Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD: Where History Meets Retail

A Haven of Retail History

Ah, Westfield Montgomery, a place that holds so many memories for the people of Bethesda, Maryland. Nestled on Democracy Boulevard, it’s a location that’s as much a part of the local history as the people who frequented it.

Opening its doors for the first time on March 6, 1968, this grand venue was the fruit of a joint venture between the May Department Store Co. and Strouse, Greenberg & Co., under the deft design expertise of John Graham, Jr. and Ward and Hall.

Its roots are intertwined with those of Hecht’s, Garfinckel’s, and Sears – the mall’s original anchors, making it a retail beacon in the local community. Who could forget the old mall logo, an owl-shaped “M,” standing as a silent sentinel over the mall’s bustling activity?

This mall was also where, in a darker episode of history, longtime fugitive William Bradford Bishop allegedly bought the tools to commit a horrific crime on March 1, 1976. But, like the community it serves, Westfield Montgomery stood resilient, continuing to evolve and serve its patrons.

Evolution and Expansion

In the mid-1970s, the mall underwent a significant expansion, welcoming the arrival of a 155,000-square-foot Woodward & Lothrop store and 60,000 square feet of additional retail space for 40 stores. This US$4.5 million expansion only solidified its standing as the go-to destination for Bethesda’s shoppers.

But the evolution didn’t stop there. A grand renovation was completed in October 1991, breathing new life into the venue. This overhaul brought new floors, brass railings, a glass elevator (which was sadly removed in 2013), and the removal of all the fountains to allow for more kiosk and seating space.

The grand re-opening event featured a concert by Tony Bennett, an event that still lingers in the memory of those lucky enough to be there.

Further expansion was approved by Montgomery County in September 2007, allowing the mall to grow by an additional 360,000 square feet.

This ensured Westfield Montgomery was the fourth largest mall in the Washington area, behind Tysons Corner Center, Westfield Wheaton, and Fair Oaks Mall.

A Hodgepodge of Brands and Activities

Westfield Montgomery, home to over 160 stores and services and four anchor tenants, boasts a total retail floor area of 1,223,000 sq ft, spread over three floors. Not just a place for shopping, it has become a hub of entertainment, hosting events and activities woven into the fabric of the local community.

From hosting the Pop 2000 Tour as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s Blossom Fest in April to the Westfield Montgomery Mall Carnival, the mall has become a source of joy and entertainment for the local community.

The arrival of new brands and stores like Ebere by Alpha Apparel, DJ Watch & Engraving, and Melashops, a fashion market offering apparel, jewelry, and accessories from around the world, in April 2023 showcases its continuous evolution.

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The Silver Screen Experience

Westfield Montgomery has also been home to a cinema, providing a place for locals to escape into the film world. A 16-screen Arclight Cinemas opened at the mall in 2014, only to close down in April 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, AMC Theatres acquired the lease to the cinema as a testament to the mall’s resilience and adaptability. They re-opened it in March 2022, allowing the local community to enjoy the magic of the movies again.

Westfield Montgomery Mall
Westfield Montgomery Mall “Montgomery Mall” by ehpien is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A Time of Change

Like all great institutions, Westfield Montgomery has seen its share of changes. Following the 2005 acquisition of May Department Stores by Federated Department Stores, the Hecht’s at Montgomery was renamed Macy’s in 2006, a name that resonates with shoppers today.

Sears, one of the original anchor stores, closed its doors in June 2018, paving the way for new stores and an open-air mixed-use center.

The mall has not been without its share of hardship. On May 6, 2016, tragedy struck when former federal police officer Eulalio Tordil shot three people in the parking lot, one of whom tragically died. Yet, despite these challenges, the mall has remained a central part of the community, reflecting the resilience and strength of the people it serves.

Unforgettable Experiences

Westfield Montgomery’s recent events have brought new life to the mall. The Westfield Montgomery Mall Carnival, held in the mall’s parking lot, offered rides, food, and fun for all ages. This event and the Pop 2000 Tour featuring O-Town and Chris Kirkpatrick of ‘N Sync have created unforgettable experiences for the Bethesda community.

Looking Forward

Westfield Montgomery is a testament to today’s resilience, adaptability, and community spirit. Under the management and ownership of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield SE, it continues to serve the Bethesda community, offering a diverse range of stores and services.

As we look forward to the mall’s future, we are reminded of its history and the memories it holds for those who have walked its halls.

Westfield Montgomery in Maryland is a beloved shopping destination, a hub of community activity, and a beacon of retail history – here’s to many more years of shared experiences and memories.

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