The Mall of New Hampshire, Manchester, NH: Discover the Evolution of a Retail Giant

A Historic Landmark in Manchester, NH

When you think about things to do in Manchester, NHThe Mall of New Hampshire often tops the list. This shopping center isn’t just a place to buy your next pair of shoes or dine out; it’s a cornerstone of the city’s retail landscape, having welcomed shoppers for nearly half a century.

Opening its doors in August 1977, this mall marked a significant milestone as New Hampshire’s first large-scale shopping mall, setting the stage for the state’s retail expansion.

Nestled in the Lower South Willow neighborhood, The Mall of New Hampshire started with big names like Sears, Filene’s, and Lechmere as anchor stores. These were stores and destinations that drew people from across the region.

Despite changes in the retail scene and the departure of its original anchors, the mall remains a bustling activity center. It offers a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment choices that appeal to diverse tastes and preferences.

Its strategic location, just off the South Willow Street exit of Interstate 293, makes it easily accessible to Manchester residents and shoppers from across the Golden Triangle of New Hampshire and portions of northeastern Massachusetts.

This accessibility, combined with New Hampshire’s lack of sales tax, has turned The Mall of New Hampshire into a bustling shopping destination that attracts visitors from neighboring states looking to snag a deal.

The Evolution of Retail Giants

The Mall of New Hampshire has seen significant changes since its inception. A notable period of expansion and remodeling between late 1996 and early 1998 marked the beginning of its evolution. Sears received an upgrade in 1997, enhancing its retail space.

Around the same time, Filene’s boldly moved from its original 60,000-square-foot location to a sprawling 160,000-square-foot store in a new mall wing, a change that occurred in early 1997.

This relocation led to demolishing and transforming the original Filene’s site into a two-level JCPenney by early 1998.

Additionally, in 1997, Lechmere closed, and in 1998, it was replaced by a Best Buy and a Kitchen ETC store. A renovation expanded the food court to seat 550 patrons.

The landscape shifted again in 2006 when the Federated/May merger closed all of Filene’s locations. The Mall of New Hampshire’s Filene’s was reborn as a Macy’s.

In April 2013, JCPenney embarked on a significant renovation, revamping both levels of its store and introducing a Sephora, broadening its appeal and retaining its customer base.

The changes continued. In 2015, Sears Holdings spun off 235 properties, including the Sears at The Mall of New Hampshire, into Seritage Growth Properties.

A pivotal moment came on August 22, 2018, when it was announced that Sears would be closing as part of a plan to shutter 46 stores nationwide, with the doors closing for good in November of that year.

The space formerly occupied by Sears embarked on a new chapter, with half being taken over by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which opened on October 30, 2019.

The other half was destined to become a Dave & Buster’s. However, its opening was postponed up to 5 months to August 24, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These transformations underline The Mall of New Hampshire’s resilience and adaptability. They reflect broader trends in the retail sector and demonstrate a commitment to meeting the evolving needs of its patrons.

Through expansions, renovations, and a willingness to embrace change, the mall continues to serve as a dynamic destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment in Manchester, NH.

Architectural and Economic Expansion

The Mall of New Hampshire has grown significantly since its inception, expanding to accommodate various stores and services.

Its floor area now spans 799,000 sq ft, making room for over 120 stores. This expansion reflects physical growth and enhances visitors’ shopping experience.

Ownership and management play a crucial role in this evolution. Simon Property Group, a titan in the retail property sector, holds a 56.4% ownership stake, while the CPP Investment Board owns 44%.

Their expertise in retail management and investment has undoubtedly steered the mall toward its current status as a retail powerhouse in New Hampshire.

The Mall of New Hampshire’s strategic location is a key factor in its success. Situated just off the South Willow Street exit of Interstate 293, it boasts an enviable position that makes it a convenient stop for shoppers across the region.

The economic implications of such a sprawling retail space and location are far-reaching. The mall serves the local Manchester community and attracts shoppers across New Hampshire and beyond, including Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont.

The absence of sales tax in New Hampshire adds to the allure, drawing bargain hunters and casual shoppers alike.

This influx of visitors from neighboring states underscores the mall’s significant role in the local and regional economy, contributing to its status as a key player in New Hampshire’s retail landscape.

Anchors of The Mall of New Hampshire: A Closer Look

JCPenney has established itself as a cornerstone within The Mall of New Hampshire, enduring as a beacon of retail resilience.

Since its grand opening, JCPenney has gracefully navigated the retail waves, adapting to changing consumer preferences while maintaining its essence as a provider of quality goods at affordable prices.

Its journey through renovations, including a significant update in 2013, has kept it relevant and appealing to a broad customer base.

Today, JCPenney continues to offer a wide range of apparel, home goods, and more, embodying the tradition of American department stores and securing its place in the hearts of Manchester shoppers.

Macy’s story within the mall is a tale of transformation and adaptation. Following the closure of all Filene’s stores due to the Federated/May merger, Filene’s at The Mall of New Hampshire transitioned to Macy’s.

This changeover not only retained a department store anchor but also introduced Macy’s wide array of fashion, housewares, and cosmetic products to the mall’s customers, continuing the legacy of quality and style.

Best Buy, a leader in electronics and technology, found its home at The Mall of New Hampshire by occupying the space left by Lechmere in 1998.

This move signaled the mall’s shift towards incorporating more technology-focused retailers, catering to the growing consumer demand for electronics, home appliances, and entertainment systems.

Best Buy has become a go-to destination for tech enthusiasts and everyday consumers, keeping the mall on the cutting edge of retail trends.

Dick’s Sporting Goods entered the mall’s retail lineup with a bang, taking over half of the former Sears space.

Opening its doors on October 30, 2019, Dick’s brought a vast selection of sports equipment, apparel, and footwear to the mall, catering to the active lifestyle of the Manchester community.

Its presence underscores the mall’s commitment to offering a diversified shopping experience that meets the interests and needs of its visitors.

Old Navy brings affordable fashion to The Mall of New Hampshire. Known for its trendy yet budget-friendly clothing for men, women, and children, Old Navy appeals to shoppers looking for the latest styles without breaking the bank.

Its casual, fun atmosphere and regular sales events have made it a favorite among families and young adults, adding a vibrant element to the mall’s retail mix.

Dave & Buster’s story in the mall is about anticipation and excitement. Set to occupy the other half of the former Sears space, its opening was eagerly awaited.

Originally scheduled to open on March 30, 2020, the launch was delayed to August 24, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an entertainment hub offering arcade games, sports viewing, and dining under one roof, Dave & Buster’s introduced a new dimension to the mall. It blends shopping with high-energy entertainment and dining experiences, making the mall a go-to destination for fun seekers.

Spotlight on Notable Stores at The Mall of New Hampshire

The Mall of New Hampshire boasts an impressive array of tenants, offering something for everyone. Certain stores stand out for brand recognition, diverse product offerings, and unique shopping experiences.

Fashion and Apparel

American Eagle Outfitters and Forever 21 are the go-tos for trendy and affordable fashion. American Eagle Outfitters appeals to those looking for comfortable, casual styles focusing on denim.

Forever 21, on the other hand, offers a vast selection of the latest trends, making it easy to update your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

Hollister captures the essence of a Southern California lifestyle, perfect for teens and young adults seeking a laid-back, beach-inspired look. 

Charlotte Russe and Torrid cater to fashion-forward women, with Torrid specializing in plus-size apparel, ensuring style is accessible to everyone.

Specialty Retailers

Build-A-Bear Workshop® offers a unique and interactive experience where children and the young can create their stuffed animals. GameStop is a haven for gamers, offering the latest in video games, consoles, and accessories.

Hot Topic provides a wide range of pop culture and music-inspired merchandise, appealing to fans of all genres. 

Spencer Gifts is known for its eclectic and often humorous gifts, novelty items, and party essentials, making it a great place to find unique presents or fun additions to any gathering.

Accessories and Jewelry

Kay Jewelers offers a wide selection of jewelry, from engagement rings to fashion pieces, catering to various tastes and budgets. 

Claire’s Boutique is the go-to spot for affordable accessories and jewelry, perfect for those looking to add a bit of sparkle without spending a fortune.

Pandora charms many with its customizable charm bracelets, offering a personal touch to jewelry lovers looking to commemorate life’s special moments.

Beauty and Wellness

Ulta stands out as a beauty lover’s paradise, with an extensive range of cosmetics, skincare, and haircare products from high-end and drugstore brands. 

GNC caters to health and wellness enthusiasts, offering a wide selection of supplements, vitamins, and health foods.

Bath & Body Works is renowned for its fragrant selection of body care, candles, and home scents, making it a favorite for those looking to indulge in self-care or enhance their living spaces.

Each of these stores contributes to the vibrant shopping ecosystem of The Mall of New Hampshire, ensuring visitors have access to a diverse range of products and experiences under one roof.

Culinary Delights at The Mall of New Hampshire

The Mall of New Hampshire serves a diverse dining experience that caters to every taste, making it a go-to destination for shopping and eating out.

From the aroma of freshly baked pretzels at Auntie Anne’s to the savory bites of Arby’s classic roast beef sandwiches, the mall offers a variety of quick-bite options for those on the move.

Sweet tooths find solace in Cinnabon’s sinfully delicious cinnamon rolls, a perfect match for a cup of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, where the morning rush finds its caffeine fix.

For a more relaxed dining experience, Buffalo Wild Wings provides a lively atmosphere where you can catch a game and enjoy wings in many flavors.

Families and friends gather at Dave & Buster’s not only for the extensive menu but also for the arcade games that turn a simple meal into an outing full of entertainment.

Longhorn Steakhouse and Red Robin offer sit-down meal options that cater to the cravings of steak aficionados and burger enthusiasts alike, while T.G.I. Friday’s broad menu ensures everyone in the group finds something to enjoy.

The mall also brings a taste of the world to Manchester with Master Wok and Sarku Japan offering quick and flavorful Asian dishes, Ruby Thai introducing spicy Thai flavors, and Sbarro serving Italian classics like pizza and pasta.

Nature’s Nectar and Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt provide a refreshing break from the usual mall fare for those looking for healthier or lighter options.

The Dining Pavilion is a testament to the mall’s commitment to variety. It houses a collection of eateries that offer something for everyone in one convenient location.

Whether grabbing a snack between shops or sitting down to share a meal, the dining options at The Mall of New Hampshire ensure that every visit is as much about the food as it is about the shopping.

Recent Developments at The Mall of New Hampshire

In a recent turn of events that caught the attention of Manchester residents and mall-goers alike, The Mall of New Hampshire was the center of a safety scare.

On the afternoon of December 17, 2023, a significant police presence gathered outside the Red Robin restaurant following reports of a “suspicious bag” found within the mall premises.

The situation prompted immediate action from local law enforcement, including the bomb squad, to ensure the safety of everyone in the vicinity.

The mall was cleared as a precautionary measure, with Manchester police thoroughly investigating the scene. After a tense period of uncertainty, authorities declared the bag posed no threat to the public.

While resolved without harm, this incident highlights the ongoing challenges and safety concerns that large public spaces like The Mall of New Hampshire must navigate.

It also underscores the importance of swift and decisive action by local law enforcement to maintain public safety and trust.

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