New Englanders Share Memories of the Old Newington Mall in New Hampshire
Who would have thought that a dead mall would lead to such lively conversation?
I had distinct recollections of a few staples of the interconnected shopping center that peaked in the '80s and bowed out in the '90s, but then my memories faded. Thankfully, several people wrote in to help me fill in the blanks and share some memories of their own.
Hollie recalls Dream Machine Arcade and a Papa Gino’s you would smell the moment you entered the mall. She also recalled an Orange Julius, Levi’s store, and pretzel stand.
Amy Sue is a Portsmouth native who has memories of the mall first opening in the '70s. Her family tried to attend opening day from their home south of the Traffic Circle, but had to turn around because the roads were so jammed.
She eventually worked at Porteous, which had a return policy so generous that she once gave a customer credit for something they had purchased a decade earlier. She even bought her first couch from Montgomery Ward (or as locals affectionately called it, “Monkey Wards”).
Christian visited the Newington Mall nearly every weekend. He recalls the Lechmere where his family bought their first VCR, as well as a Musicsmith and Booksmith. Christian also had fond memories of a “hippie store” in the '90s called Mosquito Traders.
Wayne said “memories came flooding back” when he read about the Newington Mall. He described it as a mall “loaded with stores and people,” and both his mother and father worked there in the '70s.
He noted that Ward’s had a restaurant inside called the Buffeteria, where his mother worked before eventually moving to Montgomery Ward’s repair service, located down the street. He loved this deal because he got a 20% discount from the store.
Wayne also recalls a raised seating area in the middle of the mall that was ideal for people-watching. He mentioned that Porteous was also noted for its sports apparel and equipment, such as the first set of golf clubs he bought in 1978 when he was 18.
But the writing appeared to be on the dark brick wall for Newington’s first mall, when Orange Julius packed up and moved over to Fox Run.
Tom grew up in Kittery and said that he could likely fill in a map of all the original stores. He also recalled the Dream Machine, and Paperback/Musicsmith (where he bought his first album, by Billy Squire). Another favorite was a chocolate chip cookie place that made cookies of all sizes, and tiny bits served in a cone.
The Newington Mall’s Julius was where Tom had his first pretzel with mustard and cheese on it while Papa Gino’s offered up jukeboxes at the tables, where it cost 25 cents to play a song. Friendly’s (home of the Fribble) appears to be the restaurant my own Mom was trying to recall last week, and according to Tom, she was correct in also remembering a Hickory Farms – home of sticks made of beef and cheese.
Spencer Gift’s was off-limits to Tom and his friends (but they snuck in there anyway), while Tom’s mother bought him his first ever suit to wear to the Junior Prom from Anderson Little.
Tom also remembers Fanny Farmers, which sold milk chocolate cigarettes in brightly-colored plastic holders (red or blue). The Caramel Corn Store sold fresh caramel corn and candy apples made on site, as well as Olympia Sports – which would also defect to Fox Run, but not before Tom saw his first pair of Reeboks there.
The Newington Mall was also a bit ahead of its time, serving as the Seacoast’s first home to The Gap. Tom’s most colorful memory is of The Chess King, which according to him, “sold the best, tackiest clothes for guys who were looking for skinny leather ties and parachute pants.” Tom also recalls that before the indoor trick-or-treat of my childhood, the mall had a haunted house in the parking lot in a converted trailer.
Other notable moments for Tom include the annual car show, where people could see brand new Corvettes. And who could forget when Red Sox legend Fred Lynn appeared in the center seating area signing autographs, including Tom’s Little League Glove.
Emily wrote in as well, but not to share stories of the Newington Mall, but rather the once great Fox Run Mall. Her mom worked at the mall since '80s, first at Cartons, then Zales, then Hannoush Jewelers, before departing in the early 2000s. Emily’s trick-or-treat nights took place at this mall, where she remembers everyone being incredibly friendly.
Emily went back recently to show it off to her husband and son, but was heartbroken to find it as vacant as it has become over the past decade-plus.
The Fox Run Mall opened a month before I turned three (just as my family was moving to New Hampshire), and off the top of my head, I can remember the mall having a Sears, Filene’s, Jordan Marsh, arcade, Radio Shack, Orange Julius, Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Lids, Suncoast Music, Record Town, Olympia Sports, Hair Excitement, Zales, CVS, Pac-Sun, Pretzel Time, TCBY, Spencer’s, Mr. Tux, K.B. Toys, Foot Locker, a Hudson News where the manager let me read wrestling magazines without buying them, a two-level Burger King where Dad taught my little sister Stephanie how to drink from a straw, and the still-standing JCPenney.
Granite Staters also shared fond memories of the Fox Run Mall, as well.