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Memories of the Nanuet Mall

It's no secret that we here at RetroDaze all have memories of things that no longer exist. As we grow older, things change and all we have left are the memories of those things before they changed. However, have you ever witnessed that thing change as it was giving you your memories? I mean did you actually watch that thing slowly pass away as you were a child, while it was producing those memories for you?

Well I did. That thing was a mall, and that mall was the Nanuet Mall.

The Nanuet Mall was my local mall, and it was one of most beautifully designed malls I have ever seen. It had a wide array of stores, and looking back on my childhood, that mall was a major focal point in my childhood. I had a lot of fond and enjoyable memories formed in and around that mall, and throughout my childhood I would watch it slowly collapse away until there was nothing left.

The mall had been around for a long time before I arrived, but the only source I could find put the opening of the mall at 1969. The mall went through a lot of changes over the years, however, by the 1990's it had transformed into the mall that I would spend my childhood in.

Here's a showcase of the mall:

Just look at how beautiful the interior was. It was designed so gorgeously. Notice the poster in the food court for the film Rat Race. I remember when that poster was up all over the mall.

From the beginning of my life I was spending time at the Nanuet Mall. My mom would often take me there at least once a week. One of her favorite stores was located at the Nanuet Mall, the Warner Bros. Studio Store.

(For the record, that photo above is not from the Nanuet Mall. However, that is what the store looked like, as it had a giant Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck statue in front of the store)

I don't know if any of you remember these stores at all. The Warner Bros. Studio Store was sort of like the Disney Store, as it sold Warner Bros. related merchandise. The stores thrived throughout the 90's, however, Warner Bros. shut them all down in 2001, though they did keep others running in countries outside the United States.

This was one of my moms favorite stores when I was young, and she loved taking me in there. My mom would often buy me figures they sold of all the Looney Tunes characters, and I ended up amassing quite the collection of them. This store carried quite a bit of different merchandise, from clothing, toys, costumes (which is how I believe I ended up as Batman for that one Halloween) and other items.

I actually remember the mall did find a replacement for this store after the Warner Bros. store shut down. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it was some kind of interactive museum where kids could go play on giant models of submarines and planes. I can't find any information as to what it was, but I remember always wanting to go play but my mom only allowed me to once or twice.

One of the saddest things about this spot was the Warner Bros. logo. As you can vaguely see on those two pillars in the photo, the Warner Bros. logo was imprinted on those pillars. Our store had the same thing. In the years following the stores closing, I could still see the logo despite it being painted over. It was a sad reminder of an older childhood memory every time I passed by.

The Warner Bros. store wasn't the centerpiece of my mall memories. The centerpiece had to do with my hatred of haircuts.

I really hated haircuts as kid, and I can't emphasis that enough. As a kid who was simply irritated by Halloween costumes, the idea of having hundreds of splinters of irritating and itchy hair scattered all on my body drove me insane. My mom was always in a constant battle with me over my haircuts. She claims she would often have to hold me in a headlock just to get me to sit still and to have the barber cut my hair when I was really young. 

The earliest location I remember getting my haircuts at was at the mall. Right across from the store pictured above was a hallway leading to an entrance. On one side was a Ruby Tuesdays restaurant. On the other side was a kids haircut place.  The place had regular chairs as well as chairs that looked like fire trucks and rocket ships. They also had TV's that showed stuff like Barney and what not. My mom often got me to sit still by making a deal with me: that store pictured above was a KB Toys. She said that if I behaved, we could go to that store and I could pick out a toy or two.

Above is the hallway and entrance where we would normally enter the mall. To the left is the Ruby Tuesdays, to the right was the haircut place. You could vaguely make out the blue and yellow sign for the barbershop.

It was a nightmare of course to go through. I would sit in horror as we walked through those doors, and went straight into the barber shop. Most of the time I would sit still, and other times I remember not even the bribe of a new toy could prevent me from putting up a fight. I remember one time I acted so badly that I was punished for the rest of our mall trip.

But the times I did behave I would always get excited as we exited the barbershop and went straight towards the toy store where I would get to pick out whatever toy I wanted. Eventually that process did come to an end, as my mother started taking me to other barbershops to have my haircut. The KB Toys in the mall went out of business long before the company itself began having financial issues. What replaced KB toys was an independent video game store called X Games.

X Games didn't just sell new video games, they also sold older games as well as older, refurbished consoles, such as the original Game Boy. They also had a computer lounge set up and a gaming lounge as well for people to play in. I can't remember exactly when X Games went out of business, however, it did last awhile at the mall, right up towards my final visits at the mall.

Outside of X Games there was a video game store on the upper level of the mall that was there before X Games had even arrived. I can't remember what exact store it was. I remember the name being something like "EBX", which from my research was a re-branded name for old Electronics Boutique stores.

Anyway, I loved going to that video game store. It was right across from the food court, and it was brightly lit and welcoming. They had a huge selection of video games in stock, as I would walk around every section and find games that I could never find anywhere else. My father and I always bought all our video games at that store, and I have to say I never had any bad experiences there. This store might be the reason why I love video games to this day.

So then there was the food court. Throughout the food court there were TV's playing things like the news or children's channels like Cartoon Network. They also had some coin operated rides for the kids, which my parents almost never let me ride on.

There were a wide array of options at the food court. They had pizza and Chinese among other things. They also had Nathan's and right next to it was a Burger King, which was my favorite. The one thing I liked the most in the food court was the cookie store located in it, the Great American Cookie Company, which has since been renamed Great American Cookies.

From the time I was properly able to digest food my mother was buying me cookies as a treat during our trips to the mall. While I enjoyed just about every cookie they offered, the one that stood out the most was their sugar cookies. Their sugar cookies are simply amazing, and from the time I began eating them I made sure that I would always pick up a couple.

There was also an Auntie Anne's Pretzels located upstairs. We usually didn't go to it, since it was located in a hallway that didn't have a lot of stores we needed to go into. However, the times we did go it was awesome. Their pretzels were amazing. Below is a photo of the shop after it ceased operations (this happened sometime after my last visit and before the mall actually shut down).

Downstairs there was a bookstore, a Waldenbooks. It was here where I would buy my comic books that I enjoyed reading. While their comics were limited to a single tower, I was always able to find what I wanted. I would sit by the tower and skim threw a couple comics to see what I wanted. 

They sold other stuff too, like playsets and kits. I remember my mom buying me a pirate kit here, which was a toy treasure chest filled with various items like fake gold and silver coins and a toy parrot. On another occasion I myself saved my money for a spy playset. It had this cool dial that required you to put in a code in order for you to open the kit.

Later, when the Yu-Gi-Oh! craze hit, my mom bought me Kaiba's and Pegasus's starter deck packs from this store.

Also downstairs was a video store, Suncoast Motion Picture Company. My father loved coming here, as he would always look threw the walls of VHS tapes they had to see what he could find. I got plenty of tapes here myself. One thing Suncoast truly specialized in was the anime department, which of course meant they had Dragon Ball Z.

Boy do I love Dragon Ball Z, and this was back when they were selling those old saga collections that are unfortunately hard to find nowadays, not those horrible orange boxed collections where they've messed with the quality. This is where I would get my hands on all of my Dragon Ball Z VHS tapes when I was a kid. I remember at one point seeing this massive collection they had of all the saga DVD's. It was so long that it would probably take up an entire shelve and then some.

Every time we would walk through the mall, no matter where we were going, we had to walk past this beautiful fountain. My mother and father would always lend me a coin and let me make a wish.

So now your asking me the big question: what happened? After all, I started this article talking about demise, so what exactly happened to the beautiful Nanuet Mall?

Well, the Nanuet Mall gave me my first and what is probably the most important lesson in regards to the subject of both business and economics: competition.

In 1998 a new mall opened up, the Palisades Mall. It was a brand new mega-mall, and while it seemed like at first both the Palisades and Nanuet Mall could live together in harmony, that would unfortunately not be the case.

The Palisades Mall was situated right by the Palisades Parkway, which is a major commuter road for people in New York and New Jersey to get to New York City. The Palisades Mall now gave people an easy stop to make, instead of driving out of their way to the Nanuet Mall.

And the Palisades Mall simply had a vast amount of stores and options compared to the Nanuet Mall. They also had a movie theater (which the Nanuet didn't, though I've apparently heard that they had a theater during the 1980's).

As you can easily guess, this spelled the beginning of the end for the Nanuet Mall. Once superior competition arrived, the Nanuet Mall was forced to deal with decreased foot traffic in the mall. The early 2000's wasn't too bad, as a few stores here and there closed down, like the Warner Bros. store, but that's bound to happen with any mall. It just seemed like the Nanuet Mall would never again be on top, however, it would still live on.

That of course did not happen. While it was apparent before that, post 2005 was when everything got bad. Stores began dropping like flies, just like a domino effect. All the stores that I once frequented began closing down. Burger King left the food court. Both Waldenbooks and Suncoast closed down. My father said to me one day that the video game store had left the mall. Ruby Tuesdays was another great example, as my family and some friends ate their on a Sunday, and then my mom told me it closed the very next day.

That was the old Ruby Tuesdays. Walking past it after it closed gave me one of the most dreadful feelings. I just knew it was never going to be filled again, and I knew it was just one major sign that this mall was going downhill.

It was apparent that once the stores began disappearing the mall stopped caring. You know how most mall's have Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny set up for children around those holidays? The mall did that all throughout my childhood, but then the mall apparently stopped caring around 2006. I can't remember if that was true or not, but it wouldn't shock me if it was. There were other signs as well.

You remember those TV's in the food court I mentioned earlier? Eventually the mall stopped turning them on. No matter what time you were in the food court, you never saw them on.

And then there's the fountain. Remember the fountain I mentioned earlier? Well eventually it was no longer a "fountain" per say. What did it become you ask:

One of two things must have happened: the fountain broke down and because of the decrease in revenue the mall couldn't afford to fix it, or they couldn't afford operating it any more so they just stopped doing so. Either way, the fountain I enjoyed throwing coins into ended up becoming a giant planter.

All at once the mall that was the foundation for so many of my childhood memories was now collapsing. The stores I once frequented were now gone, and it was apparent that nothing was going to replace them.

Below is the Suncoast after it was shutdown, a remnant of my childhood love for anime and movies.

By the late 2000's it was well speculated that the mall was not going to survive. It was so dead on the inside, as so many stores had shut down, so few people were inside it and such little effort was being made by the mall to connect with it's customers. Nobody knew what was going to happen to it, but everybody remained hopeful that something could be done to keep the mall alive.

I made my last trip to the Nanuet Mall in Spring of 2009. My mom took me and a friend there one Friday night just to get out of the house. It was so depressing walking through it. At the beginning of that decade the mall was a hub of my childhood, and now nearing the decade's end it was dying. The mall was so dead inside, so many lots were vacant. Apparently the mall ran out of money enough to attend to that planter, because that too was looking dead and disheveled.

That summer my family and I moved out of state. I never returned to the Nanuet Mall, and unfortunately I never will.

The mall did manage to cling on to life for awhile after I moved, however, the fate was sealed for the mall when one of it's anchors, Boscov's, closed down. Once that went it was all but clear: the Nanuet Mall was closing down. It was decided that the mall would be demolished and turned into a more open shopping center, called The Shops At Nanuet.

And just like that the Nanuet Mall was no more. The last day for the mall was on December 31st, 2011. After that everything that was left in the store ceased to operate. Demolition began a few months later.

That was Nathan's. It was one of the last stores left in the food court.

So just like that, the Nanuet Mall was over and done with. All that's left of it are the old anchors Sears and Macy's, which were able to become a part of the new shopping center, plus the memories it gave me and others.

To some degree, management is to blame, in my humble opinion. There's no reason the Nanuet Mall couldn't have coexisted with the Palisades Mall. If they just made better decisions, made more attempts at capitalizing on opportunities and put more effort into the mall in general, the mall may have been able to survive.

Watching the Nanuet Mall collapse was one of the saddest experiences of my youth. I would have so many memories only to see them be short lived as everything went downhill while I was still young. It was such a beautiful and enjoyable mall, and I had so many great memories with my family there over the years.

I'm glad that I got to experience it when it was still great, and that it was able to become a part of my childhood.

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Rick Ace Rhodes Posted on Nov 12, 2015 at 04:30 AM

@Hoju Thanks man. I wish the Warner Bros store was still around too. I got plenty of action figures related to DC while it was open.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Nov 11, 2015 at 05:13 PM

Very thorough story. I had a great affection for the Warner Bros. Studio Store as well. They were the only place with a dedicated super hero section, so I was always up for that. Suncoast was also a favorite, so many weird and previously unknown videos to discover.

Rick Ace Rhodes Posted on Nov 07, 2015 at 11:12 PM

Sorry if this pushed some tender buttons with you ha ha. Thanks for the comments.

massreality Posted on Nov 05, 2015 at 04:55 PM

Wow. That pulled on the heart strings a bit. I think we all have places like that from our youth.

Vaporman87 Posted on Nov 05, 2015 at 02:41 PM

What a great trip through some of your most precious memories. Thanks for that Rick.

It's a sad reality that nothing lasts forever, and that is especially difficult to swallow when it is something special from your youth that fades away. Malls (like some other unique retail and service businesses) are a strange dichotomy; existing for the profit, yet the most meaningful thing they offer is free... youthful memories.

To see something that you feel you have some kind of stake in, as though the time you spent there earned you some say in how it's fate plays out, slowly disintegrate before you... it's heartbreaking.

I've seen many such places come and go. Places that meant a great deal to me because of the memories that were made there. They feel sacred, to a certain extent. It makes me wonder what places I and my family frequent now that my own children will feel the same way about.

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