The History That Built Us
Once upon a time, back in the year 1967, a new gem appeared in Hanover, Pennsylvania – an open-air strip mall that came to be known as the North Hanover Mall. Initially, The mall was home to stores like W.T. Grant, Town & Country, Sears, and Food Fair. These stores were like the bricks and mortar that set the foundation for the community’s favorite shopping spot.
However, as we all know, change is the only constant. As the winds of change blew, the mall began its transformation. In 1969 and 1970, the beloved open-air strip started its journey toward becoming an enclosed shopping mall. The Bon-Ton moved in from a downtown store, and JCPenney also joined the roster, marking a new era for the North Hanover Mall.
Remember Town & Country? It eventually became the Kmart we all know and love. However, in 1995, it moved out to a Superstore nearby, which closed in 2004, and became Black Rose Antiques. And then, in 2006, we said goodbye to The Bon-Ton.
After Black Rose Antiques left, the mall welcomed a new resident – Dick’s Sporting Goods. The space once occupied by Bon-Ton was razed to make way for a two-story Boscov’s. Even though Boscov’s was initially planned to open in 2008, its opening date was pushed back to 2009.
However, in a twist of fate, Boscov’s never opened its doors at the North Hanover Mall. Instead, JCPenney moved into that space in 2012, continuing the retail legacy in the mall.
Changing Hands and Facing Challenges
The year 2014 brought a significant change for the mall. The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which owned the mall, announced that it had sold the North Hanover Mall and the Nittany Mall in State College.
The buyer, Mason Asset Management of Great Neck, New York, acquired the mall for a combined price of $32.3 million.
During this period, the mall faced some financial challenges. Sales and non-anchor occupancy were lagging behind the trust’s portfolio average. But, the North Hanover Mall stood firm, just as it always had.
Closures and Fire
The recent years have brought their share of ups and downs. In 2018, the news broke that Sears, a once integral part of North Hanover Mall, would shut its doors, joining a wave of 103 similar closures across the country. By April, the store was no more. Then, in June 2020, JCPenney announced it would also be closing, leaving another vacant space in the mall.
A fresh wave of optimism swept through the mall in the Spring of 2021 when the Rural King store began operations in the vacant space left by Sears. This marked a promising chapter in the mall’s story, instilling a new sense of life and potential.
However, a challenging incident occurred on March 28, 2022, when a fire erupted on the roof of the now-defunct JCPenney building. The damage was extensive, amounting to an estimated $1 million, and it didn’t spare the adjacent mall either.
The Mall Today and Tomorrow
Like many traditional shopping centers, North Hanover Mall grapples with the challenges of the modern retail environment. As of June 2023, the once-bustling mall is home to a mere 16 stores, a stark reminder of its vibrant past.
The mix of the remaining tenants is eclectic. Burlington Coat Factory and Dick’s Sporting Goods, two of the mall’s larger stores, continue to provide a wide range of apparel and sports equipment.
Black Rose Antiques provides a unique shopping experience, offering a peek into the past with its collection of vintage items. Health and wellness are represented by DaVita HealthCare and General Nutrition Center, offering medical services and health products, respectively. A Foot Spa and Europe Nails provide pampering services for those seeking relaxation.
The only eaterie Jerry & Sal’s Pizza caters to hungry shoppers, while telecom providers Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless fulfill digital communication needs. Adding a touch of rural charm, Rural King offers farm supplies, tools, and outdoor products.
Other niche retailers include Fishbone Apparel, Spencer’s, and Sparkle In Time Boutique, adding to the mall’s diverse tenant mix. Yet, despite this variety, the quiet corridors and the noticeable empty spaces bear testimony to the mall’s struggle to retain its relevance in an increasingly digital age.
However, the North Hanover Mall’s story is far from over. The potential for reinvention remains, and the mall stands at a crossroads of opportunity. The mall could spark a revival in the coming years with the right blend of tenants, innovative use of the available space, and a potential pivot towards more experiential offerings.
The mall today symbolizes the times – a reflection of traditional retail’s challenges in the digital era. Yet it also stands as a beacon of potential and hope, poised for a chance to adapt and thrive once more. The future of North Hanover Mall hangs in the balance, ready to be written in the years to come.
Reflecting on the Past
Looking back, North Hanover Mall has undeniably left a considerable mark on the community. Opening its doors in 1967 as an open-air strip, it quickly became a local hub for shopping and social interaction. It hosted popular stores like W.T. Grant, Sears, and Food Fair, making it a one-stop destination for many residents’ needs.
The mall’s transformation into an enclosed shopping space in 1969 and 1970 established its status as a community cornerstone. Over the years, it welcomed large stores such as The Bon-Ton, JCPenney, and Kmart, contributing to its bustling atmosphere.
However, the tides of change were inevitable. Stores moved out, and others moved in, reflecting the ebb and flow of businesses within the retail industry. The mall witnessed the departure of crucial tenants such as Kmart, The Bon-Ton, and Sears, while welcoming others like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Boscov’s, although the latter’s opening fell through.
Amidst all these shifts, the mall remained a constant in the community, evolving and adapting over time, holding a special place in many residents’ hearts for its rich history and shared memories.