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

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

Ground was broken at a 72.4 acre stite, located 11 miles northeast of Buffalo's city center, in 1969. EASTERN HILLS MALL was officially dedicated, with fourteen stores and services, on November 8, 1971. Two anchor stores opened at this time; a 2-level (154,800 square foot) Sears and 2-level (129,800 square foot), Buffalo-based William Hengerer Company ("Hengerer's")

A 2-level (151,200 square foot), Buffalo-based Adam, Meldrum & Anderson ("AM&A's") began business in 1972, followed by a 2-level (152,300 square foot) J.C. Penney, which was dedicated on July 27th of the same year.

There were also two junior anchor stores; a 1-level (56,500 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and 2-level (60,000 square foot), Buffalo-based Jenss. During its early years, only the 30,000 square foot ground level of this store was utilized.

Charter inline stores and services included Gutman's, National Record Mart, Jeans West, Susie's Casuals, Gordon's Jewelers, Merry-Go-Round, Kleinhans men's, Stuarts Ready-To-Wear For Ladies and a Rite Aid pharmacy. The General Cinema Corporation Eastern Hills Mall Cinema I & II was eventually reconfigured as the Cinema I-II-III.

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 EASTERN HILLS anchor store to be rebranded was Hengerer's, which became a Rochester-based Sibley's on November 5, 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 following year. The Treats Food Court was added to the southeast corner of the complex (the only physical expansion of the mall). 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 anchor rebranding transpired after York, Pennsylvania's The Bon Ton 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 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, in the adjacent CLARENCE MALL strip complex, moved into the expanded Jenss space and opened for business August 28, 1998.  The 70,000 square foot store 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 revitalized 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 original 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 Treats Food Court into a 6-bay culinary complex centered on a double-sided fireplace. Mall restrooms were rebuilt and new mallway ceilings and flooring installed. The complex was given a new roof and HVAC system. Moreover, entrances were updated and the exterior -excluding anchor stores- painted.

2004 and 2005 brought several new tenants. These included Petite Sophistocate and August Max Woman. An (18,000 square foot) Old Navy had been installed in existing space in the north end of the mall, in 1998. It morphed into a Sunderland, Vermont-based Orvis, which was an upscale hunting, fishing and outdoors retailer. This store welcomed its first customers September 9, 2005.

Dallas' Dave & Buster's Grand Sports Cafe renovated the vacant Jenss / Burlington Coat Factory structure and held an official dedication on October 6, 2005. As these stores opened, the mall's Center Court was given a total overhaul. This was topped off by the rebranding of Kaufmann's -as a Macy's- on September 9, 2006.

Soon after, a large portion of the vacant Woolworth's / Waccamaw's space 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 on December 19, 2009.

In the Twenty-tens, the shopping hub, officially known as EASTERN HILLS MALL & COMMONS, encompassed 997,900 leasable square feet and contained ninety-one stores and services. Macy's was shuttered on March 26, 2016, with the store re-opening, as a Niagara Emporium, in June 2017. The Bon Ton Stores conglomerate went bust in mid-2018, with the EASTERN HILLS store going dark in June.

Mountain Development established a joint mall ownership venture with Amherst, New York's Uniland Development Company, in March 2018. On the horizon is a renovation that, if completed, will transform the shopping hub into an open-air "town center". The standard lifestyle-type features have been proposed, such as "quaint architecture", apartments (no doubt high-end), coffee shops, a fitness center, hotel, grocery store and bank.

Sources:

The Buffalo News
The Pittsburgh Press
http://blog.buffalostories.com
http://www.fultonhistory.com / Old Fulton NY Post Cards By Tom Tryniski
http://www.shopeasternhills.com
http://www.speakupwny.com
"Eastern Hills Mall" article on Wikipedia


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.