BAYSIDE MALL / SARNIA EATON CENTRE: SARNIA, ON, CA
Posted September 7, 2005 (user submitted)
Bayside Mall was formerly known as Eaton Mall, after the name of the anchor department store Eaton's (T Eaton Company of Canada). It was located in Sarnia, ON, Canada, a city of around 70000. Sarnia had been known for its thriving "Chemical Valley" and for its border crossings (Blue Water Bridge, railway tunnel) with Port Huron, MI.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Eaton's had a strategy of partnering in new urban core centres in Ontario's smaller cities (under 100000) such as Sarnia, Brantford, and Guelph. Eaton Mall opened around 1981 as part of a revitalization plan of the Sarnia downtown area, cutting Lochiel Street in half. Downtown which had formerly been a trendy place to shop in the 1960s was in economic decline because of suburban growth and the opening of the suburban-oriented Lambton Mall in 1978.
Besides Eaton's, the other major tenant was the A&P Supermarket. The mall also included underground parking and an adjacent Cineplex Odeom movie theatre with 3 screens. Eaton's store had 3 levels connected by an elevator and escalators. The bottom floor connected to the parking and had a cafe, toys and footwear; the middle floor had a grand entrance on Christina Street and sold clothes; the top floor was for furniture and electronics. The rest of the mall was a single level, with an intersection fountain, and several ways to reach the underground parking (at the clock/bells and food court).
However, Eaton's strategy of targeting smaller cities was unsuccessful. Eaton's also failed to adjust to new competition in the Canadian retail market, notably when the discount-store behemoth Wal-Mart entered. Those were some of the several factors contributing to the retailer's losses and bankruptcy in the 1990s. This was the turning point for the Eaton Mall, which counted upon Eaton's to stay there at least 20 years; but the store closed in 1997 after only 15 years.
After Eaton's left, the shopping centre was renamed Bayside Mall, likely after Sarnia Bay. The adjacent small Cineplex movie theatre also closed by 1997. A&P supermarket closed down a few years later, leaving the mall without an anchor. The former Eaton's housed Liquidation World for a while, and then in 2000 the entire department store was converted to government offices, bringing an end to the stylish facade on Christina Street. Bayside Mall still survives but it remains a shadow of its former glory.
Throughout its history, Eaton Mall's main competition was Lambton Mall which opened in 1978. In the 1990s, Lambton Mall had undergone major expansions; the improved Canadian Tire is said to be Ontario's largest, Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart (replacing Woolco) were added. In the 2000s, Wal-Mart moved to a new wing of the mall, and its spot was taken over by Sears which had vacated its old Exmouth Street location (since 1974). A dozen new stores were also added during the construction of the 2 storey Sears store.
Lambton Mall's 1990s expansion also spurred the development of businesses in the Exmouth Street/London Road vicinity. The nearby Famous Players movie theatre expanded to 9 screens as the other theatres elsewhere in Sarnia closed down. There was also a new Sun Valley Chrysler car dealership. Staples and The Brick opened up stores in the late 1990s. As Sears relocated to Lambton Mall in 2002, Home Depot and Future Shop also added locations.
Sandra Davis' Commentary:
Posted October 12, 2005 (user submitted)
I worked in the mall during it's glory days a number of years ago. I
moved overseas and when I returned back to Sarnia was devestated at the
state of what the mall had become. It is such a shame. Sarnia clearly has
the retail revenue to sustain an alternative shopping experience. It
is such a pity that noone had the vision to make the Bayside mall something
more than offices and second rate stores. I truly believe that had
more attempt been made to recruit stores that Sarnians drive to
London/Port Huron for, it would have and could have been a success.
In addition, given the number of government workers now working in
the downtown core, the food court should have and should be a driving
force of the mall, however, there are not any recognizable food outlets
in the food court (at least the last time I was there).
It is so depressing walking through the mall. What were once stores
are now converted into office after office with a store here and
there. There is no identity to the mall anymore, no focus; is it
simply an internal office mall or is the vision to still take the mall
in the shopping direction?
Dismayed and disappointed