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                RICHLAND MALL: JOHNSTOWN, PA

Kenny Wyant's Commentary:

Posted January 20, 2011 (user submitted February 17, 2008)

I pretty much grew up hanging out at the Richland Mall in Johnstown, PA and it was sad what happened to this great place. Some additional information/corrections:

  • Wal-Mart did not buy the property. The property was bought by a development company and Wal-Mart leased the buidling.
  • K-Mart wasn't kicked off the property. At the time of construction, K-Mart was in the middle of bankruptcy. People petitioned with the corporation to stay in Johnstown but since they were in bankruptcy court, their hands were tied and they had to close. By law, they couldn't build a new store so their original store from the mall was torn down.
  • The Richland Mall assumed that Home Depot was interested in the Richland Mall property. Because of this they put the wheels in motion for closing down the mall.
  • The rent at the Galleria started going up as soon as the Richland Mall announced plans of closing. People began to realize that the Galleria was too large and they wanted the Richland Mall back.

There were a lot of factors involved in Richland Mall's demise and I really do miss hanging out there, especially going to Hot Sam's and Sweet Williams. Trust me, the memories are great. Thanks for letting me give this information and keep up the good work. It's great that someone wants to keep the memories of these malls alive.

Jeremy Durst's Commentary:

Posted May 11, 2005 (user submitted)

Before I begin my commentary about the Richland Mall, I want to correct some facts in the previous commentary. First, Crown American didn't build the mall; it was built by a Michigan company called Richland Mall Associates. Also, Hess's was not one of the original anchors.

My first memories of the Richland Mall were going there with my grandmother. The mall seemed enormous to me when I was little. I still can remember always getting a soft pretzel at the Hot Sam and having a milkshake at the Sweet William restaurant. Unfortunately, 30 years later, the mall is just a memory. It was torn down in 2003.

The Richland Mall opened in 1974. The mall was not your typical 70ís era mall. Yes, there were splashes of orange and yellow on the ceiling, and red, blue, and yellow brick on the entrance/center court pillars, but there wasnít any wood anywhere. The mallís design was very unusual. The ceiling was plaster that mimicked the serpentine, brown/white flooring. There were five foliage areas in the mall. These areas also had a serpentine design. The center court was spectacular. It was at least ten feet below the level of the mall. You could either go down steps or a ramp to get there. The fountain area, down in the court, was unlike anything I have ever seen. It was not a regular fountain, but various waterfalls made out of real boulders. I would stand there for hours just watching the different falls and tossing my pennies in. When you were down there, you felt like you were in another world. When you looked up, you could see yourself in the glass-tiled ceiling. The outside of the mall was all beige brick, except for the Sears store, which was a darker kind of brick.

When the mall opened, there were three anchors: Sears, Kmart, and PennTraffic (a local store). Sears Automotive was in an outparcel near the Sears store. There was also a Shop ní Save supermarket attached to the mall near the Kmart side. There was a two-screen theater inside the mall. The only restaurant outside was Patriot Steakhouse, which later became Ponderosa. The mallís original tenants were very diverse. They included National Record Mart, Ormond, Gordonís Jewelry, Stanyan Street, KarmelKorn, Spencer Gifts, Motherhood Maternity, Brooks, Sweet William, Time Out (arcade), Orange Julius, McDonaldís, Hanover Shoes, Kinney Shoes, GNC, Richman Brothers, JoAnn Fabrics, Thom McAn, Hickory Farms, Waldenbooks/WaldenCards, Teekís Shoes, Thrift Drug, Harts Home Store, Bon Ton (not the dept. store), Arthur Treacherís, and many others. Throughout the 70ís and early 80ís the mall flourished. Stores came and went as usual. In the early 80ís the mall was full capacity with stores like Shoe World, The Bottom Half, monarchís, Lane Bryant, Naturalizer, Bermans, Foxmoor, Fineís, reunion (kind of like The Gap), Hot Sam, Chess King, noname, Susieís Casuals, Tobacco Village, Pross, Foot Locker, and The Athleteís Foot. In 1984, Hessís bought PennTraffic and the store was renamed and totally remodeled. Shop ní Save closed in the mid 80ís. It was a Riverside supermarket for awhile and a Penn Furniture. A few years later it was converted into an eight screen theater which killed the two screen theater at the other end of the mall. They remained vacant for good. Things were still going good at the mall until 1992.

In 1992, The Johnstown Galleria was opened a few miles away. It was a two-level, glass-gabled mall. It had four anchors: Boscovís, JCPenney, Sears, and The Bon-Ton. Hillís quickly replaced the Sears store. Michaelís Arts & Crafts occupied the Sears Automotive building. Many stores left the aging mall for the newer and brighter Galleria. The management of the mall finally decided to remodel after 15 years. They covered the beige/white floor with pastel tile; they filled in the center court and put in a carousel; the outside brick was covered with stucco. It looked great, but it was a little too late. Stores continued to move or close only to be replaced by service-oriented stores or mom and pop stores. In the mid 90ís, Hessís was bought by The Bon-Ton and the Richland Mall store was converted to The Bon-Ton. Now there were two Bon-Tonís within 5 miles of each other; that couldnít work in this area. In 1998, The Bon-Ton closed the Richland Mall store because it truly was a dump. It was later that year that the rest of the stores left the mall. The corridor outside of Kmart was boarded-up so that you could only get to Kmart. Hillís, in the meantime, became Ames. Now you had two anchors on each end of the mall, but you couldnít get to them from inside the mall. Ames eventually closed and all that was left was Kmart, which still actually did a good business, the movie theaters, and Michaelís. Ponderosa had since moved to a new building near the Galleria. The mall was truly dead! The old PennTraffic/Hessís/The Bon-Ton was vandalized and all the doors were boarded-up. The Ponderosa building had all the windows smashed out. Also, an odor of stagnant water, mold, and mildew could be smelled near Kmart coming from the boarded up section leading to the mall. It was sad to see the mall just falling apart.

In 2000, it was announced that the mall had been sold and would be razed. Wal-Mart had bought the entire mall property. Of course, they kicked Kmart out because of obvious reasons. The theaters were to get a new building in the plaza that Wal-Mart was proposing. The mall was torn down in 2003. The theaters remained until their new building was constructed and then were torn down. The new Richland Towne Center opened in October 2004. It had a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Petco, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Ross, TJMaxx, Circuit City, and many others. The only remnants of the old mall that can be seen today is the Michaelís store, but that will be torn down once Michaelís moves into there new store in the plaza. One funny thing is that Fashion Bug and a Christian bookstore are in the new plaza. They were tenants in the old mall and moved back from the Galleria. Now the Galleria is feeling what the Richland Mall felt years ago. Wal-Mart and Circuit City left empty stores around the Galleria, but Gander Mountain and Best Buy are reported to be taking those buildings over.

When I go to the new plaza, it is hard to believe that a mall once stood here. Sometimes I just sit in my car and remember the numerous shopping adventures at the Richland Mall and what I wouldnít give for a Hot Sam pretzel and a box of KarmelKorn.

Daniel Hull's Commentary:

Posted April 2, 2005 (user submitted)

In the heart of Crown American's territory, Richland Mall opened in 1974 with 3 anchors: Sears on one end, Hess's in the middle, and Penn Traffic Department Store on the other end. Johnstown was a major city at the time in Western Pennsylvania, and was the only shopping destination between Altoona and Pittsburgh for many years.

Penn Traffic Department Store was closed (This was owned by the same Penn Traffic that owns BiLo Foods still in Johnstown and other areas in Western Pennsylvania, as well as P&C Foods in New York). The space was soon filled by Kmart.

The mall thrived for years, even with its gaudy circle accents adorning the ceiling of the mall. In the 1990's, Crown American would find a major problem, and what would kill this mall.

In 1992, the Zamias Development Company, also based in Johnstown, built the Johnstown Galleria, located off US 219 about a mile and a half north. The new mall would be a 2-level mall featuring 4 anchors, luring Sears to the new mall, bringing The Bon-Ton and Boscov's in, as well as luring JCPenney from University Park Shopping Center. The new Galleria had a lot of outer retail development, as Wal-Mart, County Market (later Giant Eagle), Toys "R" Us, Circuit City, Dunham's Sports (formerly Sun TV), Staples (formerly Family Toy Warehouse), as well as restaurants like Applebee's, Ponderosa and Red Lobster.

Richland rushed to renovate losing Sears already, and updated the mall's coloring brightening the color scheme. However, the circle lighting on the ceiling would remain. Hess's store at the mall (one of the last to close in the chain) was sold to The Bon-Ton who would shortly operate a store at the mall, in addition to the Galleria.

Hills Dept. Stores would move from down on Rt. 56 and their very old store to the former Sears. The former freestanding Auto Center became a Michaels Crafts, and Hills prospered here. However, the mall was sagging at that point. The national chains that called Richland home were leaving for the Galleria, and mainly niche stores, local stores, and discount stores were filling the mall. It was hard to sell anything in the mall when Kmart was on end, and Hills was on the other. In 1998, the mall was closed off. When the Hills was converted into Ames, Ames plastered over the former mall entrance. Kmart had an interesting situation as the only access they had was from the mall, so the mall entrances next to Kmart remained open, and drywall was placed slightly above Kmart, allowing them some space for seasonal merchandise.

When Ames filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, this store would hit the line of closings, leaving the 4-screen Cinema attached to the mall, Michaels and Kmart as the only remaining stores on the site. In 2002, demolition began on the mall. A plan was unveiled to build Richland Towne Centre, which was originally going to be the Kmart, Cinema and Michaels remaining, but the closed mall to be bulldozed for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The new owners of the site decided they didn't want Kmart and Wal-Mart on the same site, forcing the Kmart to close in 2003. Everything on site was demolished.

Richland Towne Centre opened in October 2004. It has Wal-Mart Supercenter, a new theater (odd in that it's the first theater I've seen built in a decade that's not a massive multiplex). Where Kmart was is now a new Circuit City moving down from Galleria Hill, a Bed Bath & Beyond, Petco, a new Michaels, Ross, and TJ Maxx & More.

Johnstown has lost over half its population in the past 30 years, and the economic base there has eroded. Jobs are nonexistent. The city could no longer support 2 malls with renovations to Crown American's Logan Valley Mall in nearby Altoona, as well as expansion to Greensburg's Westmoreland Mall, the closest competition to Johnstown from the Pittsburgh area. Crown American could not keep their crown jewel open. Richland Mall was a very expansive 1-level mall for its time (the largest 1-level mall Crown American ever built), but the Galleria provided the nail to its coffin.

Links:

The Richland Mall - Site memorializing the old Richland Mall










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