Paramus Fashion Center was the place where fashion was made and pressed.
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It’s now stocked with big-box stores and the state’s first Amazon Fresh grocery shop. By fate — and by design — there are barely any lines.
The Fashion Center was built using 1.3 million pounds reinforced steel and launched with a ribbon-cutting by Gov. Richard Hughes’s wife Miriam was among the crowd of shoppers queuing for their goods. The $8 million mall opened in 1967 and was a modern marvel. It featured two multi-level department store buildings linked by a narrow covered corridor. The anchor stores were reportedly transplanted from Fifth Avenue in an apparent effort to link Manhattan’s big-label clothing with New Jersey’s exempt sales tax on apparel.
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Lord & Taylor’s 150,000-square foot North End featured hand-painted murals, 35-foot-tall arched windows and white marble-encased white marble-encased windows. The mall’s south side was adorned with polished wood floors from B. Altman & Co., which covers 175,000 square feet.
Both stores featured trademarked brand restaurants. B. Altman brought a clone its famous Fifth Avenue restaurant, Charleston Gardens. Lord & Taylor created a brightly colored Bird Cage restaurant for its customers.
Bergen County’s first upscale mall was the Fashion Center, which covered 500,000 square feet. Its uniqueness was what made it stand out. Ann Taylor and Peck & Peck provided private label apparel for women. Rogers Peet, Brooks Brothers, and later Brooks Brothers were the options for men.
A row of five golden chandeliers stretched across the arcade, which measures 615 feet.
Robert Puritz, Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce, stated that there was a waitinglist for merchants who wanted to rent out any shop in the area at the time the mall opened. The RecordIn 1967. The county’s “northwest market,”This included Paramus, Franklin Lakes and Glen Rock, which was booming. “Where can you find a town without a vacant store?” Puritz asked The RecordJanuary 1967
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Advertising capitalized on this trend in early advertising, branding the mall “The Fashion Center, Ridgewood-Paramus.”Paramus Mayor Charles Reid claimed it was bad marketing to include Ridgewood into the billing for what were claimed be the best shops New Jersey. After all, the Center was in the budding capital of the malls. It was the third shopping center built there in a span of ten years.
The Center opened with the world’s largest self supported acrylic dome, perched above a floating staircase. It also featured the now-ubiquitous mall fountain. It also had a massive tax bill, which funded almost 5% the township’s $2.8million budget. Today, the Center receives about 1.1% in property tax payments.
The mall’s downturn started as early as 1971, around the time another Fifth Avenue stalwart, Best & Company, started work on a standalone 60,000-square-foot structure in the parking lot near the B. Altman to leach off the Center’s success. The company was unable to finish the project due to financial difficulties. Britt’s was able to take over the structure. It survived for less that two years.
The end was indeed near when B. Altman declared bankrupt in 1989. In the mid-1990s, Discovery Zone’s owners welcomed a fun center called Discovery Zone before selling the business to Willner Realty & Development Co in Pennsylvania in 1998.
Hackensack’s Riverside Square and Paramus Park had more space, and each had their own high-end department shops. The Fashion Center evolved from a bespoke mall into a strip mall. Sales went from being high-end to being more affordable.
With the closure of the interior promenade and the opening of big-box and family-friendly merchants, the mall took on a new shape in 2009 with the opening a Fairway supermarket. Amazon Fresh has now taken over that space. Interview with The RecordEmad El-Mubasher was the district manager and stated that the store has approximately 100 employees. However, only a few are assigned for checkout. Most stock goods are stocked and customers can assist them to ensure that the products are placed where they can be seen by the sensors and cameras.
The register does not scan the items. Shoppers can use an app to check out and then leave the store under the shadows of Lord & Taylor. The mall’s fashion era was officially ended by the closing of the department store in 2021. It raises the question: Will Amazon still be relevant in 55 years?