South Jersey Mall History: Shore Mall
This story was last updated in April 2021
Opened: 1968 as Searstown
Renamed The Shore Mall in the early 1970s
Location: Egg Harbor Twp., New Jersey (Atlantic County)
Re-Opened: 2013 as Harbor Square (an outdoor strip mall)
Owner: Aetna Realty
Number of Floors: 1
JCPenney (former Grant City)
Foodtown (former Pantry Pride)
Boscov’s (former Sears)
Clover (former JCPenney)
Circuit City (former Foodtown)
Value City (former Steinbach)
Burlington (former Clover)
The Shore Mall was a popular shopping destination for people who traveled to and from the Jersey Shore. Though, when a new mall opened nearby, the Shore Mall fell into very hard times, which led to its demise.
The property was originally an open air shopping plaza when it opened in 1968. It was named Searstown, which was an attempt by Sears to open one-stop shopping centers.
It is located along U.S. Route 40 and 322, about 10 miles away from the Atlantic City Boardwalk and about 58 miles from Philly. It is on 73 acres of land and had 620,000 square feet of retail space. The three original anchors were Sears, Grant City and Pantry Pride.
Beginning in 1971, the property was expanded and was slated to become an enclosed shopping mall. Steinbach, an upscale department store, became the fourth anchor at the mall in 1974. After it opened, a time capsule was buried outside of the store and was not to be opened until March 20, 2074.
Grant City was the first anchor to close at the mall in 1976, after the chain filed for bankruptcy. Later that year, the space was filled with JCPenney. Pantry Pride was the next anchor to close, which was later replaced with a Foodtown (another local supermarket).
After the mall became enclosed, Searstown was renamed Shore Mall.
The Shore Mall remained popular through most of the 1980s with a low vacancy rate and many shoppers crowding the mall. Though, towards the end of the decade, major change was about to occur.
In 1985, The Kravco Company and JCP Realty began plans to open a new shopping mall in Mays Landing, New Jersey, just over six miles down the road from the Shore Mall. The space was used as overflow parking for the former Atlantic City Racetrack. The Hamilton Mall opened two years later, with two floors of retail, three anchors and a food court.
Sears and JCPenney decided to close their stores at the Shore Mall to move into the Hamilton Mall. This began the unfortunate struggle and eventual demise the Shore Mall would face through the remainder of its life.
After Sears and JCPenney left, the Shore Mall began a renovation, which enclosed the last remaining portion of the open-air mall, and replaced the flooring and paint scheme.
In 1988, Clover opened in the vacant JCPenney and Boscov’s replaced Sears.
More stores vacated the mall as the new decade began. Foodtown left the mall in the early 1990s and was replaced by Circuit City.
Steinbach closed in 1995 and discount-chain Value City moved in by 1996.
In 1997, Clover was shuttered and replaced by Burlington in 1998. It was the third anchor to close in the 1990s.
After the start of the new millennium, the Shore Mall continued to struggle and face fierce competition from the Hamilton Mall. Hamilton renovated and stayed updated with the current trends, while the Shore Mall remained stuck in the 1980s.
In 2004, Circuit City decided to close their Shore Mall location and move to a shopping center outside of the Hamilton Mall. The vacant spot was replaced by K&G Fashion Superstore two years later. It remained there for a short time.
The mall was sold in 2006 to Cedar Realty Trust for $36.5 million. The plan was to de-mall the struggling property into an open-air shopping center. The plans never materialized.
In 2008, Value City filed for bankruptcy and it closed at the Shore Mall in September. The spot remained vacant and it was demolished in 2013. Most Value City stores became a Burlington, but one was already operating in the former Clover.
Towards the end of the summer in 2010, Cedar Shopping Centers applied for a grant to redevelop the dying mall. The plan was to demolish most of the mall, except for Boscov’s and Burlington, and replace it with an open-air strip mall.
The grant would also include a reconfiguration of Exit 36 on the Garden State Parkway and a new intersection between West Jersey Avenue and The Black Horse Pike.
After two years, Cedar Realty Trust moved forward with their plans to raze over 250,000 square feet of the mall, including the former Steinbach/Value City building. The owners asked the remaining tenants to relocate or close. Behind the mall, excess land would be sold for future tenants, though the land remains empty to this day. The demolition and redevelopment began in late 2012.
In January of 2013, the time capsule was dug up before the mall demolition. The capsule was buried into the floor with concrete, which made removing it difficult. Some of the contents had to be opened. The Egg Harbor Township Historical Society is in procession of the capsule and have had displays about the Shore Mall in their museum.
Redevelopment was completed in late 2013. The shopping center was now named Harbor Square and most of the original mall was gone. Boscov’s and Burlington were the last two original stores. A small portion of the indoor mall was saved, which had entrances to Boscov’s and Burlington. A center piece, once used as a fountain, is now filled in with mulch.
A motor vehicle agency office sits behind the Boscov’s building, hidden from The Black Horse Pike. A movie theater was also on the property along with a Golden Corral, Outback Steakhouse, TGI Friday’s and Carrabba’s.
In late 2019, Burlington decided to close their Harbor Square location and move to a shopping center closer to the Hamilton Mall. The former Circuit City building has remained vacant since K&G closed. Spirit Halloween, a yearly Halloween store that fills vacant spots, will typically occupy the spot from August to November.
Boscov’s remains operating at the shopping center along with a cultural center, a tobacco shop and the motor vehicle agency.
Golden Corral, The Nizam’s (Indian cuisine), Wells Fargo Bank, AT&T, Jalapenos & Salads and a nail salon also operate on the property. The movie theater, TGI Friday’s and Carrabba’s have since closed.
My Final Thoughts
The Shore Mall was in a battle for its life once the Hamilton Mall was opened. Though, it tried competing and did its best to have low vacancies, the writing was on the wall.
Now, the Hamilton Mall has been struggling in recent years with high vacancies.
— — —
Thank you for reading this story.
Be sure to check out my other mall stories on my Medium page.
Want me to cover something? Send me an email at email@example.com