Bobby Peacock's Commentary

Posted May 3, 2011 (user submitted)

Hampton Towne Centre, then known as Hampton Square Mall, was built in 1975 on the far east end of the Bay City area, at the southeast corner of M-25 (Center Road) and Pine Road outside Essexville. At the time, the mall featured two anchor stores: Kmart at the east (given the large size of this Kmart, however, it might originally have been something else), and Wiechmann's, a chain based in nearby Saginaw, at the west. Attached to the property was a 28,000 square foot A & P supermarket. The mall remained largely unchanged until 1990, when a short northern wing was added, bringing in a somewhat small JCPenney which had moved from downtown Bay City as the third anchor. When JCPenney was added in 1990, the mall was up to 248,868 square feet. I've been told that an eastern expansion was also planned at this time (presumably, it would've involved demolishing or gutting the Kmart and building a new one) but these plans never got off the ground.

Hampton Square Mall, in its heyday, featured a fairly typical roster of chains, such as B. Dalton Bookseller, Lerner New York, Zales Jewelers, RadioShack, Circus World, Fashion Bug, Fanny Farmer, et cetera. Local and regional tenants included DOC Optical, Grondin's Hair Salon, an arcade, and the only mall-based location (at least that I know) for Sagebrush, a short-lived clothing chain started by Meijer.

Hampton Square's fortunes would soon change when Bay City Mall was built on the other side of town in 1991, with Sears (which also moved from downtown Bay City), Target (which opened in 1990, before the mall), and H.C. Prange's (which became Younkers in 1992). Bay City Mall had a multiplex theatre on site, and a food court, and nearly twice as many stores.

In 1992, JCPenney moved from Hampton Square to the newer Bay City Mall, after only two years at the older mall. The same year, Midland got a mall as well, one about the same size as Bay City Mall (and even sharing three of the same anchors!), albeit without a theater.

Many longtime Hampton tenants flocked for Bay City Mall, including B. Dalton, Fashion Bug, Lerner, Zales and RadioShack, although there was some overlap as late as 1994 if not later. Eventually, the Bay City Mall locations won out. Wiechmann's apparently went bankrupt around 1993, closing its three stores in Saginaw, one in Owosso, and of course, Hampton Square's. The adjacent A & P closed just as the chain underwent a sort of restructure, closing older stores in Michigan and changing others to Farmer Jack. The mall, re-dubbed Hampton Towne Centre by the mid-1990s, was then minus two anchors. However, it limped through the 1990s and even gained a couple new tenants, such as a local dollar store. A McDonald's briefly opened in the mid-1990s in the center court, replacing a nearby location which was torn down. This mall-based McDonald's got decent sales for a while (no doubt from mall staff), but it later became an independent restaurant called the Dougout before closing. Since then, McDonald's has opened a new store in the mall's parking lot, complete with playplace. Perry Drugs closed just before Rite Aid bought out that chain in 1995. Wiechmann's became a Living and Learning center for Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District, and JCPenney became a Family Independence Agency office.

Although the Bay County library occasionally uses the mall for annual used-book sales, it's almost entirely vacant the rest of the time. Even most of the non-retail tenants have left, including the gym, storefront church, weight loss clinic, and even the Edward Jones offices, while a thrift shop called Do-All, Inc. opened up in 2006 in the long-vacant former A&P. A bingo hall has taken over the old Perry Drug, and another storefront church took the old Edward Jones slot. Even the Chinese restaurant, which had been there for at least 20 years if not longer, has finally moved out as of 2009.

The mall will close on September 30, 2010.

Links - The source of this history write up along with pictures and MUCH MORE!
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