Inside Square One Mall in Saugus, MA: The Changing Face of Retail

The Birth and Development of Square One Mall

Square One Mall, a prominent shopping destination in Saugus, Massachusetts, embarked on its journey on August 17, 1994. Developed by the New England Development Corporation, this mall significantly added to the area’s retail landscape.

Its opening not only introduced a new shopping hub but also signified a pivotal moment in the commercial development of Saugus.

The construction of Square One Mall was a unique endeavor. It ingeniously incorporated the pre-existing structure of Sears, a decision that was both economically and environmentally considerate.

This integration is evident in the contrasting building materials between the Sears section and the rest of the mall. This architectural choice preserved the site’s history and added a distinctive character to the mall’s overall design.

In its early years, Square One Mall profoundly impacted the town of Saugus. It catalyzed significant changes along the Route 1 corridor, introducing a sprawl and strip development wave. This development was not just about expanding retail space; it reshaped the commercial dynamics of the area.

The mall became a central point for shopping and leisure, offering things to do in Saugus, Massachusetts. Its presence altered traffic patterns, consumer behavior, and even the local economy, making it a pivotal element in the town’s evolution.

The mall’s opening was more than just unveiling a new shopping center; it was a transformative event that redefined Saugus’s commercial and social landscape.

The Evolution of Anchor Stores

Macy’s Journey in the Mall

Macy’s, a renowned name in the retail industry, has been a cornerstone of Square One Mall since its inception. As an anchor store, Macy’s has consistently drawn many visitors to the mall, contributing to its overall foot traffic and appeal.

Over the years, Macy’s has undergone various transformations, adapting to the evolving retail landscape and consumer preferences. These changes have included store layout redesigns, inventory updates, and introducing new product lines, all aimed at enhancing the shopping experience and maintaining customer interest.

Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Role

Dick’s Sporting Goods, another key anchor of Square One Mall, has played a vital role in attracting a diverse clientele, particularly sports enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. The store’s entry into the mall brought a wide range of sporting goods, apparel, and equipment, catering to various sports and outdoor activities.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has been instrumental in hosting community events and sports-related activities, further cementing its position as a go-to destination within the mall for sports and fitness enthusiasts.

Best Buy’s Presence

Best Buy’s presence in Square One Mall marked a significant addition to the mall’s retail mix, appealing to the tech-savvy and electronic enthusiasts.

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Known for its wide array of electronics, home appliances, and tech services, Best Buy has been a major draw for customers seeking the latest technology. The store’s regular updates in inventory, reflecting the newest trends in tech and gadgets, have kept it relevant and popular among shoppers.

The Rise and Fall of Notable Tenants

Sears’ Decline and Closure

Once a retail giant and a key anchor tenant at Square One Mall, Sears faced a gradual decline, leading to its eventual closure. The store downsized in 2017, limiting its operations to the lower level of its original space.

This downsizing responded to the changing retail environment and the company’s shifting strategies. However, the challenges continued, and on September 13, 2020, Sears closed its doors at Square One Mall as part of a nationwide closure of 28 stores.

This closure marked the end of an era for the mall and left a significant vacancy, reflecting the broader struggles faced by traditional department stores in the digital age.

One of the most significant changes was the planned transformation of the vacant Sears space. Initially, Apex Entertainment had proposed repurposing this area into a large entertainment complex.

This plan was a promising development for the mall, aiming to diversify its offerings beyond traditional retail. However, in 2021, Apex Entertainment dropped its plans, leaving the future of the Sears space uncertain. This setback highlights the challenges of reimagining large retail spaces in a changing market.

Filene’s Basement’s Bankruptcy

Filene’s Basement, another former anchor tenant, faced financial difficulties, leading to its bankruptcy filing on May 4, 2009. The store, once famous for its bargain deals and unique shopping experience, needed help to keep up with the competitive retail market.

The bankruptcy led to the closure of all Filene’s Basement stores in December 2011, including the one at Square One Mall. This closure affected the mall’s tenant mix and signaled the challenges discount retailers face in a rapidly evolving market.

TJ Maxx’s Adaptation

In contrast to Sears and Filene’s Basement, TJ Maxx demonstrated adaptability within Square One Mall. Initially occupying a space built for Lechmere, TJ Maxx moved to the space formerly occupied by Filene’s Basement.

This move allowed TJ Maxx to expand its footprint in the mall, offering a larger variety of discount fashion and home goods. TJ Maxx’s ability to adapt and grow within the mall indicates its resilience and appeal in the face of changing retail trends.

B.D.’s Furniture

B.D.’s Furniture, a notable tenant at Square One Mall, has carved out a unique niche in the home furnishings market within the mall’s retail landscape. Specializing in a wide range of furniture and home decor items, B.D.’s Furniture caters to a diverse clientele looking for quality, style, and affordability.

The store’s presence in the mall adds a significant dimension to the shopping experience, appealing to those seeking to furnish their homes or find that perfect piece to complete a room.

Over the years, B.D.’s Furniture has become a go-to destination for shoppers in Saugus, offering everything from contemporary sofas and dining sets to elegant bedroom suites and home accents.

Their commitment to providing value, variety, and excellent customer service has helped them maintain a strong customer base, even as the retail environment evolves.

Square One Mall Saugus
Macy’s (Square One Mall)” by jjbers is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ultra FlexGym

Ultra FlexGym, another prominent tenant at Square One Mall, brings a dynamic and health-focused energy to the mall’s atmosphere. As a modern fitness center, Ultra FlexGym offers a comprehensive range of workout equipment, fitness classes, and personal training services, catering to individuals of all fitness levels.

The gym’s presence in the mall allows shoppers and residents to integrate fitness into their daily routines. With state-of-the-art facilities and a team of experienced trainers, Ultra FlexGym has established itself as a community hub for health and wellness.

The gym’s focus on creating a supportive and motivating environment has made it a popular destination for those looking to achieve their fitness goals, contributing to the mall’s appeal as a place that supports a healthy and active lifestyle.

Notable Stores and Their Stories

Fashion and Apparel

Square One Mall boasts a variety of fashion and apparel stores that cater to a wide range of styles and preferences. Stores like Old Navy offer casual and affordable clothing options for the whole family, while Forever 21 appeals to a younger demographic with its trendy and budget-friendly fashion.

These stores attract fashion-conscious shoppers and contribute significantly to the mall’s foot traffic. Their ever-changing inventory, aligned with current fashion trends, keeps the shopping experience fresh and exciting for regular visitors.

Technology and Entertainment

Stores like Best Buy and GameStop anchor Square One Mall’s technology and entertainment sector. Best Buy offers a comprehensive selection of electronics, from the latest smartphones and laptops to home appliances, making it a key destination for tech enthusiasts.

GameStop caters to the gaming community, providing a wide range of video games, consoles, and gaming accessories. These stores not only attract a diverse group of tech-savvy customers but also contribute to the mall’s modern and dynamic image.

Specialty Stores and Services

Square One Mall has various specialty stores and services that add to its unique character. A.C.T Body Piercing & Tattoos and Angela’s Jewelry Repair offer personalized services that draw in a niche clientele.

These specialty stores provide unique experiences and products not typically found in standard mall settings, adding to the diversity and appeal of Square One Mall. Their presence highlights the mall’s status as an all-encompassing shopping haven, meeting diverse needs and tastes.

The Current State of Square One Mall

Overview of Present-Day Mall

As of 2024, Square One Mall presents a diverse retail environment with 120 stores and services. The mall, spanning 930,000 square feet, continues to serve as a shopping hub for the Saugus community and its surrounding areas.

Despite facing the challenges of the evolving retail landscape, the mall maintains a mix of retail, dining, and entertainment options. The food court and various eateries offer a range of dining experiences catering to different tastes and preferences.

Challenges and Changes

In recent years, Square One Mall has navigated several challenges, including a noticeable shift in consumer shopping habits and the increasing competition from online retailers. These changes have led to fluctuations in foot traffic and impacted the mall’s occupancy rates.

The closure of Sears in 2020 was a significant event, leaving a notable vacancy and reflecting the broader trend of department store struggles. Despite these challenges, the mall has been actively working to adapt and reinvent itself to remain relevant in the changing retail environment.

Community Perception

The local community’s perception of Square One Mall has evolved. Once seen as a bustling center of retail activity, the mall now faces mixed reviews due to the changing retail climate and the departure of some key stores. However, it still holds a place in the community as a convenient shopping location and a space for social gatherings.

The management’s efforts to introduce new stores and experiences are seen as positive steps toward revitalizing the mall. The community continues to watch the mall’s evolution with interest, hoping for a resurgence to bring back its former vibrancy.

Northeast Arc’s New Program at Square One Mall

A noteworthy development at Square One Mall was the opening of a new location by Northeast Arc in late May 2023. This organization, known for supporting individuals with disabilities, launched its “Steps to Independence and Supported Employment programs” at this new site.

The program aims to aid participants in building work and life skills, striving for complete inclusion in their communities. The Saugus location provides a more accessible environment for participants and offers various employment and skill-building opportunities in the mall’s diverse stores.

This initiative is part of Northeast Arc’s broader efforts to revitalize unused retail spaces for community-serving purposes, echoing their successful venture at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers with the Center for Linking Lives​.​

Looking ahead, the future of Square One Mall is pivoting away from its traditional retail-centric model. The mall is increasingly becoming a space that nurtures community, fosters inclusivity, and provides diverse experiences beyond shopping. With tenants like Northeast Arc, the mall is poised to offer a blend of retail, entertainment, and community services.

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Comments: 8
  1. Avatar of J

    It was a great place to shop when it was originally the New England shopping center. Sears and Roebuck was the thriving anchor store back then. Sorry to know it is a shell of its former self. Abandoned by Simon corporation that owns or manages many malls such as the thriving North Shore mall in Peabody.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your perspective on Square One Mall. Changes can bring both challenges and opportunities. Square One Mall’s evolution may reflect efforts to revitalize and reposition the space to meet the needs of modern consumers and the local community.

  2. Avatar of C

    The mall is a joke. Not one decent store or restaurant.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. It could inspire a reevaluation of the mall’s offerings to better cater to customer preferences.

  3. Avatar of Miles

    I Appreciate the positivity

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      I couldn’t agree more! Positivity creates a great atmosphere.

  4. Avatar of Laurie M.
    Laurie M.

    I feel like these abandoned malls would make great housing. I’d live in a mall condo! Plenty of parking, parking garage, keep the food courts and pharmacy, add a grocery store and gym, urgent care.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Converting malls into residential areas complete with lifestyle amenities is a testament to innovative urban planning. It’s a way to breathe new life into spaces that once buzzed with activity.

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