A lot of the country’s shopping malls are going through a rough patch.

Back in the '80s, '90s, and early '00s, shopping malls were the place to be because they were so convenient.  You could park once and then wander from store to store in a climate-controlled space.  It didn’t matter whether it was raining, snowing, freezing cold, or broiling hot, you could shop in comfort.

Unfortunately, over the last few decades, we have started to see a decline in shopping malls.  Amazon and similar online retailers were becoming more popular.  Then, in 2020, most malls were at least temporarily closed.  Once they reopened, most had some kind of restrictions that made the experience a lot less pleasant.

Even though we have now put the pandemic in the rearview, some malls are still having problems bouncing back.

This change has affected our malls in Maine, too.

While the Maine Mall has overcome many of these challenges, others have not been so lucky.

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The Aroostook Centre Mall

Located in Presque Isle, this 500,000-square-foot mall opened in November 1993.  Like many malls in New England, it featured iconic ‘mall’ stores like Spencer’s Gifts, Porteous, Lechters, a food court filled with eateries, and one of the region’s first multi-screen theaters.  Anchor stores included Sears, JC Penney, and K-Mart.

One of the main reasons the owners of the mall chose to build in Presque Isle was its proximity to Loring Air Force Base.  The hope had been that the base personnel and their families would make frequent visits to the mall.  Unfortunately, the base closed the year after the mall’s opening.

It was also hoped that the mall would get a significant amount of income from visiting Canadian shoppers.  While the mall did see plenty of visitors from New Brunswick and Quebec, it was not enough to keep all of the stores in the black.

Over time, the mall’s stores began to close.  By the 2010s, the mall was a shadow of its former glory.

But thanks to the efforts of one man, the mall is on the rebound.

Dana Cassidy

In June of 2023, 72-year-old developer Dana Cassidy purchased the failing mall from Kohan Retail Investment Group.

According to a June 2023 article on the WAGM website, Cassidy had learned about the mall’s impending closure while living at his condo in Florida.  Concerned Presque Isle residents had reportedly been calling him with hopes that he would purchase the mall and save it from closure.

After a lengthy negotiation, Cassidy and Kohan Retail Investment Group finalized the deal in June.

Dana Cassidy and his team have spent the last nine months working on the revitalization of the mall.  He currently appears to be focusing on non-traditional mall tenants.  It seems to be working.  Many of the mall spaces are taken up by locally-owned businesses.  A trampoline park, pizza place, craft store, and fitness center, for example.

The current trend does not mean we won’t see traditional retailers return to the mall, though.  Cassidy has reportedly been in talks with several companies, including Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx.

Based on the posts on the mall’s Facebook page, it sounds like Dana is a real hands-on owner.

It is great to see someone step up to save the mall.  We wish Dana and his team all the best.

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