VIENNA - The Grand Central Mall celebrated its 40th anniversary Friday with public and private events at the shopping center.
More than 50 local business leaders and officials attended a luncheon with representatives of the mall and its owner, Glimcher Realty Trust.
Michael Glimcher, CEO of Glimcher Realty, spoke about the mall's 40-year history in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Bill Kuhn, right, of Vienna, attended Friday’s celebration of the Grand Central Mall’s 40th anniversary with his great-grandson, 4-year-old Isaac Fluharty. Mall officials held a two-hour public party with drawings, prizes, cupcakes and other activities to mark the milestone.
Glimcher said the company, started by his father, was initially involved in building and developing properties around the region. In 1993, the purchase of Grand Central Mall was the company's first acquisition, the first time it bought previously developed property.
"It's turned out to be an incredible investment," he said, not only financially but from the people who have worked there and those who have shopped there over the years.
Glimcher said in the lifetime of the Grand Central Mall, the mall concept has been declared "dead" several times, but Grand Central Mall remains alive and well and near-capacity.
"In all of the ups and downs, this still remains a focal point of the community and malls themselves remain a focal point of many communities," he said.
Following the luncheon, a public celebration was held at the food court Friday afternoon. Mall officials gave gift bags to the first 100 people to sign up for prize drawings. Several hundred people signed up for the drawings and the mall had face painting, displays, cupcakes and other activities for the people in attendance.
Wayne and Jane Baer of Washington, W.Va., were at the mall Friday for the anniversary celebration. Baer said he can remember when the site was the local airport and they have been coming to the mall ever since it opened.
Baer thought it was great that Grand Central Mall has reached its 40th anniversary milestone. He said his favorite part was always the large birdcage featured during the early years at the mall, although the expanded food court and theater are positive aspects of the mall currently.
Vienna resident Bill Kuhn can also remember when the mall site served as the local airport. He was attending Friday's celebration with his 4-year-old great-grandson, Isaac Fluharty, and is a frequent mall visitor.
"My wife and I come down here and walk a lot, especially in the wintertime," he said.
At both programs, officials recognized 12 longtime employees of mall businesses: Helen Boggs (Sears); Joyce Bowser (Claires); Jim Brown (The Rage); Mae Crislip (Belk); Andy Deem (Sears); James Hewitt (Sears); Mark House (Sears); Helen James (Sears); Jennifer Moore (Sears); Mike Ruscitto (Pizza Place); Alice Terry (Elder-Beerman); and Eva Thorn (Elder-Beerman).
Thorn said she began working at the mall 39 years ago at The Diamond department store and has remained at that location ever since, including its years as Stone and Thomas and now Elder-Beerman. Her first job was working in the children's department at The Diamond before moving to shoes and later gift-wrapping.
These days, she works in the cash office and on the floor in the home department. Thorn said the work itself has not changed much for her over the years, despite changes in ownership, products and technology.
"I've seen a lot of changes, it's different. You watch much progress go through, it has really changed," she said of her years at the mall, adding she has seen generations of shoppers come through. "Quite a few, and they still remember me. That's the funny part about it, they still remember me."
Brown has been with the mall since it opened in 1972, working at various hair salons in the mall for 40 years.
"There have been a lot of changes, a lot of stores come and go," he said, adding the customers have remained constant during that time.
"To me the mall is not boring. There's always something going on," he said.