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Small Anchors and Lack of Diversity Plague Mall Despite Ongoing Improvements

Despite recent renovations and new additions to the Crystal Mall, small sized anchor stores and the lack of variety of offerings plague New London County's only enclosed mall.

While New London County’s only enclosed shopping mall, the Crystal Mall in Waterford, is just completing a , its two-level anchors are still small and offerings not diverse as compared to other shopping centers.

The 793,000-square-foot mall is anchored by an 115,000-square-foot Macy’s, a 150,000-square-foot Sears, and a 90,000-square-foot J.C. Penney.

At the smaller Auburn Mall, Macy’s has a 165,000-sqaure-feet main store and a 87,500-square-foot home store for a total of 252,500 square feet, or more than twice the size of its Waterford store. Auburn’s 165,120-square-foot Sears store with separate detached auto center is more than 15,000 square feet larger than the Waterford store.

At the Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, J.C. Penney has a 128,000-square-foot store, almost one and a half times the size of Waterford.

While the Crystal Mall’s newly renovated food court looks beautiful, it is still home to non-food tenants. I recommend the mall open a Popeye’s Chicken, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Ben and Jerry’s like Providence.

The mall's tiny WOW Family Amusement Arcade is disappointing if gamers experienced Dave and Buster’s in Providence. South Shore Plaza opened a new Dave and Buster’s and the Crystal Mall should do the same.

At the least, I wish the mall would bring back the motion simulator turbo ride.

An even smaller Wakefield Mall has something the Crystal Mall doesn’t, an independent book store while the Manchester Parkade features a Majesty Bible and Books store. Opening something along those lines could compliment Books-A-Million in the nearby Waterford Commons Shopping Center.

The mall should consider opening a Funny Bone Comedy Club and a Toy Stop like Manchester.

The mall could also take a page from West Farms Mall and open an Apple Store, Harry and David, and Pottery Barn.

However, there are several ways the mall has improved and continues to improve.

The Day reported that a Charley’s Grilled Subs is slated to soon open in the food court and Yellow Cupcakes, a high-end cupcake eatery, will soon open on the upper level near J.C. Penney.

The mall was smart in adding a lively Buffalo Wild Wings to their lineup of sit-down restaurants which include Longhorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden, both outparcels.

The Christmas Tree Shop and Bed, Bath, and Beyond, like the above mentioned restaurants, are unique to eastern Connecticut and quite popular.

The family restrooms near the children’s play area and the new "soft seating areas" with comfy chairs were great additions to the mall.

The new pattern tiling, brown carpeting, and stone finish on the staircases and escalators helped the mall get rid of the old hospital white theme. The upper level carpeting eliminates the glare from the skylights that used to be burdensome on sunny days.

Patch readers: What suggestions do you have for retail, food, and entertainment offerings at the Crystal Mall? Do you prefer shopping at another mall in the tri-state area? Which one and why? 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Paul March 13, 2012 at 09:05 PM
As the Day News paper clearly states Southeastern CT lags behind other areas of the state and the rest of the country. The reason is due to the high rate of losses of technical jobs from this area. This is why the Crystal Mall has also gone down hill. Even with the remodel new stores don't seem to want to come this area. As you mention if one goes to Westfarms, Manchester, or Providence Place there is a better selection of stores and more to choose from. Some of the stores that those malls have i.e. Crabtree & Evelyn, Crate & Barel, Apple, Willams Samoma, Teavonna, J. Jill, & Jack & Jill have never been down here & yet there are plenty of empty spaces in the Crystal Mall. It is truly a shame what has happened to the Crystal Mall. I only hope the remodel will bring better stores but with the declining socioeconomic state of this area it sure seems uncertain.
AAPLFan March 13, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I completely aggree with this entire article. The mall is going down hill. Better name brand stores could revive it from the depths.... Personally, i would love to see a FiRE + iCE go in (Providence Place and Boston) I am tired of the same old Chili's, Ruby Tuesdays, Olive Garden and Longhorn. Lets getting more variety!! Better food court selections as mentions would also be a plus. Though Subway was a good addition, there are too many rumors of insects and unsanitary condtions in the past to attract people to eat at them. Bring in a few new eateries, Pop Eye's, Dunkin/Starbucks or even a Five Guys (though these seem to be poppy up all over now) An Apple store would be amazing! It would at the very minimum bring people to the mall. Walking through Providence Place, it is easy to see that the Apple stores attract people like wild fire. Even if they are not buying Apple stuff, people love to go in and check out the gadgets and accessories. That gets them in the mall, window shopping and getting dinner with the family. Lets hope that mall management is aware of the distaste many share for the current mall offerings and are diligently working on getting some new, exciting options for us consumers!
Erna L. March 14, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this mall was designated a "C" mall (on a scale of A to C, A being the best) from the get-go. The demographics' folks decided that New London/Waterford residents weren't hip enough or stylish (or financially 'comfortable') enough to get the same stores in as Buckland HIlls or Providence, or any of the better malls. And I think that's still the guiding principle. Why do people drive out of town to shop? because the "good" stuff is found down the line or outside Hartford, or Providence, etc. Guess where the Crate and Barrel stores are? Nordstrom's? etc. In short, we've been judged as a demographic that wouldn't support these stores, and in doing so, the mall occupants (and shoppers) have suffered. Too bad. With gas prices so high, it would have been nice to not have to drive so far away.
Paul March 15, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Erna, You are 100% correct. The problem that is occurring now is The Crystal Mall cant even get the C stores down here. The higher end stores do have a C version. When the Crystal Mall opened Pfizer & NUSC were down here among others. Those institutions and companies were mostly white collar jobs that helped to support and grow this area. They have been replaced with lower paying jobs. Thus it is even harder to get even the C level stores down here. Add to that the high cost of doing business down here and you see what is happening! Prior to the Crystal Mall opening people would go to Westfarms to shop. If the Crystal Mall does not add more quality stores to its occupancy people will car pool the distance to other shopping centers to shop. I have all ready been doing it and have seen people that I know there as well. The common theme being the Crystal Mall has declined!
Thomas Cornick March 18, 2012 at 04:27 PM
The mall would make a very nice Asian flea market.
Edward Jones March 19, 2012 at 11:11 PM
I think this missed the point entirely, online sales are killing all the malls. It is too easy to beat the hideously over-inflated prices of the mall... any mall....
Not Telling April 06, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Those high end stores cant survive here. People who want them will go to the malls that have them, but there are far too many people around here that cant afford them, and the stores would fail. The mall thinks it's going from a C mall to an A mall, but if it reached B I'd be surprised...Apple Store, Harry and David, and Pottery Barn? Casino, Outlets, Providence. An independent book store wouldn't survive being across the street from BAM... a toy shop across from Toys R Us? And a comedy club when we have the casinos so close? Charley’s Grilled Subs is coming, but the mall is kicking out Meyer's Deli, an independent and delicious alternative to yet another corporate place... Yellow Bird Cupcakes just opened and is in such an inconvenient spot, they can't survive. The mall WAS smart in adding Buffalo Wild Wings, as there were NO sit-down restaurants attached to the mall since Charley's closed yeaaaars ago. Frankly, I think they should open TGI Fridays in the old Tweeter spot. None around here for 45 minutes and could also bring more people to the mall, even if it's not that great. Oh and no Waterford Crystal Chandelier. The mall "tested it" and said it wasn't made of Crystal, even though Tony Sheridan went to Waterford, Ireland when it was being made? *rolls eyes* Yeah, ok! To further my point... my friends recently got married and registered at Macy's, Pottery Barn and Amazon. They got mostly stuff from Amazon because it was the only decently priced stuff! ONLINE BABY!
Daniella Ruiz May 13, 2012 at 08:11 PM
erna, you are so very right. and it may be that the cheap yankee's around here actually know the value of money and are want to blow their hardly earned wads on branded labels created for pennies on the sweat of foreign slaves. they may not be 'hip' but they know when they are being had. you want to impress your neighbor's? then sashay up to the 'big city' and 'do yo thing' . the youngsters (age <40) i see there (at crystal) are not as gullible, impressionable or brain dead as they were, even 5 years ago. parents ARE actually saying NO and setting limits. the physical improvement being done is impressive, its much more 'aural comfortable' (less resonating noise, clatter and voice echoes) and you can now sneak up on your friends with silent steps! with the internet educating the consumers on an ongoing basis, these legacy malls must adapt, price wise and offer products of the same type, not last years rehash of some ad agents 'concept', but the newest, front line stuff that is seen on the streets of Hong Kong, Bejing, Ganghzhou, and any number of industry strong nations. New York city is indeed offering these items (not just Apple this, Apple that either) as they can get them right off the piers as they arrive.

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