Ohio Valley Mall celebrates 40th year

READY FOR THE FUTURE — The Ohio Valley Mall celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is expecting to get new retailers for 2019. The mall opened in 1978 and has experienced many changes over the years, but it remains a place where many people in the Ohio Valley go for their shopping needs.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Ohio Valley Mall is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018 with an eye toward more offerings to come next year.

The 1.5 million-square-foot retail center serves residents of Eastern Ohio and West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle. It is anchored by large department stores such as Boscov’s, Sears, Pat Catan’s, Marshall’s and the only Macy’s location between Columbus and Pittsburgh.

Owned by the Cafaro Co., the mall had its grand opening in 1978. During its early years, its largest retailers were Montgomery Ward, Kaufmann’s, J.C. Penney and Sears. Montgomery Ward closed its doors in the 1980s; Kmart took its place, but closed in 2017. Sears was the very first store to open at the Ohio Valley Mall. It actually was established and providing services to customers two months before the mall’s official grand opening, according to Joe Bell, director of communications for Cafaro Co.

“I think Sears wanted to get a headstart on things back in the day,” Bell said. “It’s a store that has been around for forever it seems like. It’s always been something that people have enjoyed.”

Many changes have occurred during the past four decades, with stores leaving the mall and many new ones opening up. In particular, 2017 was a challenging year for the mall, since retailers including Kmart, Elder-Beerman, Radio Shack, hh gregg, Things Remembered, Woodbury Outfitters and MC Sports closed their doors.

In 2018, though, the mall opened new stores and attractions such as the large arcade known as Tilt Studio and a Honda Direct Line shop for motorcycle and ATV enthusiasts. The mall lost Toys ‘R’ Us this year after the company filed for bankruptcy and liquidated. The beloved toy store had been at the mall for years, creating childhood memories for many. Claire’s and David’s Bridal also filed for bankruptcy protection this year, but they remain open at the Ohio Valley Mall despite closing up shop at other locations.

Bell said shoppers should expect to hear news about two new potential retail stores at the mall in the first quarter of 2019. At least one of those retailers will be located in the spot where Kmart once was held. Bell said he is excited about what is in store for the new year and for the future of the mall.

“For 2019, we are planning on having a great year for the mall,” Bell said. “We have some stuff we are working on bringing to the mall that I think a lot of people will love. Some of it is not finalized yet, but it will be something that will attract new people as well as please the people who have loved the mall for years.

“The Ohio Valley Mall is a place that can cater to everyone’s shopping needs,” he continued. “There is always a lot of hard work getting things together at the mall. It has been here for 40 years now, and there’s much more to come. Having these new retailers will change the mall in a positive way, and it is just going to be a great thing.”

The Ohio Valley Mall also features restaurants, including Osaka Japanese Steakhouse, Garfield’s, Auntie Anne’s, Fabio’s Pizza and many more. Establishments such as McDonald’s, Chipotle, Bob Evans, Cracker Barrel, Longhorn Steakhouse and Long John Silver’s/KFC circle its outer perimeter.

The mall hosts many events such as family game night at 6 p.m. every Wednesday, photos with Santa during the holidays, crafting at Pat Catan’s, dance parties with a disc jockey and many others that can be found on the mall’s website.

The American Red Cross has also used the mall as a site for blood drives, and AAA has held events to advocate against drunk driving.

Construction is under way on Mall Ring Road, but it was stalled in November due to uncooperative weather. The road was closed in early October from the back of the Ohio Valley Mall to the Residence Inn and Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant to allow for utility work and other projects to be completed. Traffic is being detoured onto a newly completed bridge that crosses Interstate 70.

The project includes the construction of a 1.67-mile connector road from U.S. Route 40 across Interstate 70 to the intersection of Mall and Banfield roads, reconstructing 0.59 miles of the existing Mall Ring Road and building the new bridge over I-70. The road will continue north from there to the Commons Mall Crossing Road. That road was built by the Belmont County Transportation Improvement District in 2015 and connects to U.S. Route 40. The goal is reduce traffic congestion and increase access to the retail sites in the area, including the Ohio Valley Plaza and the mall.

Other construction that is visible at the entrance to the mall includes work to build a drive-through lane for the Panera Bread restaurant.