On Thanksgiving Eve...And After

The snow is piling up outside The Manse, here on the eve of Thanksgiving, making travel treacherous for those attempting to get to their Thanksgiving destinations. As I write this there is over 5” of wet, heavy snow piled up outside. I have already been required to pull out a ladder and climb up a few steps to clean the snow off the satellite dish to allow proper reception.

Like many of you out there, I am looking forward to tomorrow's Thanksgiving gathering. It is one of my favorite holidays, surpassing even Christmas and the Fourth of July.

I will admit to dreading the Black Friday shopping traffic that will abound even up here in central New Hampshire. I, for one, will do my best to avoid the retail shops and malls on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. About the closest I will get to any of them will be as I take the back roads to the dump on Friday and Saturday.

One place that will not have to worry about Black Friday traffic will be one the few malls in central New Hampshire, specifically the Steeplegate Mall in Concord. Seeing it has become yet another of the many so-called 'ghost' malls in the US, I doubt it will see all that much in the way of the Christmas retail sales.

When Steeplegate opened Aug. 1, 1990, plenty of people said it was a good idea. The mall would create jobs, attract tourists on the way to Lake Winnipesaukee and provide shopping for state workers toiling in the area. The Sears on Concord’s Main Street became Steeplegate’s main anchor. The local J.C. Penney and Steinbach, a regional department store based in Asbury Park, N.J., followed suit.

About half of Steeplegate’s 80 spaces were vacant when the mall opened. In the coming years, the proprietors struggled to fill them.

It didn’t help that Best Buy, Target, Home Depot and Toys “R” Us opened nearby. The big boxes siphoned off the mall’s customers. Chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Applebee’s emptied out the food court. Meanwhile, regional malls stepped up their game, including the Mall of New Hampshire. In 1994, an outlet mall opened about the same distance to the north.

While the idea sounded great when it was proposed, and a number of stores in Concord's downtown area moved to the mall on the other side of the city, it never really generated the buzz so many other malls within the state did. Over the years a number of the retailers who made the move to the mall moved back to the city's downtown and saw their sales rebound.

The mall is gorgeous. It's clean. It has easy access to one of the Interstates and a major state highway. And it's virtually empty.

There's something sad about such a mall. It's as if it's slowly fading away from neglect.