Why I Hate the Oxford Valley Mall

If the American malls are dying, consider the Oxford Valley Mall one of the casualties.

Better hang on. We're going down.

Better hang on. We’re going down.

I grew up going to the Oxford Valley Mall. It was a hangout spot for us middle-school kids, and we loitered there for hours without ever actually shopping. I dyed my hair with Manic Panic from Hot Topic in the ladies bathroom at the food court. I bought my first CD at The Wall there (Blind Melon, the one with the bee girl on the front). I bought my weight in ounces of Juniper Breeze and Cucumber Melon body lotion. I held hands with my loser boyfriend while we circled laps around the Gap and Limited Too. It was all very romantic. And now it’s a big steaming heap of crap.


We once had a Strawbridge & Clothier. Back when Strawbridge existed. (RIP, Strawbridge. I miss you still.) We had a  reasonably good Macy's. Now we have a crappy dollar store, a creepy "Oriental Therapy and Massage" place,  a store called USA Blues and a vast boarded-up space that once was Strawbridge's and then, for about 37 seconds, a Boscov's. Now it's empty. But, hey! Sometimes there are huge trampolines in front of the space where kids can strap themselves to big bungee cords and be hurled into the air!

I live about five minutes away from the Oxford Valley Mall. It's where I go to grab my Clinique 3-step skincare routine. (Yes, this is a holdover from the days when I cut my own bangs and dyed my hair with Manic Panic at the mall. But it works, so I shall use it until my skin falls off.) And ... that's about it. I know where to park—right in front of the lower level of Macy's, by the shoe department—so that I only have to dip my toe into the mall. I can be in and out in less than six minutes. I know this because sometimes I make my husband idle in the car in front of the entrance so that it's more of a drive-by shop than an actual trip. We time it, and when I jump in the car I feel as if there must be zombies chasing me out the door. We're at post-apocalyptic levels of abandonment here.

And why would I want to spend any more time there? It's dirty. It's depressing. I wonder if it's always been this bad. Did I not realize I was hanging out in a cesspool for all those years? The quality of stores has gone down, way down, and I wonder how Coach—everyone's favorite gateway to luxury—manages to exist there. Or even Banana Republic. The stores that remain need a facelift, too. Dressing rooms are in desperate need of a paint job, racks are horrifically disorganized, and everyone just looks like they want to go home. Even the clothes, which sag limply from hangers and hang off the arms of chipped mannequins that look like they're from about 1987. But not the teenagers. They want to be there. They still walk around holding hands. I wonder if they still buy Juniper Breeze.

Sometimes I'll drive out to the Willow Grove Mall. They've at least got a Bloomingdale's. And the Banana Republic and Gap feel cleaner there, less like you're shopping every other Gap's castoffs. King of Prussia, though, that's a day trip for me. And when I just need a bottle of Dramatically Different Moisturizer, well, Oxford Valley will just have to do. Still, that doesn't mean I don't hope for better. But after even Boscov's failed, I wonder what could possibly thrive there. Is it only a matter of time before we find the mall here? What really separates the Oxford Valley Mall from, say, a Target? Target has a great home section, a terrific card selection, and sometimes cute clothes. Hell, Target even has a mini food court. And a Starbucks that's blissfully free of 13-year-olds ordering Chocolate Mocha Frappucinos with Extra Whipped Cream.

If only Target started carrying Clinique.

It's not just the Oxford Valley Mall. Click here to read about which other malls are struggling, and how celeb chefs like Marc Vetri and Jose Garces might save them. 

 

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  • Local

    You really haven’t been in for a while. Even the Gap left — about a year ago. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a mall without a Gap. OVM might just be the first. Incidentally, there’s a great Facebook page called The Original Oxford Valley Mall with pictures and memories much like those in this article.

    • Mike G. Lewinsky Jr.

      the Gap is upstairs.

      • BJ Wagoner-Durkin

        the Gaps have been closed for months. I work here in the mall.

  • Paula

    I remember when Macy’s was Bamberger’s and Wanamaker’s anchored the other end.
    And all the cool kids hung out at Space Port.

  • Nancy M.

    Oxford Valley was the good mall when we were kids. I worked at the Express in Neshaminy and I so wanted to be transferred to Oxford Valley. It was bigger, nicer, had better stores and two whole floors! Not to mention the Hot Topic – I spent many hours there. Ah, memories. . .

    • Mark Make’s Itup

      I used to work in the Foot Locker right across from the Express in the OVM. Haven’t stepped inside that mall for over 20 years.

  • Stephen J. Marmon

    Doesn’t it still have Macy’s, Sears and JC Penney?

  • Mary H

    GAP left Granite Run Mall in 2006 or 2007. If you want to see what will happen to OVM, take a ride to Granite Run. Dirty, run down, strange creepy stores. Without Sears, JCP and Peking, there would be nothing left. Local police blog is filled with thefts at the mall, mostly Victoria’s Secret.

  • Seasoned shopper

    Oxford Valley Mall never changed when the demographic changed in Bucks County. As Upper and Lower Makefield, Newtown, Solebury, Buckingham exploded with housing developments, Oxford Valley didn’t improve it’s offerings. Consequently, the shoppers go to Princeton, Willow Grove, and King of Prussia. Most of my friends have not set foot in that mall in years. Sadly, there is no one at the helm trying to appeal to the masses other than teenagers.

  • Squee

    I grew up going to Oxford vally. And same as you as a teenager I would walk around on Thursdays and Fridays after school. (Bus dropped off there) I’d just walk around with friends and stop at the teen center. I wore all black clothing from hot topic and to much black eye liner. After a graduated and got a job at one point I worked at boscovs. I was security and I loved my job. When that went under I moved to JCPenneys and I watched as they desperately tried to change it for the better. Well today I’m no longer at the mall. I go to visit my mom who works at macys and the Disney store. But that mall has gone down. The sushi is really good (I know random) I’m still waiting for the day sesame Place buys that she’ll of a mall. I now go to any other mall but that one. Like cherry hill. Neshaminy is also going down but I rather go there.

  • Mike G. Lewinsky Jr.

    FYI – The Gap is upstairs.

  • Mike G. Lewinsky Jr.

    One word…INTERNET….Another word…AMAZON.

  • Shut up kid

    I grew up going to the Oxford valley mall too. It started going downhill when it got rid if the circular ramp outside the Woolworths. Also- there’s a Hot Topic? I guess I haven’t been there in a while.

  • Kat

    About 5 years ago they increased the rent on store space dramatically. I know because that’s ultimately what forced out the awesome sushi place (which has since been replaced by some crap Japanese food chain), and many of the other, better stores in the mall. I think you hit the nail on the head with this: JCPenneys, Sears and Macy’s haven’t been updated in at least a decade, and all that’s come in since Coach has been a variety of massage parlors and run-down polyester clothing stores. The only new, quality addition has been H&M. Even though they have two floors, they opted not to take the old Strawbridge’s space.

  • Heather

    Has anyone else tried Quakerbridge? They just gave that mall a new facelift and filled it with some nicer stores like Michael Kors and Sur la Table.

  • Jason

    WHO REMEMBER’S KAHUNAVILLE!!!!

    • Emily

      YES!!!!

    • tightlines

      I worked at Kahunaville. Oh, the memories…

  • not a mall shopper personally

    Loved Kahunaville – only my oldest got to go there when she was under 2. Wish there was something like that for my kids to enjoy.

    Simon Malls took over Oxford Valley Mall about 7 years ago and it’s been getting worse ever since. I’ve heard rumors that Wegman’s or Whole Food was taking over the Strawbridge/Boscov’s store. And then further in the future, Sesame Place will eventually take over the land to expand their park

  • BJ Wagoner-Durkin

    I wish people would have some kind of knowledge before they talk. I have been working in this mall for 12 years. The Boscov’s that was here closed because the building itself is in need of repair (that would be why the anchor is still empty…the building is not up to code, its plumbing and structure is unsafe so whoever takes it over has to completely rebuild), The Gaps left because of a disagreement with Simon Corp (nothing the “mall” had any say in), FYE closed because its a sign of the new digital era (as a former employee of Sam Goody & Suncoast I can tell you it was only a matter of time).
    There are still many stores in the mall to shop at. Of course there are going to be empty spaces…it takes time to approve the lease, get the inside refinished, (permits? electrical code inspections etc?), merchandised and hired for. The retail world is ever changing, peoples buying habits are ever changing, demographics are ever changing. Retail itself is changing (online, amazon etc). It just doesn’t happen overnight.
    Ms. Goulet that wrote this article is going to state that she used this mall as her teenage hangout, now only runs into an anchor store for her face cream… and doesn’t believe she has (and still is) playing a part in the changes of the mall? Maybe if you would come inside and shop instead of leaving your husband idling the car outside…you would contribute to bettering the sales of the merchants here. And dirty? You must be talking about Macy’s since you made a point of saying you don’t even step inside the mall. I’m sure the cleaning staff loved cleaning your hair dye out of the sink. You contributed to making it dirty.
    There are people with businesses here trying to survive. I’m sure that the family that owns and works round the clock in the “crappy dollar store” appreciates you advertising them.
    H&M and Sephora are brand new, Charlotte Russe, Sleep Number, Lids and Spencer’s have all been remodeled in the past year (with more stores getting ‘facelifts’ as you called it every day) Just now as I’m typing this they are replacing the potted plants and plant containers next to my store with new ones. Change takes time. Change needs help. You are not helping.

    • Emily

      Hey BJ! Thanks for your comment. I’m happy to hear about the facelifts. Still, my main problem is that there are hardly any stores for my demographic there. it seems that the bulk of the stores at the mall are geared to tweens/teens: Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, Abercrombie, Hollister, PacSun, Claire’s, Aeropostale, Spencer’s, Journey’s, American Eagle, Justice, Hot Topic, DEB, Delia’s, Garage, XO Formals, Wet Seal. None of these stores—and these are pretty much the bulk of the mall—appeal to me in any way. Teenagers alone can’t support a mall. And if people like me—and adults—have no reason to shop there for themselves (more than one or two stores), it’s going to fail.

  • JofreyRice

    Is it weird that this actually inspires me to check out how bad things have gotten there?

  • Irish856

    to the author… There never was a Strawbridge & Clothier… Seems that your memories are a bit cloudy… “strawbridges” (aka Hect’s) moved into the old Wannamaker’s. Back in the day… none of the malls had both S&C and JW… That changed toward the end when S&C opened in KoP

  • Shopper

    Let’s be real…in the ’80s and ’90s, this mall was visited by white, suburban Baby Boomers and Gen Yers. Now it’s full of millenials, blacks and a SEPTA bus route bringing in the crowd from Frankford Terminal.

  • philaman01

    Interesting piece. The changes at OVM and other malls are due to three things: the Internet, changing consumer habits, and rent increase. Neshaminy Mall is also not the same as it once was. In fact, I would say that the only retailers keeping that mall afloat are the movie theatre, Barnes and Noble, and possibly Boscov’s. However, I would think an “Apple” store at either or both malls would really be a shot in the arm like it was for Willow Grove Mall.

  • Franklin Mills is Terrible

    “It was all very romantic.
    And now it’s a big steaming heap of crap.”

    The grammar
    and delivery of this article is horrible no matter what the subject. The
    tone is that of a teenager having a fit.

  • J267

    Being a former employee of the mall, how about we mention the roach infestation. And, not just little ones, I am talking GREAT BIG ONES. They are in stores on clothing, crawling across the floor in front of stores, and how about the food court. The mall management doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge it, but if you go there in the morning, you will see the Orcan Man there. Ask him how many stores he is there treating and what pest he is fighting.