Toms River: The struggling Ocean County Mall was quite busy for shoppers on Christmas Eve. Malls around the country are in danger of closing as more national retailers go bankrupt and liquidate. It was nice to see crowds again- albeit only 25% of the usual Christmas Eve crowds. We really need our crappy mall to pull through. If it closes, it would be devastating for the local economy. Please try to shop local whenever possible- help save jobs and tax revenue.

At the former Sears wing stands the newly built lifestyle center with LA Fitness, Sweetwaters Coffee, Five Below, ULTA Beauty, and Home Sense. Home Sense is set to open in early 2021, and is another concept store owned by TJX Companies. TJX owns popular brands like Marshall’s, Home Goods, Sierra Trading, and TJ Maxx. This new wing of the mall has taken shape nicely, and the Turning Point restaurant is hopefully still scheduled to open too.

The Ocean County Mall originally opened in July 1976 with Sears, JC Penney, and Bambergers. It also featured a three-screen General Cinema, The Game Room arcade, water fountains, and an awesome Burger King (where Applebee’s is) with a boardwalk-style kids play area. Sometime around 1986 Bambergers became Macy’s; and just two years later Stern’s would open as the 4th anchor in a new wing. A crappy 4-unit food court would be constructed in 1992 when a two-story clothing store vacated. Sterns would close in July 2001, and Boscov’s would reopen about a year later. Sears finally closed in 2018 with the mall owners purchasing the Sears building and property to redevelop into a lifestyle center.

Now here we are about to begin 2021, and the in-line mall stores are closing fast. If you haven’t been since pre-Covid in March, you’ll be depressed. Sure there are still many stores still open, but a lot of National tenants have vacated. Hopefully mall management has a plan to right this sinking ship and market the place again for shoppers and tenants.

Home Sense opens soon- and a food truck to give patrons more dining choices.