Nittany Mall in State College, PA: Echoes of the Past, Whispers of the Future

The Dawn of Nittany Mall

When its doors opened in 1968, Nittany Mall emerged as a beacon of commerce and social gathering in State College, Pennsylvania. Conceived during a time of economic optimism, the mall was designed to be more than just a shopping center; it was a place where the community could gather, shop, and spend leisure time.

The developers envisioned a bustling hub that would cater to the needs and wants of the local population and the influx of students from the nearby Pennsylvania State University.

The mall’s initial years were marked by prosperity and growth. Anchored by prominent department stores, the mall quickly became a favored destination for shoppers. Stores like Sears, Grants, and Penn Traffic, known for their wide range of products and quality customer service, drew crowds from all over the region.

The presence of these retail giants not only boosted the mall’s foot traffic but also set a standard for the type of shopping experience Nittany Mall aimed to provide.

The mall’s architecture, with spacious walkways and an inviting atmosphere, complemented the retail experience, making it a popular spot for things to do in State College, PA.

As the years progressed, Nittany Mall expanded its offerings, incorporating diverse stores and services. Specialty shops, dining options, and entertainment facilities began to appear, turning the mall into a comprehensive center for commerce and leisure.

This evolution mirrored the changing dynamics of the retail industry, where variety and convenience became paramount.

The Evolution of Retail Giants at Nittany Mall

Since its inception in January 1968 by Crown American, Nittany Mall has been a testament to the dynamic nature of retail trends and consumer preferences. Initially anchored by Grants and Penn Traffic, the mall housed 30 smaller stores.

The year 1970 marked a significant expansion with the introduction of a Sears store, relocated from downtown State College, enhancing the mall’s retail diversity with its 45 merchandise departments and a 10-bay automotive center.

The retail landscape of Nittany Mall underwent notable changes over the decades. The closure of the Grants chain in 1976 led to Gee Bee taking over the space.

After being sold to Crown American in 1982, Penn Traffic was rebranded as Hess’s, further diversifying the mall’s retail offerings.

The late 80s and early 90s saw substantial developments; the mall welcomed JCPenney as a new anchor in 1989-1990, and Sears expanded, relocating to a new section.

This period also witnessed the transformation of Gee Bee to Value City in 1992, and later, Hess’s transitioned to Bon-Ton Stores in 1994.

The turn of the millennium brought more shifts. Value City made way for Kaufmann’s in 1997, eventually transitioning to Macy’s in 2006, reflecting the broader retail consolidation trends.

However, the retail tide continued to turn; JCPenney closed in 2015, replaced by Dunham’s Sports in 2016. The subsequent years saw the departure of longstanding anchors; Sears closed in 2018, followed by the entire Bon-Ton chain, leaving significant vacancies.

Despite these challenges, Nittany Mall adapted and evolved. The former Sears space welcomed Rural King in March 2021, and Gabe’s took over the previous Bon-Ton location in June 2021.

The mall’s resilience is further highlighted by the anticipation of a Bally’s mini-casino, expected to open at the former Macy’s site, showcasing its ongoing transformation and efforts to diversify its appeal beyond traditional retail.

Nittany Mall
Nittany Mall” by Ii2nmd is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Current Anchor Stores at Nittany Mall

Gabe’s, known for its off-price fashion and home goods, has been a significant player in Nittany Mall’s retail lineup. Since its opening, Gabe’s has consistently attracted diverse customers, drawn by the promise of high-quality products at deeply discounted prices.

The store’s business model, focusing on the savvy shopper, has contributed to its success and played a pivotal role in maintaining foot traffic within the mall.

Over the years, Gabe’s has adapted to the changing retail landscape, periodically refreshing its product lineup and store layout, ensuring the shopping experience remains fresh and relevant to the consumer’s evolving preferences.

Dunham’s Sports entered the Nittany Mall, introducing a haven for sports enthusiasts and fitness fans. As a comprehensive sports goods retailer, Dunham’s Sports offers an extensive range of athletic equipment, apparel, and accessories, catering to amateur and professional sportspeople.

The presence of Dunham’s Sports added a dynamic dimension to the mall, attracting a segment of customers whose lifestyle revolved around sports and fitness.

The store’s commitment to providing quality sports merchandise and its regular engagement in community sports events solidified its standing as a key contributor to the mall’s foot traffic and its reputation as a community-centered establishment.

Rural King brought a unique flavor to Nittany Mall, serving the needs of the agricultural and home improvement sectors. With its wide array of products, including farm supplies, tools, and gardening essentials, Rural King addressed the practical needs of the local community.

The store’s establishment within the mall diversified the shopping experience, offering more than just traditional retail. It became a destination for individuals seeking specialized products and services, broadening the mall’s appeal.

Rural King’s commitment to serving the community’s distinct needs has made it an indispensable part of Nittany Mall, contributing significantly to the mall’s foot traffic and its role as a comprehensive shopping destination.

Specialty Stores within Nittany Mall

Nittany Mall‘s allure is enhanced by its specialty stores, each offering a unique shopping experience and catering to various consumer needs and preferences.

American Eagle Outfitters, a staple in casual fashion, has consistently attracted the younger demographic with its trendy clothing lines and accessories.

The store’s ability to stay abreast of fashion trends and its commitment to quality and affordability have made it a favorite among those seeking contemporary styles, contributing to the mall’s vibrant and youthful atmosphere.

Bath & Body Works is an oasis for those pursuing personal care and wellness products. Renowned for its extensive range of fragrances, lotions, and home scents, the store transforms shopping into a sensory experience.

The allure of its beautifully presented products and the inviting ambiance of the store make it a must-visit destination within the mall.

Bath & Body Works draws in customers with its aromatic products and enhances the overall shopping experience by adding an element of indulgence and self-care.

Claire’s, the go-to destination for fashion-forward accessories and jewelry, caters primarily to a younger audience. Its vibrant and playful product range, featuring the latest trends in jewelry, hair accessories, and beauty products, makes it a hub of creativity and style.

Claire’s contributes to the mall’s diverse retail landscape by offering affordable and trendy options for those looking to add a touch of flair to their attire.

The store’s commitment to providing a fun and engaging shopping experience resonates with its customers, making it a popular stop during a day out at the mall.

These specialty stores and others in Nittany Mall create a rich tapestry of retail options. They cater to specific needs and tastes and contribute to the mall’s identity as a diverse and dynamic shopping destination.

Each store, with its unique offerings and ambiance, plays a crucial role in shaping the overall customer experience, ensuring that a visit to Nittany Mall is enjoyable and memorable.

Reinventing Spaces: The Transformation of Nittany Mall

In response to the shifting retail landscape, Nittany Mall has embarked on a transformative journey, redefining its space to accommodate a more diverse mix of tenants.

This strategic pivot aims to create a multifaceted destination beyond traditional shopping, catering to a broader range of consumer interests and needs.

Introducing non-traditional tenants like AKS Security, Can’s Art Gallery, Joma Spa and Massage, and the Nittany Fencing Academy exemplifies this adaptive approach.

AKS Security, a tenant not typically associated with mall environments, reflects Nittany Mall’s innovative approach to tenant selection.

By offering security solutions and services, AKS Security adds a layer of professional service to the mall’s portfolio, attracting different customers and filling a niche in the community’s needs.

Can’s Art Gallery introduces a cultural dimension to the mall, transforming it into an artistic expression and appreciation hub. The gallery showcases local and regional art and provides a serene and contemplative space for visitors, distinguishing the mall as a center for cultural enrichment.

The presence of Can’s Art Gallery elevates the mall’s ambiance, offering visitors an immersive experience that transcends conventional retail shopping.

Joma Spa and Massage brings a wellness and relaxation service to the mall, aligning with the growing consumer interest in health and self-care.

This establishment offers a sanctuary for rejuvenation within the bustling mall environment, appealing to those seeking a respite from their shopping activities.

The Nittany Fencing Academy introduces a unique recreational and sporting element to the mall, diversifying its appeal and drawing in a new segment of visitors.

By hosting a fencing academy, the mall supports local sports initiatives and provides an active and engaging experience for families and individuals interested in the sport.

Bally’s Casino: A New Era for Nittany Mall

The Nittany Mall is set to embark on a new chapter by introducing Bally’s Casino, marking a significant shift in the mall’s identity and offerings.

Bally’s Corporation, a prominent name in the gaming industry, has secured a Category 4 mini-casino license, making it the 17th of 18 casinos in Pennsylvania, with 15 currently operational.

The casino is slated to occupy the former space of Macy’s, one of the last anchor retailers at the State College, Pennsylvania mall.

The 94,000-square-foot space, vacant since Macy’s closure in 2020, will soon house 750 slot machines and an initial tranche of 30 tables, potentially increasing foot traffic to the mall.

Bally’s, joining about 40 other merchants, aims to create a vibrant, enclosed regional Centre County shopping center with a unique blend of retail and entertainment.

The journey to securing the license for Bally’s was challenging, as community groups and local competitors opposed it.

However, before awarding the license, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) conducted an in-depth background check and considered comments from citizens, public officials, and community groups.

The casino’s land development plan received conditional approval from College Township in September 2021, paving the way for this significant development.

The project is anticipated to support about 350 full-time construction jobs. It represents a substantial investment by Bally’s, with an estimated full cost of $120 million, $35 million of which is devoted to upfront construction costs.

The casino will offer gaming options, featuring fast food and beverage outlets, a concert/events stage, and a sportsbook to provide a comprehensive entertainment experience.

As Bally’s Casino prepares to make its mark on Nittany Mall and the broader State College area, the community watches with anticipation, ready to witness the transformation of a traditional shopping mall into a multifaceted entertainment and retail destination.

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