Harford Mall in Bel Air, MD: Retail Evolution

Early History and Establishment

Harford Mall opened in 1973 in Bel Air, Maryland. Mid Atlantic Realty Trust developed the mall.

The original anchor stores were E.J. Korvette and Montgomery Ward. Other early tenants included Walden Books, Horn and Horn, Friendly Ice Cream, and a multi-screen cinema.

In 1977, Hochschild Kohn opened a store during the first expansion. This store later became the original food court. The E.J. Korvette store changed hands several times, becoming Hutzler’s, Hecht’s, and Macy’s.

Montgomery Ward operated until Sears replaced it as an anchor store. In the center court, the mall also featured an F.W. Woolworth Company store.

Harford Mall’s early years focused on providing a diverse shopping experience, establishing it as a key retail destination in Harford County. This history makes Harford Mall an interesting part of any list of things to do in Bel Air, Maryland.

Ownership and Management Changes

In 2003, CBL & Associates Properties bought Harford Mall for $71 million. This change in ownership brought new management and a new direction for the mall. During the transition period, various store changes and updates occurred.

The new owners initiated a major renovation from 2006 to 2007. They remodeled the center court and the mall’s interior, giving the exterior a new look. The original indoor food court was replaced with more retail space.

During this renovation, they added new stores and restaurants. Upscale retailers like Hollister and American Eagle came in. They also introduced a new outdoor food court area with places like Qdoba and Bonefish Grill.

This period of change helped Harford Mall stay competitive. The updates brought in new shoppers and kept the mall relevant in a changing retail environment.

Retail Evolution and Tenant Changes

Over the years, Harford Mall has seen many tenant changes. In 2013, Old Navy left the mall and moved to the new Boulevard at Box Hill shopping center, where The Shoe Department Encore took over the space.

Payless Shoe Source closed its location in February 2019 due to bankruptcy. Around the same time, Charlotte Russe also shut down its store in the mall. These closures reflected broader trends in retail, with many stores struggling or closing.

New stores and eateries continued to come in. For example, Five Guys and Red Robin opened in the new outdoor food court. These additions aimed to draw more visitors and offer various dining options.

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Despite some store closures, Harford Mall adapted by bringing in new tenants. This approach helped maintain a diverse shopping experience for the community.

The mall attracts shoppers from across Harford County. This influx of visitors boosts sales for the mall’s stores and eateries.

Businesses within the mall benefit from the steady flow of customers. The mall also supports local suppliers and service providers, creating a network of economic activity.

Anchor Stores and Key Tenants

Macy’s stands out as the current main anchor store at Harford Mall. It took over the spot from Hecht’s in 2006.

Macy’s continues to attract many shoppers, offering a wide range of products from clothing to home goods. The Macy’s Furniture Gallery also serves customers looking for home furnishings.

Before Macy’s, Montgomery Ward anchored the mall from its opening in 1973 until 2001. Sears then replaced Montgomery Ward and operated until its closure in early 2020. The Sears store’s presence was part of the mall’s identity for nearly two decades.

The Harford Mall Annex, located across from the main mall, adds to the retail variety. Stores in the Annex include Dollar Tree, Office Depot, PetSmart, and Best Buy. These stores contribute to the mall’s overall draw, offering more options for shoppers.

Harford Mall
Harford Mall

Famous Stores at Harford Mall in Bel Air, MD

Clothing and Accessories

  • American Eagle Outfitters: Trendy casual clothing for young men and women.
  • francesca’s: Unique clothing, accessories, and gifts for women.
  • Hot Topic: Music, pop culture, and alternative fashion.
  • Lane Bryant: Plus-size clothing for women.
  • Victoria’s Secret: Lingerie, sleepwear, and beauty products.

Health and Beauty

  • Bath & Body Works: Fragrances, skincare, and home scents.
  • Brow Art 23: Eyebrow shaping and threading services.
  • GNC Live Well: Vitamins, supplements, and fitness nutrition.
  • Sport Clips: Men’s haircuts in a sports-themed environment.

Specialty Stores

  • Claire’s: Jewelry, accessories, and ear piercing for young girls and teens.
  • Spencer Gifts: Novelty items, party supplies, and pop culture merchandise.
  • Zales: Fine jewelry, engagement rings, and watches.

Electronics and Entertainment

  • Best Buy: Electronics, appliances, and tech products.
  • GameStop: Video games, consoles, and accessories.
  • FYE: Music, movies, and pop culture merchandise.

Home and Gifts

  • Christopher’s Gifts: Unique gifts and home decor.
  • Hallmark: Greeting cards, gifts, and seasonal items.
  • Yankee Candle: Scented candles.
  • White Barn Candle Co.: Premium candles and home fragrances.

Sports and Fitness

  • Finish Line: Athletic footwear and sportswear.
  • New Vision Soccer Academy: Soccer training gear and apparel.
  • Flip Fitness & Fun Training Center: Fitness training and classes.

Future Prospects and Challenges

In early 2020, Sears closed its location at the mall due to bankruptcy. The demolition of the Sears store began in early 2022 and was completed by March 2022.

In its place, a 59,600 sq ft outdoor shopping complex began construction. This new complex included an Amazon Fresh grocery store and a Mediterranean Grill.

The Harford Mall faces its challenges, with a 77% occupancy rate at the end of 2022. Many tenants have short-term leases, contributing to uncertainty about the mall’s future.

CBL Properties, the owner of the indoor mall, is considering transforming part of the property into residential units.

Harford Mall
Harford Mall” by Ricknightcrawler is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

As of 2024, the future of the newly constructed space at the Shops at Harford Mall complex in Bel Air, Maryland, remains uncertain.

The site replaced the old Sears building and was initially slated for a grocery store. However, plans for an Amazon Fresh market fell through when the company reconsidered its brick-and-mortar store strategy. Despite rumors, Trader Joe’s has no plans to open a store in Harford County.

The occupancy of the new building has been slow, and only a few spaces have been leased. The European Wax Center, Akira Ramen & Izakaya, and Drayer Physical Therapy are among the tenants that were opened. Mezeh, a Mediterranean restaurant, is expected to join the complex soon.

The mall faced a serious incident in June 2024 when a shooting occurred during a child’s birthday party at the Harford Bounce and Play Place.

The suspect allegedly shot a man three times following a dispute. This incident raised safety concerns, prompting increased security measures.

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