• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #43: The Newington Mall, Newington


Epcot suburbia

It's all shiny and new over there now, between the Fox Run Mall and the Crossings at Fox Run, with the huge cineplex and all the brightly-lit storefronts. But there was a time, in the 1970s and 80s, when the mall meant the Newington Mall, anchored by Bradlees at one end and Montgomery Ward's (Monkey Ward's) at the other. In between there was a Shaw's, a modest movie theater, a Porteous, and a few dozen other stores. As a youngster I can vividly remember clothes shopping at Bradlees, the endless wonders of the Kay-Bee toy store, the Fanny Farmer chocolates that seemed too fancy for me, and ice cream at Blake's while my grandmother and her twin sister blithely smoked their cigarettes at the counters alongside us. My brother Al sunk endless quarters at the arcade there, and as we got older we'd allot some portion of our allowance for the Paperback Booksmith. My more musically literate and acquisitive friends will fondly recall the Musicsmith part of that store, or Sam Goody's. There was a Toys R Us in the parking lot (it's still there) and a Bickford's. Remember Bickford's?

There are stores I'm forgetting, I know I am. Things changed in 1991 when Pease AFB closed and Shaw's moved to Woodbury Ave. The neighboring Fox Run Mall, which opened in 1983, had outstripped the dingy old place, and swallowed it whole in 1994. Very little of the original Newington Mall remains - what was once Monkey Ward's is now Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, and Old Navy. The fossilized remains of Bradlees is now Kohl's. The last vestige of that relic of our collective seacoast childhood is the old Sullivan Tire shop, looking out of place and anachronistic next to the fortress of commerce now astride Newington like a shopping colossus.

Hard to believe the old mall - "THE Mall" - only lasted less than twenty years. Like the adolescence we spent too much of there, it was short-lived, awkward, and probably better in hindsight.

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