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               WAKEFIELD MALL: SOUTH KINGSTOWN / WAKEFIELD, RI

Kevin Clarke's Commentary:

Posted February 4, 2004 (user submitted)

Wakefield, Rhode Island
1 Level - approximately 10-15 tenants
Anchored by Shaw's Supermarket

I first visited the Wakefield Mall in Wakefield, Rhode Island when I was eight. I remember wondering how there could be a mall in my small home state that I had never even heard of (I had always known of the other then three malls). However, it's clear to me now that this mall could easily hide in the shadows where only a quarter of the state's population would ever know about it.

Wakefield Mall is a VERY small one story center in southern Rhode Island near the beaches of South County. It has about 10 stores, and two anchors. For as far back as I have known, the anchors were Rich's (a now defunct discount department store chain) and NHD, a regional hardward and home goods store. Rich's closed when I was young, and about 7 years ago, NHD also closed its doors. The Rich's space was taken over by Shaw's, a supermarket, and it sealed it's mall entrance. It was clear that Shaw's was attempting to maintain a seperate identity from the rest of the mall. They even took down the original mall sign (with the 70's style "WM" logo) and replaced it with a giant Shaw's sign (with the words "Wakefield Mall" atop the sign in small letters).

I remember the tenants being Record Town (now FYE), CVS, KayBee toys, a few local tenants (jewelry, candy) McDonalds, Weathervane, and Fashion Bug. As far as I know, Shaw's, CVS, the jewelry store, KayBee, and surprisingly FYE are still open.

I visited the mall six years ago and stopped into the then Record Town. It was one of the smaller older concept stores, with a huge neon "record" on the ceiling, with mirrored panels....clearly not a store on the company's remodel list. I was surprised to see a staff that was optimistic about their mall and proud to work at that location. I spoke with the store manager, who said that other then the fact that it was hard to reach the ever-changing landlord, that the mall wasn't destined to close anytime soon.

The mall is still open today. Why? Because of summer sales. The mall sits empty during the year except for the occasional local shopper. However, in the months between May and September, when Rhode Island experiences a brisk tourist season, the mall is popular. Where else in South County could you buy your cd's? The Shaw's location also draws in customers. While the store doesn't open into the mall, I witnessed customers travelling between the supermarket and the mall entrance.

Amy Carlin's Commentary:

Posted June 3, 2006 (user submitted)

I can attest that this mall is indeed tiny and architecturally dated, but business is still brisk. The mall is, as your other reviewer suggests, somewhat busier in the summer. But South County does not, contrary to popular belief, just shut down after Labor Day. The area has many thousands of year-round residents, and the mall is also convenient to the University of Rhode Island. Wakefield Mall thrives all year.

The current Shaw's anchor store is very busy and successful. But it isn't the first supermarket to be located in the Wakefield Mall. In the late 70s and early 80s, there was a Stop & Shop in the mall. This store occupied the anchor location on the other side of the building, and it closed in the mid 80s, when a Super Stop & Shop location was built on Point Judith Road in nearby Narragansett. The old Stop & Shop later became NHD Hardware, which lasted for several years. After NHD closed, that anchor spot was eventually filled by Staples, sometime around the year 2000.

The store that occupied the Shaw's anchor location immediately prior to Shaw's arrival was indeed Rich's department store. However, Rich's was a short-lived experiment, lasting only a couple of years in the mid-90s. The original, long-lasting tenant for that anchor was Woolworth's. And let me tell you, it was fabulous! It even had a lunch counter, complete with seats that spun all the way around, and a few booths along the side wall. What I wouldn't give to have a picture of that gem! The lunch counter was at the front of the store, near where it met the mall - presumably, the idea was for the scent of food to attract customers.

CVS was also one of the original tenants, occupying the exact center of the mall. However, CVS has since built a new location elsewhere in Wakefield, and they left the mall a few years ago. The current tenant in the old CVS is a Matthew's Hallmark store.

Waldenbooks is still there, as is FYE. If you count FYE's past life as "Record Town," those two stores are probably the longest-lived locations in the mall. They were both mainstays of the 80s. McDonald's has also been open as long as the mall has, but it is not located in the mall proper. It is a freestanding building that shares the mall's parking lot.

Fashion Bug opened during the 1980s, and is still there. The same holds for Payless Shoes, which opened during the 90s. Ephraim Dumato jewelers opened in the late 90s and is still going strong. It replaced another jewlery store in the same location that was, as far as I know, opened with the mall originally.

The Shaw's does not, as your other reviewer reported, open into the mall proper. But Woolworth's and Rich's both did, as did NHD Hardware. I am not sure about Staples.

Stores that are long gone from the mall include: Cherry & Webb (formerly Cherry, Webb & Touraine), a women's clothing store. It lasted into the mid-90s. The Weathervane, also a woman's clothing store. It also lasted into the mid-90s. Poore Simon's, a family discount clothing store. It opened in the 90s and closed a few years later. Papa Gino's, the pizzeria. It lasted through the 80s.

As well as a slew of local businesses, and many others I am likely forgetting. One I recall is the Sweet Nut Shoppe, which sold fudge and candy, and lasted at least through 1989.

Most of the stores that changed over time endured a stint as boarded-up shells. There was even a dollar store for a while. But all of the vacancies were eventually filled, and the mall is doing very well now. It has even expanded - a new People's Credit Union was built as a freestanding structure in the mall's parking lot in 2003. South County is a very expensive place to live these days; median home prices in the area have shot up more than 70 percent in the past five years. The wealth of the year-round residents and tourists alike would not allow for much vacant space, for very long.

Links:

South County's Web Site - you can kind of get a mall store list from it.










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