The New Owners of Indiana Mall in Indiana, PA: Saviors or Final Act?

The Early Years of Indiana Mall: A Hub of Activity and Commerce

In 1979, the doors of Indiana Mall swung open for the first time, welcoming shoppers from Indiana, Pennsylvania, and beyond. The mall was a sprawling complex developed by Zamias Services, Inc., with a retail floor area of 456,000 square feet. It was more than just a shopping center; it was a social gathering spot where families spent weekends, and teenagers hung out after school.

The mall’s proximity to Indiana University of Pennsylvania was a significant advantage. Students flocked to the mall for essentials, fashion, and entertainment, making it a bustling hub of activity. The mall was not just a place to shop; it was a part of the community’s social fabric, hosting events and becoming a go-to spot for a generation.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Indiana Mall was the place to be. It symbolized economic prosperity and a testament to the American dream. The mall was more than just a collection of stores; it was a microcosm of the community, reflecting the tastes, aspirations, and needs of the people who visited it.

As the years rolled on, the mall continued to thrive. Old Navy debuted in 2006, adding to the mall’s appeal. However, even during these prosperous times, there were signs that the retail landscape was changing. Old Navy closed its doors in 2012, and the mall’s movie theater changed hands in 2015, moving from Carmike Cinemas to Golden Star Theaters.

The Decline: When the Buzz Faded

The 2010s were not kind to Indiana Mall. One by one, anchor stores began to close their doors. Kmart said goodbye in October 2017, followed by Sears in January 2018. Bon-Ton wasn’t far behind, announcing its closure due to bankruptcy. These departures left a gaping hole in the mall’s landscape, both physically and metaphorically.

The mall’s decline wasn’t just about the loss of stores; it was about the loss of community. The mall walkers, once a common sight, dwindled in numbers. The mall was no longer the bustling hub it once was; it had become a shadow of its former self. The silver lining amid this series of closures came in 2019 when Kohl’s moved in, taking over the space left vacant by Sears.

In December 2020, Zamias Services, Inc. turned the mall over to the bank but continued to manage the property. This change in management did little to halt the mall’s decline. The once-vibrant shopping center was now a maze of empty storefronts and “For Lease” signs. The mall had lost its luster and, with it, its place in the community.

Kohan’s Takeover: A New Chapter or The Final Act?

In April 2022, a new chapter began for Indiana Mall when it was sold to the Kohan Retail Investment Group for $6.9 million. The new owners faced an uphill battle. The mall was not just struggling; it was gasping for air. The question on everyone’s mind was simple: Could Kohan turn things around?

Since taking over, Kohan has made some changes, albeit not transformative ones. The mall remains a shell of its former self, but there are signs of life. New stores have opened, and there are plans for more. However, the mall is far from the bustling hub it once was.

The community’s response to Kohan’s takeover has been mixed. While some are hopeful that the new ownership can revive the mall, others are skeptical. The mall has lost much of its former glory, and regaining the community’s trust is no small feat. The mall’s future hangs in the balance between revival and obsolescence.

The mall’s current state is far from its heyday, but it’s not a lost cause. With strategic planning and community engagement, there’s a chance for a second act. However, the clock is ticking, and only time will tell if Indiana Mall can reclaim its place as the heart of the community.

The Current Tenants: The Last Holdouts

As of September 2023, Indiana Mall is home to a diverse range of tenants, each contributing to the mall’s ecosystem. Dunham’s Sports, the newest addition, had its grand opening in July 2023, bringing up to 40 new full-time and part-time jobs to the community.

The store took over the former Bon Ton location and has significantly revitalized the mall. With weekday store hours from 9 am to 9 pm and slightly shorter hours on Sunday, it adds a new dynamic to the mall’s existing offerings.

The grand opening of Dunham’s Sports was more than just a new store; it was a community event. The first 75 adult customers received a gift card, and other promotional events followed throughout the opening weekend. This move by the new owners, Kohan Retail Investment Group, shows a commitment to filling vacant spaces and creating an engaging shopping experience.

Indiana Mall PA
Indiana Mall Bath & Body Works – Closed in 2023″ by hello_gina is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Other tenants, like JCPenney, Kohl’s, Harbor Freight Tools, and MovieScoop Cinemas, continue to serve as the backbone of the mall. These stores and services have weathered the mall’s ups and downs, and their continued presence provides some stability. They are the last holdouts, the businesses that have adapted and survived in a challenging retail environment.

The mall also continues to host various events to engage the community. From food truck gatherings to job fairs, these events aim to make the mall more than just a shopping destination. They serve as a lifeline for the mall to stay relevant in a rapidly changing retail landscape.

With new tenants like Dunham’s Sports and ongoing community events, the Indiana Mall is showing signs of life, offering a glimmer of hope for its future.

The Future and Revitalization Efforts: A Crossroads

The Indiana Mall is at a critical juncture. While the retail landscape is fraught with challenges, the mall’s new ownership is taking steps to adapt and thrive. The addition of Dunham’s Sports serves as a beacon of what could be a new era for the mall.

Diversification is critical to the mall’s future. Plans are in the works to go beyond traditional retail, possibly incorporating experiential stores and community spaces. Community engagement is also a priority, with the mall hosting events and collaborating with local businesses to strengthen its ties with the community.

The clock is ticking, and the mall’s revitalization efforts are a race against time. However, the successful grand opening of Dunham’s Sports offers a glimmer of hope. The Indiana Mall could reclaim its former glory with strategic planning and community support.

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