Exploring Grossmont Center Mall: A Retail Haven in La Mesa, California

The Inception and Evolution of Grossmont Center

Nestled in the heart of La Mesa, California, Grossmont Center Mall stands as a testament to the evolution of retail spaces over the decades.

This outdoor shopping mall opened in 1961 and has become a central hub for shopping, entertainment, and community gatherings in East County, San Diego.

The story of Grossmont Center is not only about retail; it’s a narrative of growth, adaptation, and community connection.

From its inception, Grossmont Center was destined to make an impact. Managed by Federal Realty Investment Trust, it represents a significant chapter in La Mesa’s development.

The mall’s array of stores, including its anchor stores like Macy’s, Target, Cost Plus World Market, RH Outlet, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and Reading Cinemas, offers a diverse shopping experience.

Each store brings its unique flavor to the mall, contributing to a rich tapestry of retail options that cater to various tastes and needs.


Grossmont Center is more than a shopping destination; it’s a part of the community’s fabric. It has evolved alongside the changing dynamics of retail and consumer preferences.

The presence of major retail players like Target and Macy’s illustrates the mall’s ability to attract renowned brands, enhancing the shopping experience for visitors.

Meanwhile, specialized stores like RH Outlet and the entertainment options provided by Reading Cinemas add layers to the mall’s appeal, making it a go-to spot for things to do in La Mesa, California.

Grossmont Center’s Architectural Beginnings and Original Anchors

The foundation of Grossmont Center in 1961 marked a significant milestone in La Mesa’s history, not just as a commercial venture but as an architectural marvel.

Built by the Del E. Webb Construction Company, the mall’s design, conceptualized by Welton Becket and associates, blended practicality and aesthetic appeal.

Spanning across 110 acres, the construction of Grossmont Center was a bold move, demanding over $20 million in investment.

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At its opening, it was the largest development ever seen in La Mesa, setting a new standard for regional shopping complexes.

The original anchor stores of Grossmont Center were Marston’s and Montgomery Ward, each bringing a unique retail experience to the area.

With its roots in downtown San Diego, Marston’s chose Grossmont Center for its first branch location, which speaks volumes about the mall’s potential and appeal.

The store embodied elegance, featuring 3,200 feet of moldings, gold leaf lettering, and murals painted by five artists.

Its Gothic-style canopy over the entry was a visual treat, adding to the grandeur of the mall. Montgomery Ward brought in a different flavor, catering to a wide range of consumer needs, and together, these stores set the tone for the mall’s future success.

The opening of Grossmont Center was celebrated with grandeur, drawing in a crowd of fifty thousand people, significantly more than La Mesa’s population at the time.

This overwhelming response indicates the community’s enthusiasm and the mall’s future role as a central gathering place.

The presence of high-profile attendees, including a Playboy model and representatives of the Marston’s chain, added to the ceremony’s splendor.

This opening ceremony was an event and a statement of Grossmont Center’s destined role in the community’s social and economic life.

Expanding Horizons: Grossmont Center’s Growth and Diversification

Grossmont Center embraced change and expansion as the years progressed, reflecting the evolving retail and consumer preferences landscape.

By 1965, just four years after its grand opening, the mall had added a significant feature: a 1,000-seat movie theater.

This addition wasn’t merely about diversifying; it was about creating a holistic experience for visitors, combining shopping with entertainment.

The late 1970s and early 1980s marked another expansion phase for Grossmont Center. In 1979, Buffum’s, a new anchor store, joined the mall’s lineup, signifying the center’s growing appeal to high-end retailers.

This expansion continued with the addition of Bullock’s in 1983, further solidifying Grossmont Center’s position as a premier shopping destination.

These developments were complemented by the construction of a new parking deck, addressing the practical needs of the increasing number of visitors.

Grossmont Center
Grossmont Center” by Bisayan lady is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The introduction of these stores and facilities represented Grossmont Center’s commitment to staying relevant and accommodating the changing demands of its patrons.

However, the journey wasn’t without its challenges. The 1990s saw the closure of Buffum’s, followed by Bullock’s and Woolworth in 1993.

Yet, Grossmont Center adapted swiftly, welcoming new tenants like Cost Plus World Market and a food court, ensuring the mall remained vibrant and attractive to shoppers.

The former Buffum’s store was transformed into Oshman’s SuperSports USA in 1991, later bought by Sports Authority, while Target found a new home in the vacated Bullock’s store in 1995.

These changes underscored Grossmont Center’s resilience and ability to reinvent itself in the face of the ever-changing dynamics of the retail sector.

Anchoring the Retail Experience at Grossmont Center

In the vibrant Grossmont Center, a selection of anchor stores contribute uniquely to La Mesa, CA’s shopping and entertainment landscape.

Macy’s stands as a cornerstone of fashion and homeware. Transitioning from its former identity as The Broadway, Macy’s combines trendy fashion, quality homewares, and luxury.

This store is more than just a shopping spot; it’s a landmark that embodies the evolution of retail in La Mesa.

Target, known for its wide range of products and accessible prices, is a go-to for everyday essentials. Its presence in Grossmont Center marks a key destination for shoppers seeking convenience and variety.

The store’s history in the mall, taking over the space from Bullock’s, showcases its adaptability and enduring appeal to the community.

Walmart, another giant in the retail world, offers Grossmont Center’s visitors an extensive selection of goods, from groceries to electronics.

Filling the space once occupied by Montgomery Ward, Walmart caters to a diverse shopper demographic, emphasizing affordability and variety.

RH Outlet brings a touch of elegance to Grossmont Center with its luxury home furnishings.

Its unique offerings of upscale home decor and furniture add sophistication to the mall, appealing to design-conscious shoppers and interior design enthusiasts.

Barnes & Noble serves as a cultural hub within Grossmont Center, offering many books, music, and more.

Since opening in 1997, this bookstore has become a favorite spot for book lovers and a key contributor to the mall’s diverse retail mix.

Cost Plus World Market adds an international flair to Grossmont Center’s retail offerings. Its eclectic mix of furniture, home decor, food, and drink from around the world gives shoppers a taste of global cultures in La Mesa.

Reading Cinemas completes the Grossmont Center experience by offering entertainment and leisure. As a movie theater, it provides a perfect destination for families, couples, and film enthusiasts to unwind after shopping.

With their distinct identities and offerings, these anchor stores play a vital role in defining Grossmont Center as a diverse and dynamic shopping destination in La Mesa, CA.

A Legacy of Retail: Notable Tenants and Enduring Appeal at Grossmont Center

Grossmont Center Mall in La Mesa, CA, is not just about its anchor stores. It also has many unique and popular tenants, each contributing to the mall’s diverse and vibrant shopping experience.

See’s Candies has been a staple at Grossmont Center since its opening, offering a sweet taste of nostalgia with its classic array of chocolates and candies.

Its enduring presence over the years is a testament to the mall’s commitment to maintaining a mix of traditional and contemporary shopping experiences.

Adding to the culinary delights, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse is a visitor’s favorite. Known for its expansive menu that includes deep-dish pizza, craft beers, and a wide range of entrees, BJ’s provides a relaxed dining atmosphere perfect for families and friends.

Ceramic Cafe offers a creative escape for those seeking a unique artistic experience. This pottery painting studio invites visitors of all ages to express their creativity, making it an ideal spot for family activities, parties, or a relaxing day out.

Fitness enthusiasts frequent Chuze Fitness, a state-of-the-art gym known for its extensive range of equipment, classes, and welcoming atmosphere. It caters to a broad spectrum of fitness levels, from beginners to seasoned athletes.

Another popular destination is Daniel’s Jewelers, providing a wide selection of jewelry for all occasions. From elegant engagement rings to fashionable accessories, Daniel’s has become a go-to for those seeking quality and style.

Lastly, Spa & Co. Nails & Wine Bar offers a unique combination of nail services and wine, creating a luxurious pampering experience for those searching for relaxation and self-care. It’s a perfect spot for those looking to unwind and indulge in some personal care.

Together, these tenants highlight the diverse appeal of Grossmont Center Mall. From sweet treats and creative pursuits to fitness, fashion, and relaxation, the mall offers something for everyone, making it a cherished destination in La Mesa.

Grossmont Center
Grossmont Center” by E Steuer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Grossmont Center in the 21st Century: Adapting to New Trends

The turn of the century brought significant transformations to Grossmont Center, reflecting its adaptability to new retail trends and consumer expectations.

In the late 1990s, the mall’s movie theater, a popular entertainment spot since 1965, underwent a major change. Initially closing in 1992, the theater returned triumphantly in 1995, reopening and expanding.

This revamp was a strategic move, aligning with the growing trend of multiplex cinemas and enhancing the mall’s appeal as a comprehensive entertainment destination.

Another notable development during this period was the addition of Barnes & Noble Booksellers in 1997.

This new tenant replaced Woolworth, which had closed in 1993, illustrating the mall’s ongoing evolution and its response to shifting retail landscapes. The following year, 1998, marked a significant change for one of the mall’s original anchors.

The Broadway chain was acquired and transformed into a Macy’s store, seamlessly integrating a contemporary retail giant into the mall’s fabric. This transition preserved the mall’s heritage and infused it with modern retail energy.

The early 2000s saw further changes. Montgomery Ward, an original anchor, closed its doors in 2000. In its place, Walmart opened in 2004, introducing a new dimension to the mall’s retail mix.

This change symbolized the broader shifts in the retail industry, where traditional department stores gave way to big-box retailers.

Similarly, 2016 marked the end of Sports Authority’s tenure at the mall following the chain’s bankruptcy. Its space was soon re-tenanted by a Restoration Hardware outlet, adding a luxurious home furnishing option to Grossmont Center’s diverse offerings.

These changes underscored the mall’s resilience and knack for staying relevant amidst the rapidly evolving retail sector.

Grossmont Center’s New Chapter: Transition and Future Visions

In 2021, a pivotal moment in Grossmont Center’s history unfolded as Federal Realty, a publicly traded real estate investment trust, acquired a majority interest.

This transition from family ownership, which had lasted for decades, to corporate management marked the end of an era for the mall.

Under the stewardship of Federal Realty, Grossmont Center is not just maintaining its legacy; it’s gearing up for a new phase of development and modernization.

At the time of the sale, Grossmont Center was at the peak of its success, with a reported 99 percent occupancy rate of retail space.

This high occupancy rate reflects the mall’s enduring appeal and ability to attract diverse tenants. Federal Realty’s mall acquisition signals a commitment to further enhance its status as a key shopping and entertainment destination in La Mesa.

The new ownership promises revitalization and the potential for introducing new concepts and experiences to the mall.

Federal Realty is considering major redevelopment plans for Grossmont Center, set to commence in 2025.

This redevelopment is not just about physical transformation; it’s about reimagining the mall’s role in the community and the broader retail landscape. Grossmont Center’s future vision includes creating a space that resonates with contemporary consumer preferences while preserving the mall’s unique character.

This prospective redevelopment promises to redefine Grossmont Center, ensuring its continued relevance and vibrancy in the years to come.

Grossmont Center
Grossmont Center” by Allan Ferguson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reflecting on Grossmont Center Mall: A Story of Continuity and Change

As we look back on the journey of Grossmont Center, it’s evident that it has been much more than a mere shopping destination.

From its grand opening in 1961 to its current status in 2023, Grossmont Center has consistently played a pivotal role in the La Mesa community and the wider East County area of San Diego.

This mall has witnessed significant transformations, mirroring the shifts in retail trends and consumer habits.

Grossmont Center’s story is one of adaptability and resilience. It has seen the rise and fall of retail giants, welcomed new entrants, and embraced changes in shopping preferences and entertainment options.

Despite these changes, the mall has maintained its essence, providing a space where the community can shop, relax, and engage. It symbolizes continuity amid change, always finding ways to stay relevant and appealing to its patrons.

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