Lincoln Mall; Lincoln, Rhode Island

Lincoln Mall pylon in Lincoln, Rhode Island

Prologue: Like all of the enclosed shopping malls in the state where I grew up, Lincoln Mall holds a special place in my heart. It was an accidental trip there in January 1998 that began my modern fascination with malls, and–quite literally–how the “other half” lives. When I say “other half,” I’m talking about a geographic (not economic) disparity. I lived in the suburbs south of Providence, and Lincoln Mall existed in the northern suburbs. As such, I very rarely had cause to go there, and it was during one leisurely visit spent people-watching on a rainy day that the whole mall obsession really dug its claws in. This was the other side of my city, with totally different people shopping in a totally different shopping mall, yet I didn’t know it or them. From then on, I’ve always had (in every way) to know what’s around the next bend.

Rhode Island’s Lincoln Mall was built in the mid-1970s at the junction of routes 116, 146, and I-295 in Lincoln, Rhode Island. At a little over half a million square feet, the mall was mid-sized, and its design–one long hallway with a 45 degree crook in the center and anchors at each end–was relatively standard for the time. The mall was initially anchored by Zayre and Woolco, with three junior anchors: Cherry & Webb, Peerless, and a movie theatre.

Tenants would shuffle about over the years, and by the mid-1980s, Caldor would replace the Woolco and Kmart would build a rather shiny and attractive store in the former Zayre space. Despite these decidedly mid-market tenants, the Lincoln Mall did quite well and courted a large roster of standard mall tenants such as The Gap and Lerner. One long-time fixture was the Christmastime presence of “Randy the Talking Reindeer,” a Santa Claus-like attraction that was advertised heavily on Providente television every year.

The mall was also the only mall serving the relatively populous Woonsocket trade area, and is located near the sprawling CVS Pharmacy Headquarters, the Amica Insurance Headquarters, and a large Fidelity Investments office campus, all of which would bring well-paying jobs into the area for many years. There is very little other chain retail located around the mall, which likely served it well in its earlier years but hurt it in later years as it was impossible to cross-shop with other big box chains, all of which were 15 minutes away.

Like many malls of its type, Lincoln Mall took many hard hits through the years. Built as one of the first wave of enclosed malls constructed around Providence, it was the lone mall in the city’s northern suburbs until the late 1980s and had no immediate competition. In 1989, the massive Emerald Square Mall (with 170 or so stores spread across three levels) would open a few miles away just over the Massachusetts border, but the mall would be relatively unaffected by its presence, continuing its operations prosperously for another decade. In 1999, Lincoln Mall was hit with twin challenges: the even larger (and very upscale) Providence Place Mall opened up, also about ten minutes away, and the mall lost Caldor when the entire chain folded. For awhile, the mall limped a bit, but was given a major boost with an extensive (mainly exterior) renovation in 2000. Despite the loss of many of its junior anchors, the mall rebounded by replacing them: Pay/Half moved into the Cherry & Webb space, HomeGoods took the long-underused Peerless space, and the movie theatres were taken over by a medical center. The Caldor anchor was mostly demolished and replaced by a Stop & Shop, which (for obvious reasons) did not open into the mall. It did, however, drive traffic, and the mall continued on. Eventually, Marshalls took the remainder of the former Caldor space and a tiny bit of the old mall and acted as the mall’s eastern anchor. As recently as January 2003, the mall was almost fully leased.

Old Lincoln Mall Site Plan

Also, in 2002, another major contender opened just a few exits away at US-44 and I-295. Smithfield Crossing is a large outdoor shopping center that hosts many traditional mall tenants and wooed some tenants (such as The Gap) away from Lincoln Mall. It would have more of an impact on the Lincoln Mall than either Emerald Square Mall or Providence Place.

Unfortunately Kmart would close their 110,000 square foot Lincoln Mall store as part of a round of closings in 2003, and the loss would impact the mall severely. Stores began emptying out at an alarming pace and by February 2004 the mall was over 50% vacant. The still newly-opened Marshalls also shut their mall entrance, dooming the mall. The center was sold to WP Realty at about this time, and they announced plans to demolish much of the mall and replace it with an outward-facing plaza. Demolition began in mid to late 2004.

Now, the mall is an extremely strange mall and plaza hybrid. The majority of the western Kmart wing was demolished in 2004 and has been replaced by an outdoor strip plaza anchored by a Target. The eastern wing was also largely big-boxed, with Marshalls, Home Goods, and a party store having exterior entrances only.

Strangely, two pieces of the mall interior remain. The cross hallway (and eastern entrance) closest to Marshalls (former Caldor) has remained in place–and remained open–seemingly so patrons can access a nail salon hidden deep inside of the old mall. Notice that the Marshalls sign above their shuttered interior entrance actually remains! I recorded this anomaly with this picture:

Orphan Lincoln Mall wing, Lincoln, RI

Similarly, most of the center court area of the mall was not big boxed and in fact remains today exactly as it always has been. There is a mall entrance in the front to access the center court, and there remains room for about 20 stores in the mall’s interior. Many of them (well over half) are vacant. Despite having frontage with the side of the Target store, it does not open into the mall, and the other end of the mall faces Career Education Institute, a job training school that’s long been a tenant at the mall even when it was successful. They moved to this larger space, taking up much of the interior of the old hallway (and separating this part of the mall from the dead area near the Marshalls, shown above).

In addition, a rather large “Cinema World” movie theatre was added to the back of the mall as a part of this renovation. It seems that the center court of the Lincoln Mall is now acting as a de-facto movie theatre lobby, and in fact the only new tenant to open inside of the enclosed portion of the mall during this time has been a Subway.

I’m not sure why the enclosed portion of the Lincoln Mall was kept, but I’m grateful for it. It does raise some false hopes; if Target would knock down the wall separating them from the mall, and if the CEI space was removed, then about 66% of the original mall from Target to Marshalls could be reopened and could again function as the enclosed mall it always was. Will this happen? Sadly, almost certainly not. But is this one of the stranger repositionings that I’ve seen? Absolutely. It’s puzzling as to why WP Realty would keep the center court yet not have mall access to abutting anchors, such as Target. There’s enough of the mall remaining to have a substantial enclosed center still, but as it is now its doomed to be a low-rent haven with little visibility.

I took all these pictures a couple weeks ago, and in the time since that the Lincoln Mall was recently sold again.

Former Caldor, current Marshalls and Stop & Shop at Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Former Caldor, current Marshalls and Stop & Shop at Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Main entrance at Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI

Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Target at Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI

Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Main entrance at Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI

Lincoln Mall interior in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall center court interior in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall CEI wing in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall theatres in Lincoln, RI

Lincoln Mall Papa Gino's in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall interior in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall interior in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall interior in Lincoln, RI

Prangeway: I visited Lincoln Mall on August 25, 2001 and took the following pictures.  It’s interesting how mostly successful the mall was when I visited and how many changes it has gone through to become the “Frankenmall” it is today.  Hopefully the new owners have a long-term vision for the mall and aren’t essentially just winging it with this fragile little mall.

Lincoln Mall Pay/Half in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI

Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI

Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI

Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI

 

33 Responses to “Lincoln Mall; Lincoln, Rhode Island”

  1. Lincoln Mall used to be so much fun years ago. I remember going with my friends to the Dream Machine and the movie theatre (used to be a showcase there) and wandering around. I think there was a Brigham’s there too…but I could be wrong. Sucks how much it has changed! Love your site by the way!

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  2. It really wasn’t a bad mall. I definitely miss it.

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  3. The former layout of this mall looks uncannily similar to the forrmer Naugatuck Valley Mall’s layout in Waterbury,CT.

    (right down to the main entrance located in the middle and bent building angle.

    http://terraserver.microsoft.com/image.aspx?T=1&S=10&Z=18&X=3331&Y=23016&W=1&qs=%7cwaterbury%7cconnecticut%7c

    seems that large malls built around the 1970s and 1960s had certain standard designs.

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  4. The Lincoln Mall opened in 1975. The original anchors were the Outlet Department Store and Woolco. Cherry and Webb also opned there .

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    Lisa M Reply:

    @john,
    I think the mall was actualy opened between 1978 and 1980. The reason I say this is because I remember attending a birthday party at the Cinemas when the mall was brand new. I was in Jr. High School and that was between 1978-80. There was a bomb scare so they had to evacuate and I think the party was cut short. I think 1975 is a little early. That would have put me in 3rd or 4th grade and at that tmy mom was still taking me to Wampanoag Mall, Midand Mall and North Main strre providence to shop as well as downtown Pawtucket

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  5. I remember spending many a friday night at the Lincoln Mall in the early 90’s. Such great times. Chowing down on the best bacon pizza ever at Papa Gino’s, gawking the puppies in the “Pet Store with the pointy sign” as we used to call it, or being forced to eat at the Roast House by my mom (Like any pre-teen mallrat, I preferred the burgers and fries at the McDonalds located at the other end of the parking lot.) or wondering if the trapeze-like clothing racks at “DEB” could support my weight so I could swing around on them.

    I think my fondest memories were going to the Dream Machine and playing Street Fighter II on the weekends, and even participating in some of the tournaments Dream Machine held (something I still do to this day some 14-15 years later.) In 1994, my family moved from the area, making getting to Lincoln Mall difficult. a few years later (either 1997 or 1998), after finally getting my drivers license, I took a trip back to the Lincoln Mall and was heartbroken to see most of the storefronts empty and that the 4-screen cinema had closed down. Sorrow quickly turned into joy, however when I saw that the Dream Machine was still open in all its dual level, red-painted, overzealously-laden-with-mirrors glory. True to its nature, it had all the latest games I had been dying to play. It was just like being 13 again.

    I must’ve spent a good 3 hours there that day. I left with a huge smile on my face, my old hang out was still alive and kicking and I was already making plans to start going there regularly with some freinds. However that would be the last time I’d ever set foot in the Dream Machine. I went back 2 weeks later and its doors were shut and locked and the place was completly empty. I remember just staring at the empty store front for 5 minutes in utter disbelief. I walked back to the lot, got in my car, and proceeded to cry my eyes out. I know it’s sort of silly to get so emotional over the closing of some arcade in a dying mall, but it felt like a part of me died. To this day, whenever I go to a tournament, I always keep a Dream Machine token in my shirt pocket for luck.

    On a good note, I returned to the Lincoln Mall about 3 months ago and saw that it was once again bustling, at least on the outside. They had just added Target as an anchor and Ocean State Job Lot where the old Almacs used to be. I’m glad to see that Lincoln Mall evaded the fate the other area malls have suffered.

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  6. How many record stores can anyone remember from those days?? There was one called NRM Records just down from Zales, and another bigger store: it was down the hall from Fanny Farmer, 1 or 2 stores after Waldenbooks on the same side. What was that called?

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  7. Good grief, I move out of the state in 1999, and all of my favorite places are now torn down and/or unrecognizable!!! I miss the Lincoln Mall!!!

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  8. Lincoln Mall was also a great place during the 80s as young person. I, too, loved the Dream Machine. Does anyone remember it before the remod in the early 80s? When you first walked in through the rear entrance near the cinema, to the immediate left, was Women’s World, a small health club that couldn’t have been there long. I remember one of my cousins going there about 1980. The Dream Machine was tiny and dark as I remember it, but had awesome oldschool games.

    Across the way was the General Cinema that I saw ET, Mister Mom, and a lot of other 80s films. On a Friday night, my gramp would drop me and my first girlfriend off there. We would walk around a little, check out the record store, Spencer, have a pizza, and play a few games, and grab a movie. Friday night for the Cumberland kids was mall night.

    As you walked down that corridor, there was the smaller Papa Gino’s on the left, not to be confused with the one with the larger one with the bar located near Continental Ltd. As a side note, I got a pair a Cotler breakdancing parachute pants with the long vertical zippers down the sides. I didn’t break, but thought they were cool back in ’84. Still further down the Dream Machine Corridor was Hallmark and T.W. Rounds on left, on the right was a fabric store that you could access from that corridor or through the front by that organ store off the center corridor. Remember those cheesy organ demonstrations? To the left was Woolco, where my grandfather purchased this monster of a snow blower in ’78 after The Blizzard. I loved the toy section in Woolco. When that store became Caldor, it wasn’t the same. To me it was overpriced junk. Ann & Hope or Zayre was much better than Caldor.

    I remember towards the front there was Anderson Little, a pet shop, and even a dentist.

    My mom was a single parent, and one time we were browsing in Fanny Farmer, and this old lady overheard my mom saying that she really didn’t have any money for candy, and she bought us those chocolate coins wrapped in foil. Another time during the Easter season, I entered a raffle and won a huge chocolate bunny. Great memories that I haved thought of in ages.

    I always thought the center of the mall where Santa and the Easter Bunny was situated was beyond words during the holidays.

    As you headed towards the the other end of the mall there was Spencer on the left, the Roast House (think awesome turkey, Thanksgiving style or on bread), Kaybee toys, Newport Creamery, CVS, etc. Across the way was Waldens, a record store that I can’t remember the name that was there until I moved to CA in ’87.

    How about Almacs in the parking lot where Job Lot is? Good old Almacs market. Remember Asia, with the black ceiling tiles and the Bamboo lounge? I have to say they have the best wings with the sticky sauce that I have ever had. There was also Fayva Shoes right next to it.

    I enjoyed the walk down memory lane.

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    Steve Reply:

    @Chris,

    Wow, your post brings back memories of such a happy time. The Dream Machine in the late 70s was the center of my universe as a kid in middle school. Wandering through Spenser’s…looking at the posters and adult “novelties”…trying to get a free sample from Hickory Farms…shopping at the Gap. I also knew the guy who played the organ. His name was Glenn, was a friend’s parent, and was a hell of a nice guy.

    Makes me long for the days with my high school girlfriend, listening to Journey, and trying to find a place to make out.

    So sad to see such a pivotal spot in my memories reduced to a pale shadow of what it was. Of course, it was never much, but it was ours. I moved away many years ago, but still remember those days so fondly. No idea what happened to most of my friends from Cumberland, but hope they are all happy and doing well.

    Thanks much for the pictures.

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  9. Just a small correction, when Lincoln Mall was young, the anchors were Woolco and The Outlet Department Store… Michaels Jewelers, The Pipe Den….

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  10. Curent links to Lincoln Mall, RI
    http://www.discoverlincolnmall.com/new.htm

    http://www.inlandgroup.com/american/center_detail.asp?bldg=400144555

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  11. “strolling the bright, cheery interior stores?” Those do not cheery.

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  12. I have to say, taking this stroll brought tears to my eyes. I’ve lived in Woonsocket all my life and have spent much of my pre-teen and teen years in the Lincoln Mall with my friends. As pre-teens (OK, and teens!), sporting our higher-than-the-sky-hair, we would sneak into Spencers to check out all the funny, inappropriate merchandise before we would be escorted out by the cashier who knew that our parents wouldn’t approve!

    We would visit the fountain in the middle of the mall and throw in a penny while making our wish for the “perfect boyfriend”. That fountain is mostly dry now…so much for wishes!

    We’d hit the Hickory Farms storefront for the free samples – YUM! – and then head over to the infamous cassette tapes store that, apparently, no one can remember the name of!!! How infamous is that!!!

    I remember going into Deb to look at the great clothes they had, especially around prom season. We would try on the dresses for fun and for future reference.

    I bought my first pair of colored flats at Fayva with my babysitting money. My mom hated those shoes, so of course, I would wear them everyday, making sure that my outfits revolved around the color of bright aqua! (You see, back then, that wasn’t hard!)

    Seeing a movie at the cinema would be a special family treat to a family that couldn’t afford to do it too often. Ah! I remember those days fondly.

    Thanks so much for the trip down memory lane!

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  13. The dream machine will forever live on so many weekends spent there feeding quaters to those games sad to see what has become of this place i guess it is true what they say you can never go home agains.

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  14. Me and Stephg used to go here when we were little.
    And it’d be so cool.
    Now people just go to the mall to smoke pot. :[

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  15. This is the best mall I’ve ever been too.. Too hard to forget!

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  16. I myself spend every weekend at Lincoln mall.
    All my friends go there, and cinema world is without a doubt the best movie theatre in Rhode Island.
    Whether or not the stores are successful, go there on any friday night and it most certainly will not be without hoards of teenagers.

    Its one of my favorite places to be.

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  17. OMG…Lincoln mall rocked! I was another teen in the early 90’s that lived at the mall. Loved fayva shoes and the deb store and rave for my clothes and my prom dresses. I wish Lincoln mall was the same so my kids could have those same kind of memories.

    Thanks for this site, I enjoyed it!

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  18. Hi, I just stumbled on this site and to read all these comments is dope. My name is Robb Brunelli and i am from Woonsocket. I left Woonsocket in 1985 and i remember everything that all of you are talking about especially at Christmas time and all the center isle venders with all the pictures of like Rick Springfield and Farrah FaucetI just returned back here and my father took me to get a Pizza from Papa Ginos and what a shock. Ican remember Cont. LTD where i to bought breakdancing pants. we used to breakdance at Autum fest in Woonsocket.After working at Roller Kingdom when it opened we would go to the mall and chill, so i feel all of you on all that you have wrote and know that it does suck when coming back home and things are different.
    Robb Brunelli
    brunelli.robb@yahoo.com

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  19. Oh, the wonderful Lincoln Mall! What can I say? I remember when it opened in 1975 when my first son was born. I didn’t really care for the mall. Then my mom suggested we come for dinner at The Roast House. Of course after that it was an every Wednesday thing. When my next son was born we continued coming every Wednesday. By 1990 I was bringing all four of my sons to the mall on Wednesday night for dinner with Grandma and sometimes Grandpa. My mom is gone but I always think of my mom whenever someone starts talking about the old Lincoln Mall.
    Little did I know that someday I would be helping manage the Lincoln Mall. I have made it through four owners.
    It was really neet looking at all the pictures you have taken.
    This site is great. So glad I came across it while I was checking out the new discoverlincolnmall.com site that went up just last.
    Keep up the good work.

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  20. I use to work at Lowrey organs at Lincoln Mall. OMG how I miss that mall. It use to be so packed with people on Saturday night and Friday nights was wall to wall kids. So many great stores from Anderson Little to Design Artisins, a very unique gift store. We has 2 Papa Gino’s and the Magic Menu. the owners name was Bob, we use to call him magic Bob. And mr Fox the head of security use to walk around on holidays and special visits by FUBA the robot. WOW such and awesome mall…..

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    Steve Reply:

    @Paul,

    Did you know Glenn C? What a great guy. He was a friend’s dad..and was so nice that his house was where we always congregated.

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  21. The Lincoln Mall and the Wakefield Mall were and are 2 of my favorites…

    Do you remember the men’s store next to Waldenbooks, that had the fake stone fountain?? Maybe called Kennedy’s, or Kennally’s or something??
    I can’t remember the name of the tape store, either, but I’d like to say “Sounds Abound” to all the other woonsocket rockets out there.

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  22. I used to work at Spencer Gifts in the late 90’s, and had a blast. Lots of good memories at Lincoln Mall. I remember when I first started there people used to be able to smoke in the mall, which I always thought was weird. Glad they changed that shortly after. There used to be an old 80’s style Gap with the old logo and orange front, it was updated later to the newer white style before ultimately shutting down. I also remember walking by Deb when I was a kid and daring my brother to run in and hang from those trapeze things they had. The fountain was also pretty cool too. One time, while changing light bulbs at Spencer’s, I was able to see towards the ceiling the old wallpaper that sued to be on the walls there, it was shiny and siler and orange…..so old! And our store wasn’t even the most recent store design, so it did look a little dated. I still loved it though. As for the record store, I only remember it being called “NRM” (National Record Mart) and it was located right off of center court in the Kmart wing.

    One more random memory: working there, knowing that at exactly 9:30 pm every night (except sunday), “May I have your attention please, the mall merchants would like to thank you for shopping at the Lincoln Mall and remind you that the mall is now closed. Thank you and goodnight.”

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  23. I used to go to Lincoln Mall in the latter half of the 1970s. The Roast House was my favorite restaurant back then. They used to have something called “the turkey sandwich special”: meat cut right off a whole turkey (loved it! you could get dark meat!) with the top of the kaiser roll dipped in gravy, a small bowl of turkey soup, and a large drink for a ridiculously low price ($1.95, $2.25?). I’d have a nice big glass of coffee milk–it was like heaven. I remember seeing the GET SMART movie, THE NUDE BOMB, at the Lincoln Mall Cinema when it came out. It was the only theatre in RI showing it.

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  24. Before K-Mart and Zayres anchored the mall, The Outlet Department Store was located there. The store closed in 1981-82, when The Outlet started closing down it’s chain of stores.

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  25. Does anyone remember the uncomfortable chairs in the cinema? They only had two positions – bolt upright or reclined. Regardless, it was a great cinema. I saw Return of the Jedi, among many other movies, there.

    LOVED the Roast House! I remember taking either a slice of pie or chocolate pudding with whipped cream out of the dessert case right before you got to the cashier.

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    Steve Reply:

    @Jeff Pascale,

    Can’t seem to recall…but I do remember seeing Close Encounters of the Third Kind there when it was initially released. Man, what memories.

    When I was a kid, if I had four quarters, I was looking for someone to drive me to the Dream Machine.

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  26. I loved the Lincoln Mall. It was small, but had what I needed. The Papa Gino’s (did they need 2?), Dream Machine, Roast House, Peerless. I made many trips to Caldor, Almac’s and Kmart. I liked that the mall was easy in, easy out.

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  27. I have money fond memories of the mall and would love if anyone had any photographs of the mall. Thanks!

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  28. What was the name of the small store to the left of where Santa would be during Christmas. The store sold bracelets, bangles and earrings and you could get your ears pierced there too. It had a glass front with two entrances one on each end. I would take my daughters there at least once every two weeks. Any help would be appreciated.

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  29. I remember that mall was like a religious center when I was a teenager in the 90s. Everyone would congregate there. I remember that glass front jewelry store with two entrances next to Papa Ginos. I think it was called Afterthoughts.

    I remember like a pack of us would pile into a table for cheap slices of Papa Ginos.

    Dream Machine was like the magical center of the Lincoln Mall Universe! All the kids remember it most of all because no other arcade compares before or since! There is something almost mystical about it in my memory! Like that Zoltar head in the movie Big!

    I loved hanging out, getting older teenagers to buy us cigarettes at CVS. I remember too you could smoke in there but I don’t think we ever dared. I think we would have got in trouble. It was more family atmosphere there. Instead we leaned against the walls outside of the mall or sat on the ground smoking cigarettes, going to McDonalds and pushing each other around in carriages in the parking lot! But I do remember smoking a cigarette in Emerald Square Mall. They had ashtrays built into the side of the top of the trash receptacles. I used to love going to Record Town there and drinking Orange Julius and buying hippie clothes at Mi Casa.

    Back at Lincoln Mall we loved going to Spencer with all the psychedelic candles posters and stuff and Alternate Realities was so cool!

    Lincoln Mall was special because it had that family feel where like I went to Rhode Island Mall as a kid and it was more indifferent in comparison just like it was at Emerald Square where I could get away with smoking because no one was paying attention at those other malls! Those malls were like business driven and Lincoln was like family driven. It was a shrine to childhood!

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