It was Wednesday, March 4, 1987, at 12:45 p.m. that Cranberry Mall — now known as TownMall of Westminster, on Route 140 at Center Street — held its much-anticipated grand opening.
"Cranberry Mall was a long time in coming to Carroll County," recalled a story in the Baltimore Sun in 2000. "A sign planted in farmland flanking Route 140 had boasted that a shopping center was coming soon, but for 15 years nothing happened."
Then it was in 1985 that a New York-based developer bought the land and broke ground for the shopping center, according to newspaper accounts.
Construction continued in earnest in 1986 on the $36 million, 428,392-retail square foot facility. The March 4, 1987, edition of the Gettysburg Times reported that the mall created "close to 1,000 jobs ... (and) generated $9 million in local contracts. Projected tax revenues include $2.6 million in sales taxes, $1.6 million in income taxes and $543,000 in property taxes."
When it opened in 1987, Cranberry was the first — and now, 25 years later, is the only — fully enclosed regional shopping center in Carroll County. It was built to accommodate 89 stores. At the time of the grand opening, 35 stores were open for business, including two of the three anchor stores, Caldor and Leggett.
The third anchor was to have been Hutzler's department store, but it went bankrupt before the mall opened. However, the space set aside for Hutzler's was quickly snapped-up by Sears, which opened shortly after the opening.
The Sun reported on March 15, 1992, that "the opening of Montgomery Ward & Co., the mall's fourth anchor store, in November 1990 was a boost for the center. About 2,500 people visit Cranberry Mall on a typical day. The 525,000-square-foot center employs 500 to 600 people."
The decade of the 1990s were not kind to regional malls, however, and the TownMall was not spared from the vagaries of a changing marketplace.
By March 1999, vacancies at TownMall had climbed to 25 percent after Caldor closed in late 1998-early 1999.
In 2000, the mall was purchased by Strategic Resources Corp., which changed the name to TownMall.
In 2001, Montgomery Ward closed, adding to a feeling of emptiness at the mall.
But a year later, on May 9, 2002, it was announced that Boscov's would take over the area vacated by Montgomery Wards. The Sun reported, Boscov's "will tear down the existing structure and start from scratch, adding a second floor — and the mall's first escalator." The grand opening for Boscov's was held on April 6, 2003.
At a birthday celebration last Friday, Robyn Clark, the mall's general manager noted that, "Over the years, TownMall has gone through some changes."
Currently, the mall has 85 merchants and, amazingly, according to Clark, 20 of the original 35 merchants are still around from 1987.
Happy birthday to TownMall.
When he is not looking for birthday cake in the food court, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.