Monday, October 23, 2006

Holyoke Mall at Ingleside; Holyoke, Massachusetts

The Holyoke Mall at Ingleside is one of New England’s largest shopping centers and attracts crowds from all over the area, typically destroying nearby competition which includes the long-dead Fairfield Mall in nearby Chicopee and (arguably) takes plenty of attract away from Enfield’s one-level, one-corridor Enfield Square [Mall] (which I will soon do an expose on) on the Connecticut-Mass. border. Located easily off I-91 on the Springfield border in Holyoke, as well as off I-90 (Mass Pike), no mall can really challenge this retail mammoth, not even somewhat close by, more humble one-leveled Eastfield Mall in the Springfield suburbs.

Holyoke Mall neon signage equipped with the Mary Tyler Moore font in full force, presumably unchanged from 1979 when Lou Grant was well into retirement.

One of the mall entrances on the second level of the garage over Pizzeria Uno with the 80's-era expression Holyoke Mall emblem.

The Holyoke Mall opened in 1979 and has seen one major expansion in 1995 adding a bunch of new anchors and wings since it's conception making it, today, a crippling blow to competitors' malls and shopping centers. I have a history from as far back as childhood visiting the mall a few times in my single-digits and there on. One of the things most remembered are the signature arrow-signs hanging from the ceiling to guide guests to major anchors and restaurants all about the mall (presumably changed since as I’m pretty sure the earlier signage was white with colored arrows at one point) when the mall underwent an expansion in 1995 (most malls seem to enter the direction of expansion by around the ten-year mark). Other than that is the canyon-esque food court, located in the “basement” (which also can be said to be the canyon) of this rather grandiose three-leveled mall.

Factor in Macy’s (formerly Filene’s), JCPenney, Sears, and some not-so-typical big boxers and close-outs Christmas Tree Shops, Best Buy, discount department store Target, [a newly relocated] A.C. Moore, H&M, Old Navy, DSW Shoe Warehouse (cramped in the hallway next on the food court) and Babies R Us; formerly a Toys R Us which saw it’s end in the slew of closings last year. The Toys R Us was one of the only inclusive mall stores in the state of Massachusetts.

Groovy wood-trimmed planters and "UFO" neon lighting make this area of the mall look mothership-esque.

The infamous (and tiresome) box-spiral staircase with strange holes gives access to the food court.

The cavity-basement-style food court gives Holyoke Mall distinction.

The mall has always succeeded in bringing shoppers of all over the area, whether it be central and uppermost Connecticut, southern New Hampshire or central Massachusetts with attractive stores, promising anchors, and a wealthy amount of stores. While the mall hasn’t made vast improvements on the upholstery realm (I’d swear the blinding white table/chair combos in the food court are the same as I remember when I came here as a wee lad), the selection of parcels have always been ever-changing for the vast web of attraction it gets. Currently, the mall offers a slew of hearty anchor stores alongside a handful of your typical smaller stores not around the site but right inside the mall.

The geodesic dome of the Holyoke Mall hints at an earlier, done-away-with popular mall theme of the times.

One of many "arrow directory" signs as it hangs today

A bare-bones, stone-shafted elevator.

More groovy 70's artful expression seating; the faux wooden sun-style seating which will promote lack of potential sitters and hemroidals abound.

One reason I repeatedly have fought to photograph the Holyoke Mall is that it’s one of those malls out there that has never really received it’s fair share of facade renovation. The framework harkens back to the early 1980‘s, having maybe received some minor spiffs over the years, has generally unchanged it’s look throughout. Wood-trimmed borders on the upper levels, neon pastel lighting, various geodesic-dome skylights, tan-colored faux pebble floor tiling, and space-aged (wood-trimmed) foliage pots are some of the mall‘s Bill Cosby-sweater-centric-era looks which still roar on today. This mall has a mixed design of the [80’s] times along with some plenty bizarre elements but not without an overall insipid, and bland look heavily centered around uninspired decor.

Macy's, formerly Filene's, originally G.Fox.

One of the few Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream shops exists in the bustling Holyoke Mall.

Unfortunately, photography at the Holyoke Mall is sought as something of a con, unlike most shopping malls, is enforced more than most visited. Most of which, whom I’ve talked, have been shot down trying to snag any pictures of the mall inside and out. The mall is typically heavily patrolled by security checkpoints inside and out, mainly because of Springfield’s troubled urban violence (Hartford, Conn. radio station WTIC 1080 radio program "Urban Voices" have reported the mall as being a breeding ground for gang activity) and Holyoke area colleges have called for reinforcement of general checkpoints for security, especially on high-traffic weekends. There has also recently been a movement to repeal a new 18+ curfew policy which restricts those under 18 not being escorted by parental authority in an effort to reduce terrorism inflicted upon shoppers by unsavory gang-related activity.

A typical corridor of the upper-level at Holyoke Mall.

Various seating is offered throughout the mall, with wooden emphasis on everything except comfort.

Supposedly, they don’t take kindly to any behavior which doesn’t involve strictly commerce here. My own story of shooting condemnation goes back to around the time I just got my [DSC-T7] camera, reporting on the closure of Toys R Us back in February 2006.

Former Toys "R" Us (1995-2006)
Unfortunately, the 87 store closing and/or conversions into the more profitable Babies R Us (hurray for 300,000,000 U.S. citizens!) announcement earlier this year hit the Holyoke Mall location (which took a dive nationwide when most stores repositioned the layout of merchandise shortly after 2000). Some other anchors in this mammoth’s history include sister-store Kids R Us, Service Merchandise, Filene’s Basement (which most recently moved out) and once talks of a Lechmere. If you’re brave enough, you might even be able to spot (and photograph) a label scar or two from the mall's history on the mall’s aged exterior rippled concrete walls.

February 10, 2006 - Toys "R" Us readies clearance for closure.

April 14, 2006 - Toys "R" Us stripped away of identity in the process of transforming into Babies R Us.

February 10, 2006 - A turning point for Holyoke Mall, the attraction sign, soon to lose Filene's Basement, Toys R Us (misspelled as "Toy's R Us"), and Filene's into Macy's.

April 14, 2006 - Updated attract signage with more store forecasts.

I see a return to Holyoke Mall in the near future, where I will try for more [challenging] shots (the few I took just recently led a security vehicle to almost catch me). Here's to surviving a photo shoot when all the mall's security seemingly disappeared after 9PM.

Nicholas DiMaio reporting, avoiding security, returning from wood-trimmed fantasy and endless "Customer Service..." signage!


Anonymous said...

Could you please tell me what became of the former anchors? I would like to know as I am working on a page that chronicles every mall in the US. Yes, you read that right.

Anonymous said...

Being all things to all people, this mall has had an interesting lineup of stores come and go. The only original anchors that are still around from the mall's opening are JCPenney and Sears. Steigers and G. Fox were also original anchors here as well. Steigers closed in 1994 as the whole chain was bought out by May Co. I remember that was a big deal when that chain went out because the area was just coming out of a very nasty recession and it was seen as just another in a series of blows to the local economy. Hartford-based G. Fox was also bought out by May in 1993 and was converted to Filene's. They stayed in the former G. Fox location until 1995 when they moved into their new location in the south wing of the mall (which is now Macys). After Filene's left the former G. Fox space it was occupied by Nobody Beats The Wiz which opened in 1995 as part of their ill-fated expansion into New England. They would end up closing just two years later in 1997 when the chain decided to pull out of New England. Around this same time, Lechmere (located near JC Penney on the north end of the mall) went out of business as well. I'm not completely sure if Lechmere was an original anchor or not. This may have seen like quite a blow to the mall but it was otherwise at full capacity and was doing quite well. Back to the former Steiger's space, May decided to put a Lord & Taylor store there which opened around Christmas 1994. That store never attracted enough business from the get-go because it was too much like the Filene's except more expensive. So they closed in January 2005 and the mall owners are still searching for a tenant. So jumping back to the Lechmere and Nobody Beat The Wiz anchors, they sat vacant until 1999 when Target took the Wiz's place and Best Buy took over the former Lechmere store. Service Merchandise, which was on the lower level, closed in 1998 and was vacant until H&M opened there in 2000.

Anonymous said...

The Holyoke mall has always been my favorite place to shop. I have heard many rumors about the mall closing down soon. I would flip out! The mall is a favorite because of the old style theme, giving it a unique look. My pepe' acctualy worked inside the mall before it first opened! The mall has always been my mom's and my favorite hang-out spot.

Anonymous said...

Corrections on the anchors. Target took over the upper level of the old Filene's as well as the Wiz space and a large vacancy in between constructed during the 1995 expansion. The Lechmere space is now occupied by Sports Authority. Best Buy went into the vacant upper level of a new section built during the 1995 expansion, above Christmas Tree Shops.

Anonymous said...

Is ingleside closing it's doors to all mall goer's, and turning the mall into a casino.

Rob said...

I wouldn't expect the Holyoke Mall to close any time soon; for one thing, legalization of casino gambling was shot down -- again! -- by the state Legislature. For another, the city wouldn't see more money from a casino than they would from a mall, so there's no motivation for them to assist a developer via tax breaks, etc.

Anonymous said...

I love this mall. I go there all of the time. Long ago, I am not sure how long but, in 2009 (this year) the vacant lord and taylor is occupied. The upper level is now occupied with a borders and a pottery barn.
The lower part of the store has a forever 21, with an escalator to connect the two halves.

Megan the Plumber said...

Great mall, went there a few years back

Anonymous said...

One of the many fun things about this mall you failed to mention. The deathly frightening parking garage. It is a concrete, almost puzzle piece like designed, parking garage, which seems to be lacking support. Sections of the garage are shifting and sinking, some are even closed off. The area around Best Buy on the first level from the top is being supported by a newly inserted steel beam.

Who doesn't love straddling two of the adjoining floor pieces as a car rolls by and feeling the shifting of its pieces.

Another thing you failed to mention is about the central stairs. They are not only tiring. They are also quite steep, and a bit crooked. Trying to go up those stairs too fast usually result in the loss of balance and a stumble or two.

That mall is in need of renovations, if not just for looks, but also for safety. A concrete building can only last for so long.

Anonymous said...

The Heaven store was on the lower level, left side, between Penney's and the glass elevator, if I remember correctly. It was the coolest store at the time--a lot like the Faces store in Northampton. But I don't remember Lechmere being there. There WAS a Lechter's housewares, but I just can't remember Lechmere at all. What is in their space now? [2010].

Rob said...

The Lechmere was originally planned in 1996, but I believe by the time it opened in '97 or so, Lechmere chose to open it under their HomeImage concept. It was located where Sports Authority is today, sharing the space with Kahunaville, before the entire Lechmere/HomeImage chain folded in late '97.

Anonymous said...

What I remember of the old Holyoke Mall food court was that it had a network of fountains with little canals and such that reached new heights of watery excess. I don't think it lasted five years past the opening. My memory of that period is fairly hazy, I was quite young, but I'm pretty certain that the bulk of the food court seating ran with the circle-and-wood fetish that permeates the mall: round flat wooden discs mounted on steel posts, bolted to the floor. They disappeared during the renovation that also saw the fountain removal if I remember correctly.

Has a good survey of lost mall fountains ever been done? I remember the ornate ones at the Enfield Square. They consistently used entirely too much water sanitizer - the smell of which would hang over the entire mall and still be in your clothing when you left if you spent too much time there. To this day the smell brings me right back to shopping in Enfield.

Anonymous said...

I miss the Holyoke mall of the early 80's. I remember the awesome water fountains and the "water canals" that ran around the food court....when it had "Hot Sams" pretzels, Athenian Gyros, and Taco Lido (now long gone). Then kids from the inner city started coming up and they maliciously put soap in the fountains they went away. Takes a few to spoil for all.
They also had a great video arcade..when video game machines were still 25 cents a play.