Penn Can Mall

Penn Can Mall opened on March 25, 1976 after nearly two years of construction by the Winmar Company of Seattle, WA and Eagan Real Estate. Penn Can was the first enclosed mall built on the north side of Syracuse. The mall was built with room for 86 regular stores and one anchor store (which was originally Sears) and had a smaller upper level which contained a 3 screen movie theater, a restaurant, an arcade, several small stores, and the mall offices. The center of the mall contained a large antique clock where shoppers would often meet their family or friends. On October 24, 1983, Hills opened on the north side of the mall to become the second anchor store. On October 31, 1984, Marketplace Mall opened right across the road (Hogan Drive S.). Marketplace was a much smaller mall and was considered more of an "outlet center", so it did not take away from Penn Can’s business. On September 18, 1986, Chappell's opened as the anchor store on a new wing on the east side of the mall. The new wing, which extended the food court and included many smaller stores, opened on November 12, 1986. In 1989, the Wilmorite Company forged a partnership with Eagan which (among other things) gave them control over Penn Can.

Penn Can saw a slight drop in shoppers when Great Northern Mall opened in September of 1988 and a less significant drop in January 1990 when New York state banned smoking inside indoor malls. However, the beginning of the end did not come until Carousel Mall opened in September of 1990. Slowly but surely, fewer shoppers came to Penn Can and stores were leaving on a more regular basis. In 1992, Penn Can tried to remodel the mall with an “old movie” theme, including “old movie” style posters promoting the mall. During my 2002 tour, I found posters in the upstairs offices that showed pictures of a planned renovation of the mall (with “An American Folk Art Theme”) that was supposed to have been completed in the summer of 1993. Obviously, this never happened and stores started leaving on a more regular basis. By 1996, Bryant & Stratton, which was now located in the upper level of the mall, stayed open for several months (presumably to finish their current semester). The other wings of the mall were roped off, and one could only come in a single entrance and go straight upstairs to Bryant & Stratton. The Sears wing was now occupied by Burlington Coat Factory and Office Max, which both stayed open for several years. Hills also stayed open for several years and was purchased by Ames in 1999. For about 4 years after it closed, the mall was relatively unguarded and was broken into and vandalized on several occasions. Wilmorite kept insisting that they would tear down the mall and turn it into a strip mall, but never did. The Equitable Companies (which is an investor in malls from New York City) assumed control of the mall from Wilmorite and sold it to Land Lease Real Estate of Atlanta in the summer of 1998. Hired by Land Lease, LaSalle Partners became the new managers of the mall and planned to lease out the stores on a month-to-month basis, which also never happened. In late 2000, Roger Burdick purchased the property and slowly turned it into an “Auto Mall”. The newer east wing and center court of the mall are now part of the Auto Mall, but the two side wings of the mall have been completely torn down. The famous clock still stands in the middle of center court.

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The clock was built in Boston, MA in 1876. It spent 3 years in Boston and was then shipped to Tacoma, WA to stand on the base of a pier near a mall. When Land Lease bought the mall in 1998, Wilmorite took the clock to Shoppingtown Mall and put it in storage. In 2000, the Burdick Auto Dealership bought the clock and brought it back to Penn Can to be cleaned and reconditioned. It was then put back up in 2003 and still stands as a reminder of the old Penn Can Mall, and a time when you would tell your friends or family to “meet you at the clock”.

Penn Can Mall Theme Song

Posted below are two different Penn Can Mall theme songs featuring the catch phrase, "It's happenin' now at Penn Can Mall".

Penn Can Mall theme
00:00 / 00:32
Penn Can Mall 2
00:00 / 00:33

Penn Can Mall Floor Maps

The following floor maps are from 1976, 1981, 1986 and 1990. Thanks to Mike Hepp for providing the maps from 1976 and 1981.

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Newspaper Articles

August 13, 1967 - "Penn-Can Mall plans 50 stores"
November 2, 1973 - "New center under way"
April 6, 1975 - "2 major retail stores to open outlets in mall"
April 10, 1975 - "150-Store Penn Can Mall Going Forward"
February 27, 1976 - "Clock Checking"
March 25, 1976 - Part 1 - "It's Grand Opening Time At Penn Can Mall" - All of the articles from this date were from a 10 page special on the opening of the mall.
March 25, 1976 - Part 2 - "Capenos appointed PennCan manager", "Hoppe opens store in PennCan Mall"
March 25, 1976 - Part 3 - "He's built more than 75 malls", "Strategic Location"
March 25, 1976 - Part 4 - "PennCan Mall opens at 10 a.m."
March 25, 1976 - Part 5 - "Gerber Music keeps pace", "Canadian firm to open store", "1,000 feet long", "3,000 spaces for parking", "Grand Opening Play Palace"
March 25, 1976 - Part 6 - "Park-like feeling"
March 25, 1976 - Part 7 - "Mall near many areas of county", "2 developers site experience", "High pressure air"
March 25, 1976 - Part 8 - "Carillon to play many tunes", "Books of all kinds"
March 25, 1976 - Part 9 - "Live plants in PennCan"
March 25, 1976 - Part 10 - "Stores to employ 1,000-plus"
March 25, 1976 - Part 11 - "Climate controlled", "Free 6 pack of Wink", "Mall merchants offer variety"
March 25, 1976 - Part 12 - "Penn Can Mall opens"
August 4, 1976 - "Time For Back To School Savings" - advertisement
December 16, 1976 - "CHS King Kong Wins First Prize" - A 16-foot tall King Kong at Penn Can Mall?
October 30, 1977 - "Enter the Penn Can Mall Cookie Monster Coloring Contest"
August 17, 1978 - "Shopping Malls are Where the Money is"
August 24, 1978 - "Wednesday Night Fever"
October 15, 1978 - "Sesame stars at Mall" - Susan and Gordon are at Penn Can!
December 18, 1980 - "International Show" - Great picture of center court during Christmas season.
August 19, 1981 - "The Subject Is Fashion At The Penn Can Mall"
October 25, 1983 - "Hills opens third store"
August 19, 1984 - "Gosh, Wally, guess who I saw at the mall?" - Jerry Mathers comes to Penn Can.
October 30, 1984 - Grand Re-opening of Marketplace Mall
December 2, 1984 - "Season's greetings from Penn Can Mall" - Win Cabbage Patch Dolls!
August 9, 1985 - "Penn Can may sign 4th big store for expansion"
November 7, 1985 - "In Cicero, a trade barrier is about to fall"
September 18, 1986 - Chappell's opening day schedule of events
November 13, 1986 - "Malls expand"
March 20, 1988 - Part 1 - "Mall rats bring thefts, fights and drugs" - This article includes a picture of some of my high school friends, who were doing nothing wrong. I wonder if the newspaper photographer was told to take some pictures of some "long haired boys" in the mall.
March 20, 1988 - Part 2 - "Malls turn into hangouts for teens" - Part 2 of the article above. I liked this quote, "Teens with no place else to go can be incredibly devoted to their local mall...", even though I find it silly. I mean, who could be that devoted to a mall? Next thing you know some twit will have a web site dedicated to their old mall! Ridiculous.
April 4, 1990 - "April Events At Penn Can Mall"
July 19, 1990 - "Holy Guacamole!" - A full page with ads from 19 different stores plus a chance to meet the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
November 2, 1990 - "Grand Opening Of Steinbach", "The video palace: standard stop for mall rats"
January 5, 1992 - "Overbuilding of '80s catches up"
April 28, 1992 - "Tough Times at the Malls"
June 1, 1992 - "Store files suit against mall owner"
May 30, 1993 - "Penn Can's discount image moves forward ... er ... north"
August 11, 1994 - "Strip center to replace ailing Penn Can"
October 8, 1995 - "Only eight malls remain since Carousel opened"
July 19, 1996 - "Funscape complex in store at Penn Can"
December 18, 1996 - "Mall Magnate's Family Feud Escalates to Federal Lawsuit"
April 17, 1997 - "Mall owners shop for Cicero tax breaks"
April 24, 1997 - "Suggestions offered for Penn Can Mall"
July 3, 1998 - "Two Malls Put Up for Sale"
February 10, 1999 - "Owners Consolidate Malls"
November 16, 2000 - "Area auto dealer buys Penn Can Mall"
November 17, 2000 - "Caretaker notes fall of Penn Can Mall"
November 30, 2000 - "Officials hope sale of Penn Can will drive development"
February 2, 2002 - "Auto Mall on Track"
September 21, 2002 - "Burdick breaks ground on Driver's Village"

Classic Photos

The following photos are courtesy of Mike Hepp. Mike's father, David Hepp, was the caretaker of Penn Can Mall until the property was purchased by Burdick. Mike found a photo album containing all of the following pictures in the trash bin of one of the mall offices

This first section of photos were all taken in the mall
's opening year of 1976.

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This next group of photos are from the 1970s through the 1990s and includes mall appearances by Ernie, Bert, Susan and Gordon from Sesame Street, as well as Winnie The Pooh.

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The following items are courtesy of the former Cicero Town Historian, Thomas Mafrici. This first group of pictures are from a newsletter that was sent out in February 1976 to promote the upcoming opening of the mall.

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The following "Penn Can Progress" newsletter is from March 1976.

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Penn Can Mall Merchandise For Sale

T-shirts, hats and other merchandise featuring the original mall logos:

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Original Penn Can Mall DVDs for sale:

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The Penn Can Mall Alive! DVD contains home video footage of the mall from my personal collection from the years 1988 to 1991. See the mall as it used to be, through the eyes of myself and my fellow "mall rat" friends. This DVD includes the original audio, plus new commentary I recorded for the disc. Several bonus clips are also included of Penn Can Mall news clips and commercials from the 1970s and 80s. Please check out this trailer I made for the DVD, which includes several screen captures from the disc.  

This DVD is only $20, which includes tax and shipping (within the U.S.). Click on the button below to securely order online using PayPal. To order with a check or money order, or for more information about the DVD, please send an e-mail to syrnostalgia@gmail.com. Please note that it is a DVD-R format disc. This video contains strong language so you must be at least 18 to order. Thank you! Money made from the sale of this DVD will be used to pay for the cost of running this site.

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The Penn Can Mall 2002 Dead Mall Tour DVD contains over 2 hours of home video footage of the mall taken when the Burdick company was in the middle of construction. My friend and I, along with a tour guide from Burdick, browse through nearly every empty store in the mall. Check out the trailer for the DVD below.

This DVD is only $20, which includes tax and shipping (within the U.S.). Click on the button below to securely order online using PayPal. To order with a check or money order, or for more information about the DVD, please send an e-mail to syrnostalgia@gmail.com. Please note that it is a DVD-R format disc. This video contains strong language so you must be at least 18 to order. Thank you! Money made from the sale of this DVD will be used to pay for the cost of running this site.

Special deal - you can now buy both DVDs together for $30, which includes tax and shipping within the U.S.! Click on the link below.

Here are some reviews of the Penn Can Mall 2002 Dead Mall Tour DVD:
 

"I really enjoyed this DVD!! I am so glad that someone made it and we still have that part of the mall at least, and the memories!! I was white knuckling it for a bit when the guy filming found the open door and had the moral dilemma about going it! Thank you oh mighty construction workers for allowing entry for this DVD to have been made! Absolutely loved it!!!" - Jeanette Bova - Camillus, NY
 

"The "Return to the Penn Can Mall" DVD is a genuine, nostalgia trip that is funny, entertaining and insightful. I was curious about the unedited nature of this project, half expecting shaky camera work and dull spots. Truthfully, the camera work was fine and I was never bored. With each former store entered, I was just as excited as Ham and Jon to see what would be found. This "movie" has a natural flow that climaxes with the resolution of decade old argument between friends over the identity of a beloved restaurant. Bottom line: Well worth the 20 bucks if you ever spent time in Penn Can Mall and miss it." - Patrick Baker - Baldwinsville, NY
 

"Even if you've never been to Penn Can Mall, you'll easily relate to the adventures of two late-twentysomething Ex-Mall Rats revisiting the scenes of their teen years! I'm reminded of Springsteen's "My Hometown" and The Pretenders "My City was Gone" as the boys reminisce, argue, and explore the ruins of the climate-controlled Camelot of their youth." - Mike Warden - Melbourne, KY
 

"...so much fun to watch; it was like being in a time machine, just listening to all the fascinating stories!" - Courtney Angell - Fulton, NY
 

"... just got done watching Dead Mall Video, Awesome.... great job..." - Mike Murphy - Central Square, NY

"Interesting video. Its nice you were able to film so much, even areas most people have never seen. Well done!" - Jon Schadle - Grand Rapids, MI

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