetime gurantee stickers on the jewel case.

    I agree that your place was great, I loved the pizza there.

    And I miss all of the fountains that the mall had when I was a kid in the late 80’s, early 90’s, especially the big on in the center of the mall.

  48. @Leigh,

    I have a business at the Fairgrounds and have been here for 9 years. We have had alot less violent incidents at this mall than at the Bershire mall and the same people that shop here shop there. I have two friends that have stores at the Berkshire mall and they tell me that there are alot of fights, car thefts, and shop lifting problems that the Berkshire mall goes out of the way to keep quiet. The Berkshire mall is no better than Fairgrounds, we offer some cool products and services they don’t have. It is just a myth that this mall has issues based on the fact that we are closer to the city of Reading. There is also a racial stigma associated with this mall that has alot of caucasian customers scared to come here and shop. They seem to be intimidated by Hispanic and African American shoppers. It is rediculous but it is true. The people that shop here work work there!! Most of the employees at the Berkshire mall are of non-caucasian background. I guess it is o-k to serve the racially bias people using non-caucasian employees but God forbid if they shop along with them!! You are wrong about the safety issues at the Fairgrounds, it is safer than Berkshire in my opinion and my opinion is based on 9 years of experience here at the Fairgrounds. So come on in and shop away, we are here for you.

  49. Wher Your Place Rstaurant and Pub and Chucker Chubb’s where, was Your Place the original restaurant/store in that spot since the mall opened

  50. Ok, I already did this for the Berkshire Mall thread. Now it’s Fairgrounds turn. For starters, I’m 25, DOB 1986, just so you have a reference point for what I’m reminiscing to you. I’ve lived in Berks/Exeter Township for my whole life so I’ve been going to Fairgrounds, Berkshire, and Coventry ever since I can remember, and I can remember pretty well. And just for reference, when I refer to the front of the mall, I mean where Your Place used to be, as that’s the entrance we always used. Also keep in mind that these are memories from when I was real young, I might not remember a lot of the things that a kid wouldn’t have been interested in.

    -The front entrance had Your Place on the left, with it’s awesome, horse stable, rustic, country-western motif. I can still remember eating in there when I was really little, and they had that huge, antiquated, TV projector.

    -Across from Your Place was Great Valley Bank.

    -Next to Your Place was Regis Hair Salon.

    -Next to Regis was a walk-in Orange Julius. One of the awesome super old school looking one’s with the plastic oranges in the counter, and their awesome little devil guy mascot in the light on the front. Ah, I can still close my eyes and smell those roller hot dogs.

    -Next to Orange Julius was the Nut Shack. I remember, right up until that place close it was always looked super old school, with a sort of 70’s holdover style, including a wood shingled roof facade, and the obligatory, giant styrofoam pretzel.

    -I think across from the Nut Shack was Belden jewelers. Which may or may not still be there. I honestly could give fuck all about super expensive jewelry stores.

    -Moving around the corner was Cost Cutters, which is definitely still a salon, but the name might be different. Salon’s are another thing I pay no attention to.

    -Next to the Salon was Bavarian Pretzel which, amazingly is still there.

    -Penney’s of course didn’t used to be an outlet.

    -Down the corridor was Phar-Mor, I remember they used to have a shitty video store inside. Although I do remember when they closed I scored copies of Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5 for the low price of five bucks each.

    -Also in that corridor was Schuylkill Valley Sporting Goods, which is now the cigar store. They still operate right next to J.C.Penney’s.

    -Shooting the other direction toward the back of the mall, we would have gotten to DEB, which I remember back in the day had this cool, mirrored, textured, bubble facade. It’s a true shame they took it down.

    -To the right of DEB was Fayva Shoes, which if I’m not mistaken was an economy shoe store, along the lines of Payless.

    -To the left of DEB was Record Town. I used to love this store when I was a kid. I still remember, the metal detectors were these big bulky, kinda stylized, brown arches. This closed at the same time as the movie store, Saturday Matinee, and the two shared a space together which was briefly called, Record Town/Saturday Matinee which eventually became FYE, whom still occupies the space.

    -On the other side, around the corner from the Nut Shack, was a Baskin Robbins. I remember it looking very dated, with orange lettering in the sign instead of the company’s then current pink. There was also a weird water fountain right out front, that was part of the counter, and for some reason or another when I was a little kid I would always want to use it and my parents would tell me not to.

    -Next to Baskin Robbin’s was Radio Shack, which is still there. I might be wrong but I feel like that’s original to the mall.

    -Next to Radio Shack was a dollar store called, “The Dollar Store”.

    -Next to the Dollar Store used to be a book store. I might be wrong but I think it was possibly a discount book store. I unfortunately can’t remember the name of it. After this closed , the Dollar Store moved over into it.

    -Next to here was K.B. Toy & Hobby. So sad this company went out of business.

    -I can’t remember what it was prior, but for a few years, around ’95 or so, the space next to K.B Toy’s was occupied by Boscov’s as a toy outlet.

    -Next to that space was some kind of women’s clothing store that I never gave a shit about, thus I don’t remember the name. I think after it closed it was a Holiday Headquarters for a little while before becoming Record Town/Saturday Matinee.

    -On the opposing side of the one I just covered, I remember there was the coolest Burger King ever. It was huge and I remember it was so fucking cool looking. If they still had Burger King’s that looked like this, they really would deserve the corporate addage “BK Lounge”. I remember it was very colorful as there were several symmetrical seating areas, each of which was adorned in a different colored Naugahyde. The sign on the outside was equally as old school, with a light box for each letter, instead of one big logo.

    -Also, I remember a kiosk in this area, between K.B. Toy’s and Burger King called Mountain Magic, that sold earthy/hippy type stuff, like hemp clothing and incense and what-not.

    -I’m pretty sure most of the rest of this side/section was women’s clothiers, therefore I have no memory of their names.

    -Moving on down to the center court, we had the standard issue, big ass fountain. This son’bitch almost touched the ceiling. I would speculate it was made by the same people who made the old center court fountain at Berkshire. And as a matter of fact to two were very similar. I was little at the time, so everything seemed huge to me, but I do believe the Fairground’s fountain was a good bit bigger than Berkshire’s. This one was very unique in that it employed the same “step” architecture as the rest of the mall, making it look deeper into the ground. The fountain, just like Berkshire’s was taken out ages ago, and for a long time there was a shitty little place for poor parents to have their kids nag them to waste their hard earned money, affectionately titled “Playland”. This has since closed and they’ve professionally finished the floor area where the fountain once was. They did a pretty good job, but it you remember how the fountain was you can still see an outline of where it was.

    -And while I just mentioned the fountain, there were one or two other people that mentioned that there were several fountains. I don’t remember this, though I don’t doubt that they weren’t there. Could someone refresh my memory?

    -Right around the fountain area, there was a women’s shoe store called Baker’s. I only even remember that because, for one the store had that dated seventies holdover look to it. And two I remember even the stuff they sold looked like it came from a time when listening to disco was socially acceptable. Their sign was in a cool seventies font as well.

    -Can’t remember what was past that back in the day. Besides Montgomery Ward which was added on sometime in the mid nineties, and wasn’t there for long anyway.

    -Opposite the Montgomery Ward’s area, and long before the Ward’s building was built, there was a botonist/ flower shop. Possibly a Royer’s I remember they used to have these bitchin’ lolly pops at the counter.

    -Adjacent to Baker’s was Spencer’s Gift’s. (Or “Spencer’s Stupid Shit That Nobody Needs”)

    -Next to Spencer’s was Foot Action.

    -Across from Foot Action was Saturday Matinee. Somebody commented on the weird look inside Nirvana’s Closet, well that’s leftovers from Saturday Matinee. That carpeting is just so damn cheesy.

    -Keep going on that side and we had Foot Locker, which I’m pretty sure is still there.

    -Next to Foot Locker was, I think, Walden Books.

    -Next to Walden Books was another shoe store, Kinney Shoes, which I think might’ve been a Thom McAnn at one point.

    -And yet another shoe store (count ’em, that’s four right within eye-shot of each other), and an oddly named one at that, the Athlete’s Foot. Now who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to name their shoe store after a fungal infection? That’s like if Victoria’s Secret was called “Yeast Infection”.

    -Next to the Athlete’s Foot was a candy store. I can’t believe I forget the name. It’ll come to me though. It’s definitely “Sugar” something.

    -If you keep going around that corner there was a Hallmark type stationary store that I can’t remember the name of. Later on this was a hippy store called Habitat, whom still operates a store out at the Coventry Mall.

    -The next space up, I can remember being several things, mostly a shitty, boring, Omega Blood Lab. I wanna know why the hell they put these fucking places in malls? You’d think they’d be in medical complexes or something like that, that would make more sense. Anyway, before Omega it was a video rental store. One of the old mom and pop rental stores from before Blockbuster and West Coast and A-Z started popping up.

    -Past this was the news/lottery stand, “Your Bet!”. These tenants are still there, but across from where they used to be, due to that wing being remodeled for the movie theater expansion. The new store is much bigger than the old one, which was very tiny.

    -Moving up we had Golden Eagle comics, which also still rents space at the mall, having relocated toward the front of the mall where Record Town used to be. And this may be my memory serving me incorrectly, but I believe this was the second time Golden Eagle moved, it’s original location being across from where the arcade used to be. Could someone confirm or deny this claim?

    -To Golden Eagle’s left we had an awesome arcade, Sega’s Time Out. They too relocated although I’m pretty sure they don’t have anything to do with Sega anymore.

    -Wrapping around we get to the movie theater. I still remember seeing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade here, one of my earliest memories of the movies.

    -Keep going and we had the Fairground’s Deli, which was where Your Bet is now. This place was here for a long time even relocating for a spell but eventually closed shop. I remember as late as 2006 you could still smoke in there!!

    -Next to the Deli was the Pretzel Gourmet, which, amazingly is still there. Last I checked they hadn’t even updated the menu pictures since they opened and they had that awesome, dated, washed out look to them.

    -Past the Pretzel Gourmet was the chinese restaurant someone mentioned earlier. I remember this place had a sort of weird set up, the dining room went far back, and in the very back there was a window, which was right next to where the Deli was at the time, and looked out upon where Your Bet was. After the chinese restaurant closed it was vacant for a little while before becoming a very shitty, very unsuccessful video game store, then was vacant again, and then the Fairground’s Deli moved into the space. I can’t remember what it is now.

    -I don’t remember what was in the next space, but the next space up from that was Chick-Fil-A. Judging from how I remember the decor being I would think it safe to assume the Chick-Fil-A was original to the mall. It’s a Chinese nail salon now, but it’s still got the original red tiles from it’s Chick-Fil-A days.

    -Past Chick-Fil-A was some kind of women’s clothier, and then Arby’s, which closed up shop about six years ago.

    -The next few stores are a bit fuzzy but I know there was a GNC immediately to the left of Boscov’s, which was at the very end of the corridor. I’m pretty sure GNC is still there.

    -Boscovs! How cool I remember this store looking when I was a kid. Does anyone else remember the giant stuffed giraffe in the kid’s clothing section? I remember making my parents take me in their just to see that. They still have the big gaudy seventies style chanderliers in there. And I forgot all about the race cars until someone mentioned them here. I do remember that the toy section was way in the back on the right side of the store, and that it was like a toy cave, that kinda went back further than the other sections of the store. Come to think the toy section is still in this corner of the store. And there was a sporting goods section with giant blown up pictures on the wall of people doing outdoorsy type stuff. I can still kinda remember one of a guy boating or fishing or something. I must say too, I love when you walk out and back into the mall, the other side of the big Boscov’s light says, very simply “Mall” in a cool retro kinda font.

    -Wrapping around and heading the other way, we have Rite Aid. This space is now part of Keyboard world, which also takes up what was the next space. I don’t remember what this space was before it was Keyboard World, though I will say Keyboard World has been there for a long time. Which is amazing ,considering their often gouged, outlandish prices.

    -Keep going and we’ll wind up at………………………………TACO CASA! Talk about a time warp, this place has been here forever. And once again, the menu pics look old as shit. In fact in this case, the menu pictures look even older than I know the place to be, as I can remember the place opening in the early nineties. I’m pretty sure the owners moved here after closing up shop at the Berkshire.

    -Moving into the corridor here, I can’t say I can remember anything that stands out too much. I know the Mongolian Buffet used to be a Corestate and then First Union bank.

    -Across from Corestate was a favorite restaurant from when I was a kid, York Steak House. I’m pretty sure there used to be one of these at the Park City Mall too. Another place that looked totally seventies. I remember the very oppressive amberish colored lighting and the red, black, and spanish gold paint scheme. Very bold, very lounge. Thinking back, it makes me think of velvet tuxedos and Fender Rhodes pianos.

    -I don’t know much about the next spot but I do remember it was an A.T.&T place for a short bit. Why do I remember this? Because this was one of the few retailers of the, then cutting edge, Panasonic 3do. I remember spending a good bit of time in there on several occasions, playing the demo for GEX as well as those super dated full motion video games, that were all the rage when cd based game systems came out. I also remember my dad awing at the “video phones” that they sold there and talking about getting one for our house and one for my grandma (which never happened). Funny thing was too, it wasn’t even a video phone I believe, you could just send pictures of each other back and forth or something like that.

    -Keep going and we get to a boring ol’ eyeglass place. Fun.

    -More fun. Next to boring ol’ eyeglass place was boring ol’ Hallmark. These two spaces were later combined into one to provide space for the relocated arcade. The arcade is still there (but it sucks ass now).

    -Next door to that was Gatto’s Pizza which was there for a long fucking time until recently. Shame too cause their pizza kicked ass.

    -I think that about covers all of my memories of the Fairgrounds. Would love to hear someone elses input. Feel free to mail me, SmallChange38@gmail.com. Put Fairgrounds Mall in the subject.

  51. Oh and here’s one more I left out, the lemonade cart in front of the Walden’s/Foot Locker area, Aunt Laura’s. I used to love the orangeade there when I was a kid.

  52. And another still, there used to be an awesome pet store, all the way at the Boscov’s end, I think it was right next to Arby’s if I’m not mistaken. It was called Carnival Pets and it had a blue facade with white lettering in a wild west type font.

  53. Kevin,

    it was Pet Carnival. And you left out the Hickory Farms and Wee Three Records (The Wall later) but other than that you were spot on. Also, next to Mountain Magic was a Chinese Restaurant, and next to that a fucking Jeans West. HAHA.

    Montgomery Ward was this huge Flower/Foliage store before they built out the big box for MW.

  54. When the mall was built, there were two anchor stores at either end. The old, pre existing Boscovs {which is the location Albert moved the store after the down town dry goods store closed.} In fact I remember great excitement as a kid going to the Boscovs just to peer through to see the mall under construction.
    …and on the other end was a J.C. Pennys.
    Not long after, the Boscovs expanded, onto stilts, to double their floor space.
    The Fox Cinema {local} had a 5 screen theatre.

    – In the late ’80s, Pharmor created a location on the North West corner. {The current SuperShoes & Planet Fitness [no mall access] }
    – In the mid ’90s, Montgomery Ward built a two story store in the centre, East side where the greenhouse was. {The current Burlington Coats}
    – Finally, just a few years ago, the Cinema, now operated by Cinema Centre, expanded from 5 screens to 10 screens. The current “Screen 6” is the old lobby {columns & all}

    I hope that clears up some history.

    As far as the dwindling customers, in 2000, a brand new divided 4 lane US Route 222 opened superseding the 2 lane, traffic-light laden Fifth Street highway. People who used to pass by the area and the abundant retail stores & stopped to shop, now zoomed along the brand new highway no where close to the Fairgrounds Square Mall.
    Since that time, and with the depressed economy, the mall has floundered.

  55. I recall a smaller fountain with fake stone ledges/walls by where Cost Cutters used to be, the large fountain in the center, and going way back I could swear that there was a fountain in front of Boscov’s. Can anyone else confirm this, or is my memory faulty?

  56. Jeremy,

    You are correct about the fountains. The old stone one by Cost Cutters was cool. The water flowed down the rocks into a large pool. The old column where the rocks and water pumped is still there today if you walk down the ramp directly across from Cost Cutters. They simply removed the stones and the pool at the bottom and tiled up the rest.

    There was a fountain at Boscov’s that was L shaped, and had a platform in the center that was used as an alt. stage area from center court back in the day.

    With the mall in forclosure today, I expect its final days to be near.

  57. I have lived in Reading all my life and my family used to come and shop in this mall all the time when i was a little kid. I actually remember it being fun coming to this mall as a youngin. I do recall a water fountain in the center of the mall (same as Berkshire Mall) and i also have recollection of a Burger King and other big name restaurants. Burlington certainly was a Montgomery Ward and the Cinema Center used to be a FOX theater. Also, there used to be a K-B Toys and a popular Dollar Tree. And there were a couple big name jewelry stores that used to be there that are no longer there. The truth of the fact is that Fairgrounds is struggling today because it has no good stores. Most stores in Fairgrounds are locally owned small businesses. They are unpopular stores unable to compete with bigger named stores like Macy’s, Nordstorm, Neiman Marcus, etc.. people are attracted to more popular stores like Hollister, Aeropostale, PacSun, American Eagle, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, H&M, New York Express, True Religion, Levi, the NorthFace, Juicy Couture, Love Couture, Forever 21, Coach, Bebe, Aldo, Gucci, Lui Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, the Sunglasses Hut, etc… These stores keep up with the modern styles of today and thats what people want, but Fairgrounds doesnt have any of that, so why would people want to come and shop at Fairgrounds if theres really nothing there but a bunch of low budget stores. It has nothing to do with ghettoness. The reason theres ghetto people shopping there is because there are low budget stores and where there are low budget stores, low budget people go. No offense as me and my family come from a poor background but the truth is the truth. The downfall of Fairgrounds has nothing to do with ghettoness or poorness, for the same “ghetto/poor” people that shop at Fairgrounds shop at Berkshire, yet Berkshire is more successful and its more successful because it has better stores. Also, it has nothing to do with the age of the mall. King of Prussia (built in the 60’s) is a lot older than Fairgrounds and is doing way better than Fairgrounds. Again, because it has better stores. My question is: How long will it be before Fairgrounds comes off life support and dies for good? There was a rumor that a commercial development company from Philadelphia wanted to purchase Fairgrounds, renovate it, and bring popular stores to the mall, but the owners refused to sell it.

  58. Hello
    I just wanted to say that before the fairgrounds mall was there behind Boscovs there were stables that we kept our horses. Facing the stables but to the right was a race track where Toby Tobias and other famous stock car drivers raced. There was also a grandstand and many buildings that food places occupied during the reading fairs. Lena’s spaghetti house was my grandmothers rented place of business there where I would help her.

  59. Well fast forward seven years later from when I last posted, and this mall is all but done! JCP is out, and a lot of the old mainstays that were in the mall are pretty much going if not gone already. The Hallmark store that was in there is something else now, DEB had a “Closing Sale” when I was last in there, and too many other stores to remember have now closed. I was lucky though, I was in when FYE was having there “Closing sale” and got a headphone adapter kit with a stereo extension cord for dirt cheap!

    Now the only reason to go there is the movie theater or Boscov’s really, as Burlington as of late doesn’t have good deals worth shopping for. I wonder how long it will be till they just shut the whole thing down.

    BTW reading back on some of these comments, yeah I almost forgot about the fountain in the middle, I thought that was pretty cool and was disappointed when it was taken out. Also I don’t remember Nirvana’s being a “Saturday Matinee”. I believe it USED to be a Suncoast Motion Picture Company, I remember this because it was the only store back then that I remember selling Laser Discs lol.

    Really a shame overall though. One store I REALLY miss that used to be in there was the candy store, they sold all kinds of good stuff.

    RIP Fairgrounds Mall.

  60. I remember when I went to this mall as a kid, it was bustling. This mall looks like it’s on the way out, with many vacant shops. I think this mall needs to be revived and the stores brought back!

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