The Secret Behind Southern Park Mall’s Success in Boardman, OH

The Birth and Evolution of Southern Park Mall

Southern Park Mall stands as a retail beacon in Boardman, Ohio. The Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation, synonymous with commercial real estate development, unveiled this shopping center in 1970. It significantly expanded the Youngstown–Warren metropolitan area’s retail landscape.

The mall’s origins trace back to local history, the Southern Park Race Track. This historic horse racing facility, located approximately 1.5 miles south of the current mall site, lent its name to the new commercial venture. The track’s legacy continues through the Southern Park Mall, intertwining retail with local heritage.

The mall featured three anchor stores in the early stages, a strategic move to attract a diverse consumer base. Sears opened its doors in October 1969, setting the stage for the mall’s official launch.

JCPenney and Strouss, based in Youngstown, joined the retail lineup the following April, relocating from the nearby Greater Boardman Plaza. This trio of department stores anchored the mall’s retail offerings, drawing shoppers from across the region.

The mall’s footprint expanded rapidly. In the 1970s, it had become a hub for local shoppers and visitors looking for things to do in Boardman, OH. Adding a fourth anchor, the Pittsburgh-based Joseph Horne Company, in July 1973 further solidified Southern Park Mall’s status as a key shopping destination.

Over the years, the mall has witnessed numerous changes in its retail composition and ownership. The DeBartolo Corporation’s merger with Simon Property Group in the late 1990s led to significant renovations. This renovation refreshed the mall’s appearance and enhanced its appeal to a broader audience.

The turn of the century brought further evolution. Anchor stores such as Kaufmann’s transitioned to Macy’s, reflecting the changing landscape of American retail. The mall adapted to these shifts, maintaining relevance and appeal in the competitive retail market.

Ownership changes continued into the 21st century, with Washington Prime Group taking the reins in April 2014.

This transition marked a new chapter in the mall’s history, emphasizing a commitment to maintaining its status as a premier shopping and entertainment destination in Mahoning County.

As Southern Park Mall continues to evolve, it remains a testament to the dynamic nature of retail and community engagement. Its ability to adapt and grow reflects its customers’ changing tastes and needs, ensuring its place in the region’s retail history.

Architectural Design and Store Composition

Southern Park Mall showcases a unique architectural layout to enhance the shopping experience. The design focuses on accessibility and convenience, allowing shoppers to navigate its vast 1,018,400 sq ft retail space effortlessly.

The single-level structure, with two levels in anchor stores, ensures easy access to all stores without the complexity of multiple floors.

The mall originally featured three anchor spaces designed to house major department stores and attract a wide customer base. Over the years, these spaces have seen various occupants.

JCPenney and Macy’s currently serve as the main anchor tenants, drawing significant foot traffic and providing a wide range of products from fashion to home goods. These stores have become cornerstones of the mall, contributing to its status as a key shopping destination in the area.

In addition to the main anchors, Southern Park Mall boasts a variety of junior anchors and specialty stores. H&M, Shoe Dept. Encore and Planet Fitness represent the diverse retail mix, catering to fashion-forward shoppers, footwear enthusiasts, and fitness buffs.

Southern Park Mall’s architectural design and store composition are crucial to its success and longevity.

By combining convenience with a diverse retail offering, the mall continues to attract shoppers from Boardman and beyond, maintaining its place as a central hub for commerce and community in the region.

Notable Events and Renovations

Southern Park Mall has witnessed significant events and renovations since its inception, each shaping its identity and appeal.

The first major renovation occurred in 1997, a pivotal year when the DeBartolo Corporation merged with Simon Property Group.

This $19 million investment transformed the mall’s interior, introducing a modern food court and enhancing the overall shopping environment.

The same year, Cinemark Tinseltown USA, a seven-screen movie theater, opened, adding an entertainment dimension to the mall’s offerings.

The mall’s landscape continued to evolve with the closure of key anchor stores, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter in retail dynamics.

Sears, one of the original anchors, closed its doors in 2018 after nearly 49 years of operation. Dillard’s departure in 2019 followed, leaving significant retail space vacant and prompting a strategic rethink of the mall’s layout and tenant mix.

In response to these challenges, Washington Prime Group, which took ownership in 2014, embarked on an ambitious redevelopment project.

The project saw the demolition of the Sears building and the creation of DeBartolo Commons, a new outdoor space named in honor of the mall’s original developer.

This space, opened in 2021, aimed to revitalize the mall’s atmosphere by offering recreational areas and smaller exterior storefronts. Thus, the overall square footage was reduced, but the space and tenant mix quality increased.

Anchor Tenants: Pillars of Southern Park Mall

JCPenney has been a cornerstone of Southern Park Mall since its early days, establishing itself as a reliable destination for shoppers seeking quality clothing, home furnishings, and more.

Opening in April 1970, JCPenney brought a tradition of retail excellence, contributing significantly to the mall’s initial and sustained foot traffic.

Over the decades, JCPenney has adapted to changing market trends and consumer needs, continuously updating its product lines and services to maintain its appeal.

As one of the original anchors, its presence at Southern Park Mall has provided stability and continuity amidst the evolving retail industry.

Another key anchor, Macy’s, has its roots in the mall’s history through its predecessor, Kaufmann’s, which transitioned to Macy’s in 2006 following a corporate acquisition.

This change brought a new dimension to the mall’s retail offerings, introducing Macy’s wide range of clothing, beauty products, and home decor.

As a brand, Macy’s is synonymous with style and quality, attracting a diverse clientele to Southern Park Mall.

The store’s adaptation to the digital age, with enhanced online shopping options and in-store pickup services, reflects its commitment to meeting the modern shopper’s needs while maintaining its status as a retail leader.

Planet Fitness, a more recent addition to the mall, represents the evolving nature of anchor tenants in shopping centers.

Opening in 2021, this fitness center took over space previously occupied by traditional retail stores, signaling a shift towards lifestyle-oriented services in malls.

Planet Fitness at Southern Park Mall offers a convenient and affordable gym option for locals, contributing to the mall’s community-centric approach.

Its presence underscores the trend of incorporating health and wellness services into retail environments, adding value to the traditional shopping experience.

The Bunker is an indoor golf sanctuary with a driving range, putting, short-game areas, and 12 high-tech golf simulators for an immersive playing experience.

Whether beginners or seasoned, golfers can book their tee times online, with exclusive slots available for members and accessible options for non-members. Additionally, The Bunker hosts golf clinics for those eager to learn or refine their skills.

Visitors can enjoy Double Bogey’s Bar and Grill refreshments, which complement the golfing experience. Thus, The Bunker is a comprehensive destination for golf enthusiasts looking to practice, learn, or unwind.

Southern Park Mall Food Court
Southern Park Mall Food Court Larry Hachucka, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Together, these anchor tenants form the backbone of Southern Park Mall, each contributing to its identity and success in distinct ways.

From traditional department stores to modern fitness centers, the variety among the anchors reflects the changing dynamics of retail and consumer preferences, ensuring the mall remains a relevant and vibrant destination for the community.

Highlighted Stores at Southern Park Mall

Fashion and Apparel

Southern Park Mall is a haven for fashion enthusiasts. American Eagle Outfitters offers trendy clothing and accessories for young adults, embodying a casual American style. Hollister, with its range of clothing and fragrances, captures the essence of a laid-back SoCal lifestyle. 

BoxLunch offers a variety of pop culture-themed products for those seeking unique and socially responsible fashion. A portion of the proceeds goes to charitable causes. 

Hot Topic caters to music and pop culture fans with its range of band merchandise, alternative apparel, and accessories. 

Maurices is known for its size-inclusive women’s fashion, offering everything from casual to professional attire. rue21 and Tillys offer the latest trends for teens and young adults, focusing on style and affordability.

Jewelry and Accessories

For those searching for elegance and sparkle, Ashcroft & Oak and Kay Jewelers are the go-to destinations for fine jewelry, offering a wide selection of rings, necklaces, and other exquisite pieces. 

Claire’s is perfect for fun and trendy accessories, catering mainly to a younger audience with jewelry and beauty products. Lids provides various hats and caps featuring sports teams, lifestyle brands, and custom designs.

Specialty Stores and Services

Build-A-Bear Workshop offers a unique and interactive experience where customers can create personalized stuffed animals. The Children’s Place is perfect for high-quality, affordable children’s clothing and accessories. 

Spencer’s has eclectic novelty gifts, humorous T-shirts, and pop culture items. Steel Valley Brew Works combines retail with leisure, offering a selection of craft beers and coffee in a relaxed environment.

Health and Beauty

Bath & Body Works is a fragrant haven of skincare, bath, and body products, perfect for pampering and self-care. GNC provides health and nutrition-related products, including vitamins, supplements, and fitness-related goods. 

Home Spa offers a range of relaxation and rejuvenation services, from massages to facials. Superbrow and Sunglass Hut cater to specific beauty and accessory needs, offering eyebrow threading services and a wide range of designer sunglasses.

These stores, among others, make Southern Park Mall a diverse and vibrant shopping destination, catering to a wide range of tastes and needs, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

Recent Developments at Southern Park Mall

In recent years, Southern Park Mall in Boardman, Ohio, has seen a series of engaging events and significant developments to enhance the visitor experience.

One of the notable additions is the seasonal ice rink, providing a unique recreational activity for families and individuals.

This initiative, particularly popular during the holiday season, adds a festive atmosphere to the mall, drawing in crowds looking for leisure activities beyond traditional shopping.

The mall has also embraced the spirit of Easter with special events like photos and visits with the Easter Bunny, available from March 1 through March 30. This Center Court event allows families to capture memorable springtime photos.

A unique twist to the Easter celebrations includes pet photos with the bunny, enabling pet owners to involve their furry friends in the festivities.

Another highlight is the Santa Experience, a cherished annual event where children can meet Santa Claus in Center Court, share their Christmas wishes, and capture the moment with a photo.

This event, typically starting in November, marks the beginning of the mall’s holiday season, bringing the community joy and excitement.

These events and the mall’s diverse range of stores and dining options continue to make Southern Park Mall a central hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment in the Boardman area.

Southern Park Mall is a vibrant destination for both locals and visitors. It hosts seasonal activities and embraces community-focused events.

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