EASTERN HILLS MALL
Transit Road and Main Street
Erie County (Town of Clarence), New York

For their Niagara Frontier foray, Ohio's Edward J. Debartolo Corporation developed a fully enclosed shopping hub of over 900,000 leasable square feet. When completed in 1972, EASTERN HILLS MALL was the largest retail center in Greater Buffalo. It would hold this distinction for 17 years.

Occupying a 72.4 acre land parcel, located 11 miles northeast of Buffalo's city center, EASTERN HILLS MALL was anchored by four major department stores. There was a 2-level (154,800 square foot) Sears, 2-level (151,200 square foot), Buffalo-based Adam, Meldrum & Anderson ("AM&A's") and 2-level (129,800 square foot), Buffalo-based William Hengerer Company ("Hengerer's"). These stores opened for business in 1971.

A 2-level (152,300 square foot) J.C. Penney began business on July 27, 1972. It joined two junior anchor-sized stores; a 1-level (56,500 square foot) F.W. Woolworth and Buffalo-based Jenss. The Jenss store at EASTERN HILLS MALL was built with 2-levels and 60,000 square feet. In its early years, only the 30,000 square foot first level was utilized.

Inline stores in the single-level shopping center included Gutman's, National Record Mart, Merry-Go-Round, Kleinhans men's, Stuarts Ready-To-Wear For Ladies and the Eastern Hills Mall Cinema I & II (which was eventually reconfigured as a triplex venue).

Competing shopping centers in the EASTERN HILLS trade area included BOULEVARD MALL (1962) {6.3 miles northwest, in Erie County (Town of Amherst)} and WALDEN GALLERIA (1989) {5 miles southwest, in Erie County (Town of Cheektowaga)}. CLARENCE MALL (1966) was a small, strip-type complex located directly south of EASTERN HILLS MALL.

The first anchor store to undergo a nameplate conversion at EASTERN HILLS MALL was Hengerer's, which was rebranded by Rochester-based Sibley's in 1981. On January 5, 1990, May Department Stores of St. Louis announced a merger of their Kaufmann's and Sibley's chains. Kaufmann's (out of Pittsburgh) operated fourteen stores, Sibley's had eleven.

The conversion was put in motion February 4, 1990, when the Sibley's-Kaufmann's name appeared in print ads. In March, a  Kaufmann's-Sibley's co-branding was used. Sibley's stores -including the EASTERN HILLS location- received a bona fide Kaufmann's nameplate April 1, 1990.

EASTERN HILLS MALL had received its first renovation 4 years earlier. A 10 million dollar project got underway in August 1986 and was completed in the next year. The Treats Food Court was added to the southeast corner of the complex (the only physical expansion of the mall ever built). At the same time, the interior mallways were redone in shades of chic gray, black and burgundy. New lighting and skylights were installed and mall entrances rebuilt.

A second EASTERN HILLS MALL anchor rebranding transpired after York, Pennsylvania's The Bon Ton had acquired Buffalo's AM&A's chain, in May 1994. AM&A's stores were branded with The Bon Ton banner on November 16, 1994.

Woolworth closed its doors in late 1993. Waccamaw's HomePlace, out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, leased the space and began business November 2, 1995. The store was short-lived. Its final transaction took place in February 1998.

The mall's Jenss location had been shuttered in August 1997. The vacant store was expanded by 10,000 square feet, taking in area previously occupied by The Limited and Icing stores. A Burlington Coat Factory, operating in the adjacent CLARENCE MALL strip complex, moved into the expanded Jenss space and opened for business August 28, 1998.  This 70,000 square foot operation closed in 2003.

The mall's multiplex was leased by Dipson Theatres, who opened an  art house venue at the cinema complex in 1998. By this time, EASTERN HILLS MALL was on a downward spiral, caused by competition from WALDEN GALLERIA and a reinvigorated BOULEVARD MALL.

The DeBartolo Realty Corporation had merged with the Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group in March 1996, forming the Simon DeBartolo Group. In 1998, the name of the concern reverted to the Simon Property Group heading.

In July 2003, Simon sold the struggling EASTERN HILLS MALL to a joint venture of Lanham, Maryland's Glenmont Financial and Woodland Park, New Jersey's Mountain Development Corporation. Within months, the new owners had announced a major renovation and repositioning that would be conducted over the next 3 years.

The first stage of the project included a remodeling of the existing Food Court into a 6-bay culinary complex centered on a double-sided fireplace. Mall restrooms were renovated and new ceilings and flooring installed in mallways. The complex was given a new roof and HVAC system. Moreover, entrances were updated and the exterior -excluding anchor stores- was painted.

2004 and 2005 brought several new tenants. These included a Casual Corner Annex, with Petite Sophistocate and August Max Woman. The vacant Woolworth / Waccamaw's space was retenanted by the Buffalo Niagara RV & Camping showroom -another short-lived venture- which opened in January 2005.

An (18,000 square foot) Old Navy, installed in existing space in the north end of the mall in October 1998, morphed into a Sunderland, Vermont-based Orvis, which was an upscale hunting, fishing and outdoors retailer. This store served its first customers September 9, 2005. Dallas' Dave & Buster's Grand Sports Cafe renovated the vacant Jenss / Burlington Coat Factory structure and came inline October 6, 2005.

Amongs all of the new store openings, the mall's Center Court, stretching between The Bon Ton and Kaufmann's stores, was given a total overhaul. This was topped off by the rebranding of Kaufmann's -as a Macy's- September 9, 2006.

The most recent major tenant signing involved the Woolworth / Waccamaw's space. The bulk of its area was leased by Thurman Thomas, a star player on the NFL Buffalo Bills team for 12 seasons. Thomas opened his Sports Performance Park training facility December 19, 2009.

In the Twenty-tens, the shopping hub, officially known as EASTERN HILLS MALL & COMMONS, encompassed 997,900 leasable square feet and ninety-one stores and services. The mall's Macy's was shuttered on March 26, 2016.

On the horizon is a possible wrecking ball renovation that, if completed, will transform the shopping hub into an open-air "town center". The typical "town center" accoutrements have been mentioned, such as "quaint architecture" and facilities such as apartments (surely high-end), coffee shops, a fitness center, hotel, grocery store and bank.

Sources:

"Eastern Hills Mall" article on Wikipedia
The Buffalo News
The Pittsburgh Press
http://www.shopeasternhills.com
http://www.speakupwny.com
The Buffalo News


FAIR USE OF TREATS FOOD COURT IMAGE:

The graphic from The Buffalo News helps illustrate a key moment in history of the mall that is described in the article. The image is of lower resolution than the original (copies made would be of inferior quality). The image is not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the image does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the image in any way. The image is being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and its use is not believed to detract from the original image in any way.