Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, NJ: Where Every Visit Tells a New Story

The Evolution of Willowbrook Mall

Willowbrook Mall, nestled in Wayne, New Jersey, is a testament to the dynamic retail and consumer preferences world. Since its grand opening in 1969, the mall has undergone numerous transformations, expansions, and renovations, each reflecting the changing landscape of shopping and entertainment needs.

Initially, Willowbrook Mall offered a modern shopping experience in a suburban setting, attracting customers with its wide array of stores and convenient location.

In the early years, the mall was anchored by well-known department stores such as Sears, Bamberger’s, and Ohrbach’s, drawing in crowds looking for various shopping options under one roof.

As the years progressed, the mall expanded its footprint, adding more retail spaces and welcoming a diverse mix of tenants.

The 1980s and 1990s saw significant growth, with the addition of a food court and the introduction of high-end fashion brands, electronics stores, and specialty shops. This period marked Willowbrook Mall as a central hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment in Northern New Jersey.

The turn of the millennium brought a new set of challenges and opportunities. The rise of e-commerce and changing consumer habits prompted Willowbrook Mall to innovate and adapt. The early 2000s saw further renovations to modernize the mall and enhance the visitor experience.

New dining options, updated interior designs, and the introduction of entertainment venues such as movie theaters and gaming arcades added to the mall’s appeal. The mall’s ability to evolve with the times made it one of the favorite destinations for things to do near New York City.

As of 2024, Willowbrook Mall continues to thrive as a premier shopping destination, boasting a mix of over 170 stores, including national chains, local boutiques, and dining establishments.

Its ongoing commitment to providing a diverse and dynamic shopping environment reflects the mall’s understanding of its customers’ evolving needs and preferences.

With each renovation and new store opening, Willowbrook Mall reinforces its status as a key player in the retail industry, adapting to trends while maintaining its core appeal to shoppers of all ages.

Milestones in the History of Willowbrook Mall

The history of Willowbrook Mall is deeply rooted, starting in 1966 when the first shovel hit the ground to build a Bamberger’s store, marking the start of its journey to becoming a key shopping center in the New York metropolitan area.

By 1968, the development broadened to encompass Ohrbach’s and Sears, setting the stage for what would grow into a shopping center spanning over 1,500,000 sq ft of retail space.

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The mall officially opened on September 24, 1969, introducing a new era of shopping with a 110-store indoor mall.

The second phase spread on August 12, 1970, with the addition of 47 specialty stores on two floors and a Stern’s department store, marking Willowbrook Mall as the largest enclosed shopping mall in the world at the time.

This expansion increased the mall’s size and appeal to a wider audience, offering various shopping options under one roof.

In 1993, Willowbrook Mall became a pioneer in New Jersey by banning smoking on its premises, reflecting its commitment to providing shoppers with a comfortable and healthy environment.

The mall’s adaptability to changing retail trends and consumer preferences is evident in its store rebrandings and renovation history. Since the mall opened, the Bamberger’s store has been a staple, transforming into Macy’s in 1986.

After changing ownership, Ohrbach’s was rebranded as part of the Steinbach chain, which ceased operations in 1996, making way for Lord & Taylor in 1997. Stern’s closure in 2001 led to the opening of Bloomingdale’s, further diversifying the mall’s anchor offerings.

A significant renovation in 2015, with a budget of $23 million, modernized the mall with new ceilings in the Sears & Macy’s wings, an overhauled food court, new flooring, additional seating, and a two-story streetscape theme for the Bloomingdale’s wing.

This renovation aimed to enhance the shopping experience and keep the mall competitive in the evolving retail landscape.

The mall’s history is also marked by its response to the retail industry’s challenges, such as the closure of Sears in 2019 and the announcement of Lord & Taylor’s shutdown in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite these challenges, Willowbrook Mall has continued to evolve, with new tenants like BJ’s Wholesale Club in 2023 and the anticipated opening of JCPenney in March 2024, ensuring its place as a key shopping destination in New Jersey.

Willowbrook Mall’s journey from its inception to its current status reflects its ability to adapt and grow, making it a significant part of Wayne, NJ’s commercial landscape.

Its history of expansions, renovations, and tenant changes showcases a dynamic environment that continues to attract shoppers across the region.

Current Anchors and Their Stories

Willowbrook Mall’s anchor stores have been pivotal in its success, drawing shoppers with their diverse offerings and brand recognition. Macy’s, one of the anchors, has been a staple since 1986.

Known for its wide range of clothing, accessories, and home goods, Macy’s has adapted over the years, incorporating digital shopping options and personalized services to enhance the customer experience.

Bloomingdale’s, another key anchor, joined the mall in the late 1990s, bringing a touch of luxury and an assortment of high-end brands. Its presence underscored Willowbrook Mall’s appeal to a more upscale market, offering shoppers designer labels and exclusive products not found elsewhere.

The announcement of JCPenney’s opening in March 2024 marks a new chapter for Willowbrook Mall. This addition is part of the mall’s strategy of diversifying its retail mix and offering more affordable fashion and home decor options.

JCPenney is expected to attract a broad customer base eager for its well-known brands and value pricing.

BJ’s Wholesale Club offers a unique shopping experience within the mall, catering to those looking for bulk purchases and exclusive member benefits. Its inclusion in the mall’s roster provides a convenient option for shoppers who combine their mall visits with stocking up on essentials.

Cinemark, another anchor, enhances the mall’s entertainment offerings. With multiple screens featuring the latest movies, Cinemark attracts moviegoers and enhances the overall appeal of Willowbrook Mall as a destination for leisure and entertainment.

A Spectrum of Retail Delights

Willowbrook Mall houses an impressive array of stores catering to various tastes and preferences. In fashion, shoppers can find everything from the casual styles of American Eagle Outfitters and Aeropostale to the athletic wear of Adidas and Athleta.

High-end fashion is also well-represented with stores like A|X Armani Exchange and Michael Kors, offering stylish options for the fashion-conscious.

Technology enthusiasts have much to explore at Willowbrook Mall, with the Apple Store at the forefront, offering the latest gadgets, accessories, and tech support.

AT&T and T-Mobile provide services and products for those interested in mobile technology to keep shoppers connected.

Lifestyle and home goods stores add another dimension to the mall’s retail mix. Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle offer a variety of scents and home decor items.

At the same time, The Container Store provides innovative storage solutions. Bloomingdale’s Home Furnishings presents a selection of upscale furniture and decor for those looking to decorate their homes.

This diverse retail environment ensures that Willowbrook Mall remains a vibrant shopping destination, meeting the needs of a broad spectrum of customers.

From the latest fashion trends to cutting-edge technology and cozy home goods, the mall offers a comprehensive shopping experience that caters to every visitor’s needs.

Culinary Journey Through Willowbrook Mall

Willowbrook Mall is a paradise for shoppers and a haven for food lovers. The mall’s dining landscape is as diverse as its retail offerings. It features a wide range of eateries that cater to every taste and preference. From quick snacks to sit-down meals, the options are plentiful.

The mall offers several fast-food options for those searching for a quick bite. Dunkin’ Donuts provides a quick coffee fix along with its famous donuts and breakfast sandwiches.

Cinnabon serves up its signature cinnamon rolls for a sweet treat, a perfect indulgence during a busy shopping day. Wetzel’s Pretzels is another favorite, offering a variety of pretzels, from classic buttery to almond crunch.

Sit-down dining options are equally impressive, with The Cheesecake Factory leading the charge. Known for its extensive menu and generous portions, it’s a go-to for shoppers looking to relax and refuel.

P.F. Chang’s offers a culinary journey to Asia with its Chinese-inspired menu. At the same time, BJ’s Wholesale Club, though primarily a shopping destination, includes a dining area where members can enjoy a meal.

For those looking for something unique, the mall also hosts specialty eateries like Blaze Fast-Fired Pizza, where customers can customize their pizzas, and Bourbon Street Cafe, offering a taste of New Orleans.

The diversity of dining options at Willowbrook Mall ensures visitors can find something to satisfy any craving, making it a complete destination for shopping and dining.

Entertainment and Leisure at Willowbrook

Willowbrook Mall extends beyond shopping and dining to offer a variety of entertainment and leisure activities, making it a comprehensive destination for families and individuals alike.

Cinemark, one of the mall’s anchor tenants, plays a significant role. Multiple screens showing the latest blockbuster hits provide a perfect escape for movie enthusiasts looking to catch up on new releases in a state-of-the-art cinematic environment.

Dave & Buster’s adds another layer to the mall’s entertainment offerings. This venue uniquely combines dining and gaming, offering a wide array of video and arcade games alongside a menu of food and drinks.

It’s a popular spot for adults and children, ideal for birthday parties, casual get-togethers, or a fun day out.

The presence of these entertainment giants at Willowbrook Mall enhances its appeal as a destination not just for shopping but for a full day of leisure and fun.

They contribute to the mall’s atmosphere, making it a lively place where visitors can enjoy various activities beyond the traditional shopping experience.

Whether catching the latest film or enjoying a competitive game night, Willowbrook Mall offers something to keep everyone entertained.

Willowbrook Mall Welcomes JCPenney as New Anchor Store

Willowbrook Mall continues to evolve, reflecting the latest retail and consumer preference trends. A significant development is the upcoming opening of JCPenney in March 2024, which shoppers eagerly anticipate.

This new addition is expected to bring a fresh dynamic to the mall’s retail mix, offering a wide range of affordable fashion, home decor, and beauty products.

JCPenney is set to open a new department store, revitalizing the space left vacant by Lord & Taylor. This move marks a notable shift in the mall’s retail landscape as JCPenney relocates from Wayne Towne Center to Willowbrook Mall, filling the last empty anchor slot on the southwest side of the mall.

Lord & Taylor had thrived in this location for over two decades before closing three years ago, followed by a brief tenure of Shopper’s Find, which closed in November 2022.

This development ensures that all four anchor spaces will be occupied, enhancing the mall’s appeal and diversity of shopping options.

JCPenney, a 121-year-old chain founded by James Cash Penney in Wyoming in April 1902, has a long history of serving American consumers.

Despite filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2020, JCPenney has emerged under new ownership by Brookfield Property Partners L.P. and Simon Property Group Inc., signaling a new chapter for the retailer.

The relocation of JCPenney to Willowbrook Mall is part of a broader trend of retail adjustments and revitalizations, reflecting the changing dynamics of shopping centers and consumer habits.

With over 650 stores across the U.S., JCPenney’s move to Willowbrook Mall is a strategic effort to reach a wider audience and offer a refreshed shopping experience to the residents of Wayne, NJ, and surrounding areas.

Comments: 2
  1. Avatar of Curtis

    Does anyone know what was on the property before the mall was built, I know and I do not think it can be found on the internet, I looked quickly and did not find.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      I’m curious about that, too! It seems the area has a rich history, but specific pre-mall details are unavailable. Would love to know what you found.

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