Ocean County Mall in Toms River, NJ: Fitness, Shopping, and Dining

Beginnings and Conception of Ocean County Mall

In the 1970s, Toms River experienced rapid growth, and developers saw an opportunity to build a mall. The Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation took on the project.

Initially, they planned to place the mall at the intersection of Garden State Parkway and Route 37. However, they eventually chose a location at Hooper Avenue and Bay Avenue.

The decision came after studying the area’s potential. The Toms River region lacked an enclosed shopping center. The nearest options were Monmouth Mall in Eatontown and Shore Mall in Egg Harbor, but both were too far for convenient access.

The finalized plan featured a super-regional mall. It aimed to cater to the growing local population.

Ocean County Mall

The developers wanted to provide a one-stop shopping destination. The project also included plans for ample parking space. They ensured easy access from major highways.

Construction was in full swing by early 1976, and the project moved quickly. On July 20, 1976, Ocean County Mall opened its doors.

The opening marked a new era for Toms River. Residents now had a modern shopping center close to home. This development added to the list of things to do in Toms River, NJ.

Opening Day and Initial Structure

Ocean County Mall opening was a big event for Toms River. The mall had three main anchors: Sears, JCPenney, and Bamberger’s, which later became Macy’s. These stores drew in large crowds right from the start.

General Cinema also opened within the mall. It offered a new entertainment option for the community, and many people flocked to see movies, making it a popular spot. After closing, the cinema became a Japanese restaurant, Ichiban.

The mall’s layout was simple but effective. It featured wide walkways and plenty of natural light, making shopping pleasant and inviting. Many smaller retail stores also provided a variety of shopping options.

Parking was plentiful, accommodating a large number of visitors. The mall’s location, near major roads, made it easily accessible. This convenience helped it quickly become a central hub for the area.

The 1980s Expansion

In 1988, Ocean County Mall expanded. They added Stern’s, which later became Boscov’s. The new store offered a wider range of products, appealing to different customers.

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Around the same time, General Cinema closed. It couldn’t compete with the AMC-Loews at Seacourt Pavilion, leaving a gap in the mall’s entertainment options.

The 1980s also saw the introduction of several smaller stores, including niche retailers that catered to specific interests. The variety helped attract more visitors and kept the mall lively.

These changes reflected the mall’s growth and adaptation, aiming to meet the community’s evolving needs.

The 1980s expansion marked a new phase in the mall’s history, focusing on providing more choices and improving the shopping experience.

Ocean County Mall
Ocean County Mall Jimmypitt1234, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The 2003 Renovation

In 2003, Ocean County Mall underwent a complete renovation. The mall received new signage, flooring, and lighting. These updates gave it a fresh, modern look. They also improved the overall shopping experience.

The renovation included new seating areas. The Deborah Heart and Lung Center sponsored these areas.

They encouraged mall walking, a popular activity among locals. The mall marked walking distances on the floor, making it easy for walkers to track their progress.

The parking lot also received an upgrade. New lighting made it safer and more convenient, and the mall added more handicapped parking spaces, making the mall more accessible to everyone.

The renovation also introduced new stores and eateries, which brought in more visitors and provided a wider variety of shopping and dining options.

The 2003 renovation marked a new era for Ocean County Mall, making it more appealing and functional.

The Sears Closure and Subsequent Redevelopment

In January 2018, Sears announced its closure at Ocean County Mall. The store closed on April 8, 2018. This closure was part of a larger plan to shut down 103 stores nationwide. Sears had been a major anchor since the mall opened in 1976.

Simon Property Group, the mall’s management, quickly planned a redevelopment. They aimed to transform the former Sears space.

By 2020, new tenants filled the space. LA Fitness opened in January 2020, providing a new fitness option for mall visitors.

Five Below opened in July 2020. This store attracted younger shoppers with its affordable products. Ulta Beauty followed in September 2020.

It added a popular beauty retailer to the mall’s mix. HomeSense opened in December 2020, offering home goods and decor.

The redevelopment brought new life to the mall, providing diverse shopping options and improving its appeal. These changes showed how the mall adapted to retail trends and community needs.

Anchors and Major Tenants Over the Years

Ocean County Mall has seen various changes in its anchor stores over the years. JCPenney has been a constant anchor since the mall’s opening in 1976.

It has remained a reliable destination for shoppers looking for clothing, home goods, and other essentials.

Macy’s, originally Bamberger’s, has also been a major presence. In 1986, Bamberger’s rebranded as Macy’s, aligning with other stores in the chain.

This store occupies two floors and offers a wide range of products, from fashion to household items.

Stern’s joined the mall in 1988 but closed in 2001. Boscov’s took over the space and offered a variety of merchandise, including apparel, cosmetics, and home goods.

Boscov’s continues to attract a steady stream of customers with its extensive product selection.

Modern-Day Mall and Current Offerings

Fashion and Apparel

Aeropostale offers casual wear for young men and women. Their selection includes jeans, hoodies, and graphic tees, making it a popular spot for teens and young adults.

American Eagle is known for trendy and comfortable clothing. They offer a wide range of denim, casual wear, and accessories, appealing to a broad audience.

Hollister brings a Southern California vibe with beach-inspired clothing. The store features casual apparel, swimwear, and accessories for a younger crowd.

Forever 21 provides fast fashion at reasonable prices. The store offers a vast array of clothing, shoes, and accessories for men and women, making it a destination for the latest trends.

H&M is a global retailer known for stylish and affordable clothing. They offer a wide range of fashion items, from casual wear to office attire, catering to all age groups.

Victoria’s Secret is famous for lingerie, sleepwear, and beauty products. The PINK line targets younger women with loungewear and activewear, making it popular for comfort and style.

Pacsun features clothing and accessories reflecting the California lifestyle. They offer casual apparel, swimwear, and footwear, catering to a youthful and trendy market.

Specialty and Entertainment

Build-A-Bear Workshop® allows customers to create their own stuffed animals. This interactive store is a favorite among children and families, providing a unique and personalized shopping experience.

GameStop is a leading retailer of video games, consoles, and accessories. Gamers frequent this store to find the latest releases, pre-owned games, and gaming merchandise.

Hot Topic caters to fans of alternative culture, offering a variety of music and pop culture-themed apparel, accessories, and collectibles. It’s a go-to spot for band merchandise and unique fashion.

Spencer’s is known for its eclectic and humorous merchandise. The store features novelty items, apparel, and accessories that appeal to teens and young adults looking for something different.

Jewelry and Accessories

Kay Jewelers is a well-known retailer offering a wide selection of fine jewelry, including engagement rings, necklaces, and bracelets. They are popular for their quality and variety of designs.

Pandora is famous for its customizable charm bracelets and jewelry. Shoppers visit to create personalized pieces that reflect their individual style and milestones.

Zales Jewelers offers a broad range of fine jewelry, from diamond engagement rings to luxury watches. They are a trusted name for quality jewelry and exceptional service.

Footwear

Foot Locker specializes in athletic footwear and apparel. They offer a wide selection of sneakers and sportswear from top brands, attracting sports enthusiasts and sneakerheads alike.

Vans is renowned for its skateboarding shoes and casual apparel. The store features a variety of footwear styles, clothing, and accessories that are popular among the youth and skateboarding community.

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