Your Centre of Choice turns 40 next week (24 photos)Sunday, October 27, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
It may seem hard to believe for some of us, but Station Mall, a revolutionary new shopping experience for Sault Ste. Marie back in the early 1970s, celebrates its 40th anniversary Friday, November 1.
Station Mall, owned by Algoma Central Properties Inc., a subsidiary of Algoma Central Corporation, first opened its doors to customers November 1, 1973.
Director of Property Management Maureen Webb, pictured at far right with Station Mall office staff Melissa Cuglietta, Jo-Anne King and (seated) Lynne Fabbro, is overseeing next weekend's celebration.
40 years on, Station Mall administration employs approximately 50 people, from management to janitorial positions, with about 2,000 people employed (full-time and part-time, morning to evening, seven days a week) in its 100 outlets.
On November 1, St. Marys River Drive will be closed from Sears to Walmart (the Mall’s two anchor stores) as 40th anniversary celebrations are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., with fireworks launched from a barge on the St. Marys River in front of the Mall’s south side.
Afterward, cake will be served at three different locations within the Mall, and those with ballots can make their way to Centre Court for a special anniversary draw, the prize being a 55-inch LED TV, courtesy of the Station Mall Merchants Association and Sears.
The draw will take place at 8:30 p.m.
Ballots can be picked up at Station Mall’s management office or obtained online at http://www.thestationmall.com/
Maureen Webb has worked in Station Mall administration for 25 years, the past year-and-a-half as Mall Manager.
“We’re celebrating not only the Mall’s 40th anniversary, but we’re celebrating generations,” Webb told SooToday.com.
“People will be here with their children, grandchildren and, in some cases, great-grandchildren.”
Much has changed at Station Mall over the years, Webb said, but two notable originals remain (one of them a store, the other a person).
Sears remains as the only original tenant store.
The other original is Lou Madonna.
Madonna is an original Mall merchant from 1973, and started his own store, Madonna Optical, in 1978.
Madonna serves as President of the Station Mall Merchants Association, and, Webb adds, is known affectionately as “The Mayor of Station Mall.”
“I’ve always enjoyed what I’m doing,” Madonna told us.
“I enjoy dealing with regular clients and meeting new ones,” Madonna said, adding he plans to stay in business for a few years to come.
Webb told us there have been some interesting changes over the years.
For one thing, the Mall no longer holds fashion shows.
Webb showed us a collection of photographs from a 1980s Station Mall fashion show held outside Sears, where young women (with big hair!) showed off the latest, stylish apparel in that decade.
“People come to the Mall and shop to get what they need and don’t tend to spend much time browsing.”
“They’re more targeted as to what they want, and where they want to get it.”
“We’re a lot busier, working longer, working harder,” Webb said.
“People now target shop more than they stroll and shop.”
Online shopping, Webb told us, has undeniably affected retail shopping, but stated: “The bricks and mortar shopping experience is still relevant.”
“Station Mall is a social gathering place for any age, from young people to seniors. There’s social media, but this is where there is face-to-face interaction.”
“It’s still a relevant community centre.”
“Groups like the Sault Symphony have their book sales here, it’s a place to raise funds and public awareness of different campaigns held by health organizations, churches, schools and other groups.”
“We’ve maintained, over 40 years, our position in the community in allowing citizens and groups to reach out with their messages,” Webb said.
Webb added: “The Community Theatre Box Office has been with us for many years, and we’re pleased to be able to provide the opportunity for people to come to one central place to get their theatre tickets.”
Webb is also pleased the Station Mall Clinic is doing its part to meet community healthcare needs.
Walking through Station Mall, one can indeed see not only physical changes and additions to the shopping centre, but radical change in our society in general.
Who among us, with the exception of Star Trek fans and futurists, could have imagined cell phones 40 years ago?
Cell phones are now, of course, basic equipment, and cell phone stores and kiosks line the Mall.
Music lovers would have purchased vinyl LPs or cassettes in the 1970s.
Now, shoppers flock to stores like HMV to purchase CDs, along with DVDs and video games.
Books, like those at Coles, are still being sold, even though many are reading from electronic devices.
Still, at Coles, a computer is in plain view, allowing customers to perform an electronic search for the book(s) they want.
Instead of dropping off that tiny can of film in order to have your photos developed, you can develop your own digital camera photos at Black’s.
Showcase recently opened, featuring “As Seen on TV” products, as did female clothing store Maurices.
Soon to open are Body Shop (beauty products), Daily’s (a smoke and lottery shop), Atmosphere (part of the Sport Chek family) and GNC (a vitamin store).
Webb said: “We feel the Mall has a nice mix of national brands and local, independently-owned stores,” pointing to stores such as Pink Chandelier as an example of the latter.