John Donovan’s Commentary from DeadMalls.com, October 12, 2005
It was once the biggest retail outlet in Northern Rhode Island. Now, it’s an embarrassment! The mall was built in the mid-1970’s and was designed to carry two large anchors, two smaller anchors, a 4-screen movie theater and could hold up to 75 stores in its interior. The large plot of land also had room for a fast-food restaurant (McDonald’s – still there today) and a supermarket with a small strip mall attached that could accomodate five storefronts. The mall itself was one-level and split in two with even number of stores on both sides. For many years, the only ‘competition’ was the Warwick and Rhode Island Malls down in Warwick, which is 25 mins. south of Lincoln. Because Rhode Islanders typically do not drive 15 minutes out of their way for any reason, the existence of these malls was not a huge economic threat. The Lincoln Mall was built in a great location at the junction of Interstate 295, State Highway 146 and local state road Route 116. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Lincoln Mall boasted several well-known stores but specialized in “Mom and Pop” establishments. My earliest recollection of early anchors at the mall were the two middle-of-the-road department stores of Caldor and Zayre’s. While having two anchors of the same type was not the smartest idea, it seemed to work… until Zayre’s declared Chapter 11. In Zayre’s place came Ames (which took over most Zayre locations) in the mid-1980’s. Ames did not last long at the Lincoln Mall (only about 4 years) and when the company needed to make some cuts, Lincoln Mall was first on its list. When Ames went bust, the smaller Rhode Island clothing chain, Peerless, also closed its doors in the Lincoln Mall. Sadly, this was a sign of things to come.
The big death knell for the Lincoln Mall was the opening of the 3-story powerhouse Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, MA in 1989. Emerald Square is also right off Interstate 295 and is only 15 MINUTES from Lincoln Mall. Uh-oh! 15 minutes... you saw many Lincoln residents FLEEING to the superior mall because it is in that 15 minute tolerance! And so, the Lincoln Mall immediately felt the blow of its clientele wanting to go to chain stores instead of the Mom and Pop’s. The Mom and Pop’s soon buckled under the pressure and one by one left the mall. Hope arrived in 1992 when K-Mart opened in the Ames vacant spot and a fabrics store took over the vacant Peerless location. While K-Mart did revive the small (slightly), it was still on the same level as Caldor and did not offer the consumer much of a difference in terms of product.
The Chapter 11 wheels just kept on turning, though! The on-site supermarket, Almacs, closed in 1992. That fabrics store was HISTORY in a short amount of time and nothing replaced it except for a horrid kiddie carnival center. Smaller clothier Cherry and Webb closed in the late 1990’s, as did the 4-screen theater and the Dream Machine arcade across from it. Caldor declared bankruptcy at the turn of the millenium and vacated. The mall was sinking FAST with its 1/2 anchor of K-Mart and only a few notable stores (CVS, The Gap, Waldenbooks, Radio Shack, Famous Footwear, Champs, Foot Locker). Desperate Mom and Pop’s hung on for dear life with little clientele. Lincoln institutions like the pet store and the mens’ accessory shop finally called it quits. Empty storefronts outnumbered occupied ones and the mall was barely breathing. The fact that you could get a parking space by the door at the peak of Christmas season spoke volumes all in itself.
The early 2000’s saw an attempt to revitalize the mall. Caldor was demolished and a Super Stop and Shop was installed (with a gas station in the parking lot). The Stop and Shop would have no interior mall access. HomeGoods entered the vacant Peerless location, Pay/Half entered the vacant Cherry and Webb location, and a very small Marshall’s was squeezed inbetween the HomeGoods and Stop and Shop (where the pet store used to be.) The 4-screen theater comically turned into the Visiting Nurses of Rhode Island (why, no one knows). Most of these stores had interior mall access and exterior access, however, most just used the outside access and avoided the interior like the plague. It also didn't help that the magnificent 4-level high-end Providence Place Mall (which is only TEN MINUTES away) opened in late 2002 and gave Lincoln residents yet another reason to avoid Lincoln Mall.
The new stores didn’t assist the mall’s interior. The stores inside the mall just didn’t have a chance and the few familiar retail outlets mentioned earlier finally flew the coop. A decision was made in late 2004 to demolish the inside of the mall in favor of more space for the big-ticket anchors.
The mall still has kept its same shell but has almost nothing inside it. It looks awful and nothing looks consistent. K-Mart was part of the demolition and a Target Department store is soon to open in that spot. The low-budget retailer Ocean State Job Lot now occupies the former Almacs Supermarket location. A new 14 screen theater is set for construction on the land in the back of the former mall, as is a larger chain restaurant. What once was a terrific place to shop and hang out in the 1970’s-1980’s is now a disorganized, ugly strip mall with little to offer.
Photos of Lincoln Mall throughout its life, especially from the eighties. Email them to us, and if you can crop them, make them 510 x 383 pixels. Thanks.
Karen Tibbetts Nov 23 2015 In the 1970-1980 I remember my mom taking me to a mall. It was Lincoln or Midland Mall to see the Talking tree. Does anyone remember this?
Andrew H Feb 12 2010 I grew up in Lincoln in the 80’s and 90’s and I loved the Lincoln Mall. The days of Caldor and Zayre. It was the saddest day when Zayre closed, but was then replaced by Ames. I still have a replacement needle for my record player with the Zayre price tag on it. Until K-Mart took over, I remember they had the kiddie arcade and rides in the empty Ames store. I remember the inside of Almacs like it was yesterday. We always liked the Lincoln Almacs store... not the one on Mendon Road in Cumberland. We got countless goldfish from the Rumford Pet Center to feed a pet shrimp we had growing up... and we got a couple hampsters from them as well (free plug for the Rumford Pet Center in East Providenct that caught fire in 1992). I loved those stores. Anyway, back to the Lincoln Mall... I taught my sister how to drive a car with a manual transmission in the back parking lot. When a cop “pulled us over” in the parking lot, he asked what we were doing and then added “;can you teach me?” As a kid, I used to get cheap ornaments from the Thing’s Remembered kiosk to give as Christmas presesnts. Of course, who can forget the Dream Machine... I could probably retire on what I used to spend there. But I always remember when my Mom would take us to the movies, we’d go to Caldor first to get drinks and snacks because it was cheaper. Bought several remote controlled cars from Radio Shack, and of course, KB Toys. Randy the talking reindeer and throwing change into the fountain... when it was working. I know there’s plenty more memories... but that’s all I have for now. Oh yeah, one more... remember the kiosk near the fountain that had the 3-D pictures? You had to hold it to your face, focus your eyes, then pull the picture away to see the image? It took me forever to see the image...
Debbie English Wright Sep 8 2009 I, too, have fond memories of Lincoln Mall! I lived in Smithfield and really enjoyed the drive and “warmth” of the mall. During the 1970s and later, as a stay-at-home Mom, I worked part-time at Peerless and at the Things Remembered Kiosk. Christmas was crazy! I took my kids to see Randy the talking Reindeer, and of course, to see Santa Claus. My friends and I used to go walking EVERY MORNING before the stores opened to exercise and window shop! I remember Roast House, Fanny Farmer Chocolates, and Dunkin’ Donuts. My kiddos loved Papa Gino’s. We’d take in a movie (recalling Honey I Shrunk the Kids) and get a bite to eat afterward. There was something for everyone. It felt manageable... far better than the huuuuuge malls we have now a-days. I moved from Rhode Island in 1996, but that was a great place to go with a family!
WaldenBooks May 22 2009 Come on people. Don’t forget abut the pennies in the fountain! The General Cinema/Dream Machine combo was the best. Papa Gino’s? Still the best pizza i’ve ever had. MCD on the way out? Some white patent leather shoes from Donnelly’s? Yup! I’m not completely sure but I think I saw Star Wars at that theater. Hey now! Spencer Gifts – flipping through the posters anyone? God I haven’t thought about that mall in a long time but after flipping through these pages i’m remembering and looking back it’s amazing how special that place really was.
paull Mar 4 2009 I was the guy playing the organ all day at Lowrey Organ Center. Hey it got me through college. The mall was a great place to be during the late 70s and early 80s. It was so packed on a saturday night it was wall to wall people. I would love to have anyone who worked at the organ center to e mail me at kmsc04 [at] aol [dot] com,, thanks for this web site, its great...
RC Feb 21 2009 I spent a good amount of time there walking back and forth as a teenager checking out the girls. Dream Machine was always the first stop. My girlfriend worked at Papa Gino’s. Music and... still sold albums! I can even remember going there as a little kid with my parents. Where Caldor was there was a different store there, that had a food court/restaurant in the back of the store right near the mall hallway entrance. Good memories of a better time.
ton Feb 7 2009 The anchors were The Outlet and Woolco. I remember when the Gap only sold Levi’s.
JS Feb 4 2009 That was our family’s go-to Santa Claus. There was also a talking Christmas tree in Peerless that mystified me as a kid. It was basically a tree with a woman’s voice that would ask you what you wanted for Christmas. Other stores not mentioned: Rave, a Hallmark shop, Ups n Downs, Pants Place, Don Dee Shoes, Moto Photo, Spectrum India, the Silver Dragon...
gs Dec 24 2008 I too grew up hanging at this mall, I mostly remember the record store, I think it was called “Music And...”, which also sold some kick ass spiked bracelets and jean jacket patches and that kind of stuff. Dream Machine was also great fun – I remember playing Punch Out a lot later on and really enjoying the Spy Hunter game, because you got to sit down in the machine. And of course the skeeball and whac-a-mole were the standbys. I think I still have some tickets hidden away someplace. What was really cool about the Lincoln Mall was when the local National Guard would come and set up a howitzer inside near the staging area.
Roland Sept 13 2008 I spent an awful lot of time at the Dream Machine. I mean, I think I actually funded the lighting for the whole place! I recall that when you walk in, there were some shoot ’em up type machines on the left, a ramp that went up to a second landing where there were pinball machines. On the lower lever towards the far right corner was an air hockey table. Just behind and to the right was a basketball free throw machine. I also spent quite a few dollars at the theater across the way. Just up from the theater was India Optical and at the very end of that entry hall was the piano and organ store. I’d let my girlfriend go do her shopping while I listened to the customers and salespeople play those pianos and organs. In picture 1 of the photos, there was a stage setup that featured a traveling Beatles tribute band called Beatlemania. They played around four shows over a weekend. I saw their tour back around 1977. Just a side note here, but the remnant members of the Beatlemania show were the first band to play at the United Kingdom pavilion at Walt Disneyworld. Of course, none of the original cast still play there. I recall the fantastic baseball card store. I really, really miss Lincoln Mall back in its glory days. Emerald Mall does absolutely nothing for me.
M Aug 24 2008 Worked at Cherry & Webb at the Lincoln Mall – hired in 1976 or 77 as temporary Christmas help and then kept on afterwards. Horrible “S.O.S” Clearance sales which we all knew stood for “Same Old Sh*t”. I hated Shoes and Childrens, the best was Accessories next to the Mall entrance – you could look out and see who was walking around. Highlights were when the Patriots were in training at Bryant College and we would squeal at the sight of tall, sun burnt, thick-necked rookies strutting by. Grilled cheese sandwiches at th Newport Creamery at lunchtime, trying to catch the eye of the cute-guy server, hanging out at the record store (what was it’s name?) while they played David Bowie and the B-52’s.
Leon Letendre May 10 2008 The Lincoln Mall was great!! Living in Woonsocket, I was able to take the bus before I drove and spend saturday’s at the mall. My mom took me to see Jaws at the General Cinema. As i got older and had money and my own car (that I got working at the McDonald’s on site) I was able to buy great clothes at The Proving Ground, The Outlet, Chess King only the best for me!!!!. I as well as other’s got our parted in the middle and feathered hair cuts at the salon across from the Magic Menu. Oh, Magic Menu had frozen yogurt served in a cut up pineapple with fruit, how fashionable!! And Papa Gino’s, the line to get in there was out of sight. I went crazy when I found a Papa Gino’s in West Palm Beach Florida, it was a taste of home and a big serving of memories. And the gap sold corduroys in the best colors. I still to this day have hidden deep in my dresser, skinny early 80’s bow ties that were all the rage that I bought at the Lincoln Mall. I soon forgot about the Lincoln Mall when I moved to Florida, the first mall I walked into then had an ice rink, imagine the mall level I felt I jumped to!! But stumbling on this web page has brought back a lot of good memories of my life near that mall. The cocktails at Johnny Shadows across from the mall, my mom working at A.T. Cross down the street from there. The wild parties in the motel rooms of the Clover Leaf Motel. Working at McDonald’s on a Saturday before Christmas (crazy). My brother working at Anderson-Little. I was one of the first to not wear a Jacket and tie in my Quiver photo, Oh, a trend setter I was... LOL (the Quiver is the Woonsocket High School year book). Great page great stories.
Kristen C As a former frequenter of the Lincoln Mall, I have nothing but fond memories. Begging my Mom and Gram for more quarters to play skee-ball at Dream Machine, buying Ceasar (my little Maltese – now in puppy heaven) at Rumford Pet Center, looking for new Atari games at KB Toys and going to work at Spencer Gifts next door to the Roast House. Those days were much more simple. Going to the mall now, although it’s still fun to look around, will never match running through the Dream Machine with so many quarters in my pockets that my pants could barely stay up.
Bob E Midland Mall (RI Mall) is most likely headed the same way. It’s basically a shell/retail wasteland between three large stores, two of which want no physical connection to the mall as I am sure they’ve seen the handwriting. Back in The Day, Lincoln and Midland Malls, on a Saturday were da bomb. Every kid and his family loved just hanging around and walking by the gauntlets of suited salesmen in the Sears TV Dept which is now (what’s left of Sears which is K-Mart, essentually) all basically self service. Those guys all had CAREERS at places like Sears when it was more than a job to them. I even suspect Warwick Mall is on the decline – one end (what used to be Jordan Marsh/Macys) of it is almost deserted. The saddest fate I ever saw of what was the granddaddy of ALL malls was in Rochester NY, a downtown mall that was the model for such malls as Midland, was now a shell filled with what amounted to flea markets inside of what were always polished and shining shoe stores (Florsheim) or candy shops (Fanny Farmer). There was a used/new CD/DVD store and, a joke shop, and... oddly, a quite active food court.
A hotel employee where I stayed said this place was BIG in the 60’s through the mid-80’s and fell into decline fast as the 90’s wore on and the sprawl of Target, Walmart, continued. He said it was like dominoes how they all left or went under.
Joe R. I still have alot of good memories of the Lincoln Mall. I can still remember sitting in the car, stuck on the highway because there was a ton of people who wanted to see it on its opening day. I was a little kid back then and can still remember the flood of people getting a glipse of all the stores. I can remember Almacs, Caldor, Zayre, K-Mart, and most of all Woolworths When I was a teen, I would head up there with my friends and catch a movie (when they were like $4), spend all my money at the Dream Machine (always wanted to work there) and grab a bite to eat at Papa Ginos or a shake from the Magic Menu. I still didn’t understand why they had a Lowery organ store there but can still remember that guy playing all day long just to get customers to come into the store.
Looking at it now, it is just a joke. It is now the 8-track player or beta max machine of Rhode Island and should be torn down. I will always have my memories of when it was the “in place” but Lincoln Mall is just sad now
Domenic you forgot to mention when mall was built the Outlet was an anchor.
Chris Like with the Rhode Island (formerly Midland) Mall, it is sad to watch the slow demise of Lincoln Mall, though the new movie theatre is 100 times better than the old one.
Pete Falina I recall the construction of the Lincoln Mall, particularly the unusual exterior wall panels that were cast on site. I believe the mall opened with a Woolco in the space that became Caldor later.
jh Hanging at the Lincolm Mall... what else was a teenager in nearby North Smithfield to do? A birthday party at the Papa Gino’s one year and friends’ birthdays at the Dream Machine the next (I always wanted one of my own). I remember the cars that would be parked in the mall (why?). I remember my high school band playing in the central atrium, and looking at the pets in the window at the pet store after a movie with a high school girlfriend. Interesting how the mall has sort of imploded. Makes me wonder what will happen to the Emerald Mall in ten years, or Providence Place in fifeteen.
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