Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, New Jersey, was always a necessary destination for every family member living in a wide radius of the major mall.

It was the place to go to get everything you need for you personally and for special occasions like birthdays, holiday gifts and it was all located under one roof.

You could eat, get a haircut, see Santa, have your teeth cleaned, shop for Aunt Betty and pick up something nice for yourself.

It was a place where you dropped off the teenage kids to beat the blazing heat of the summer or the cold snowy days of winter. Monmouth Mall had it all.

I did a couple of my radio shows from there in collecting toys for charity and the number of people shopping at Monmouth Mall was always impressive.

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New Jersey had an affinity for malls. After all, the first all-covered inclusive mall east of the Mississippi was built right here in New Jersey. The Cherry Hill Shopping Center, now known as the Cherry Hill Mall, had the esteemed honor of being the first mall in the east.

It opened in October 1961 and is still open today. Based on the success of the Cherry Hill Shopping Center, malls sprung up all over New Jersey within the next few years including Monmouth Mall. The mall business was bustling.

Enter the meteoric success and growth of Amazon and online access shopping. Anything you need is at the touch of a keyboard and delivered to your house, in some cases the very next day. We have become so busy that this is the way we now do our mall shopping and for that matter our grocery shopping as well.

With the crushing blow that the growth of Amazon had on Monmouth Mall and all of New Jersey’s malls it still wasn’t the straw that broke camel’s back.

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The pandemic crushed us into staying at home, working from home, schooling from home and extended recreation time at home. It was a deep crushing blow to businesses and Monmouth Mall with anchor tenants like JC Penney, Macy’s, Sears, Lord & Taylor, Payless and others all pulling out and closing their stores.

So what do you do with all that mall space?

Kushner who owns and operates Monmouth Mall has some big plans. They want to make Monmouth Mall a small village with outdoor retail, some smaller retail outlets, an ice skating rink in the winter and other main attractions that would welcome shoppers and their families to enjoy a fun scaled down but widespread “village” that would become a destination.

Someone close to the project who wants to remain anonymous said to me that they want the experience to be like going into a small neighborhood that has all kinds of retail, food choices and entertainment.

I think it’s a good use of the space and I’m glad to see that efforts are in place to save the Monmouth Mall, albeit not in the same vein as when it was built. The plans are in front of the Eatontown Planning Board and need to be ironed out before the rebranding and construction can begin. Good luck!

<i>The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.</i>

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