From Ashtabula Mall to Ashtabula Towne Square: The Genesis
In Ashtabula, Ohio, the Ashtabula Towne Square has been a cornerstone of the community since its inception in 1992. Initially named Ashtabula Mall, it was a sprawling retail hub with a capacity for 70 stores and a bustling food court.
The mall was a testament to the retail boom of the 90s, where families could spend their weekends, teenagers could hang out with friends, and shoppers could find almost everything they needed.
The mall’s initial roster of anchor stores was a who’s who of big retail names of the time. The significant draws pulled in crowds with their wide range of products: Sears, JCPenney, Dillard’s, Phar-Mor, Kmart, and Carlisle’s.
The Kmart and Phar-Mor stores were particularly significant as they were prototypes, marking a new direction in the companies’ retail strategies. However, the mall’s landscape began to change with the closure of Carlisle’s in 1994, a casualty of the chain’s overall demise.
A Period of Change: The Late 90s and Early 2000s
The late 90s and early 2000s were a period of significant change for the Ashtabula Mall. The closure of Phar-Mor led to the opening of Steve & Barry’s in 2005, a popular clothing store known for its affordable prices.
Around the same time, Dillard’s decided to shut down its Home Store, choosing to focus on its central location that catered to fashion apparel. However, this was short-lived, with the main Dillard’s store closing in 2007.
In 2008, a significant shift occurred. Cabot Investment Properties purchased the mall, signaling a new era. With the change in ownership came a name change, and Ashtabula Mall was rebranded as Ashtabula Towne Square.
This rebranding was more than just a cosmetic change; it represented a new vision for the mall, a hope to revitalize it and adapt to the changing retail landscape.
The Struggle for Survival: The Decline
The following years were challenging for Ashtabula Towne Square. The mall saw a series of closures that significantly impacted its vibrancy and footfall.
Several stores, including Old Navy, Payless ShoeSource, Spencer’s Gifts, GameStop, Claire’s, Mr. Hero, Lane Bryant, Wendy’s, Fashion Bug, and J.B. Robinson Jewelers, all closed their doors. Each closure was a blow to the mall’s status as a retail hub and a sign of its tough times.
The mall’s struggles were not unique. Across the country, many malls were facing similar challenges as changing consumer habits, and the rise of online shopping took a toll on traditional retail.
However, for Ashtabula Towne Square, the challenges were compounded by a foreclosure in 2011.
This significant setback marked a low point in the mall’s history. The closures of Sears in 2012 and Kmart in 2016 further reduced the number of anchor stores, leaving the mall in a precarious position.
A New Chapter: Recent Developments
Despite the challenges, Ashtabula Towne Square is trying to struggle. In February 2020, the mall and attached properties were sold to Ashtabula Mall Realty Holding LLC, a part of the Kohan Retail Investment Group. This change in ownership brought a new sense of optimism and a chance for the mall to reinvent itself.
However, the mall faced another setback when JCPenney, one of the last remaining original anchor stores, announced its closure in 2020. The AMC Classic 6-screen movie theater, a popular entertainment spot for the community, closed its doors on July 20, 2023.
The closure of the movie theater marked the end of an era for movie-goers in the community, who had spent countless hours immersed in the magic of cinema within its walls.
The Present and the Future: The Current State
Today, Ashtabula Towne Square is a symbol of the changing retail landscape. It has weathered numerous storms and continues to serve the community, albeit in a different capacity than before. Dunham’s Sports, one of the old tenants, continues to operate, proving that resilience and adaptability can go a long way.
The mall has also welcomed new anchors. Planet Fitness, a popular fitness chain, has set up a place for community members to focus on their health and wellness in 2019.
Spirit Halloween, a seasonal retailer specializing in Halloween costumes, decorations, and accessories, is set to open in August 2023, adding a fresh wave of optimism for the mall’s future.
Reflections and Conclusions
The journey of Ashtabula Towne Square reflects the broader changes in the retail industry and the challenges malls face nationwide.
From its early days as a bustling shopping center to its struggles in the face of changing consumer habits and economic challenges, the mall has experienced the full spectrum of highs and lows.
Yet, despite the challenges, Ashtabula Towne Square in Ohio stands today not as a relic of the past but as a symbol of resilience and transformation. It serves as a reminder that while change is inevitable, it also brings opportunities for growth and renewal.