MAYS LANDING — Jennifer King doesn’t remember a time without the Hamilton Mall.
When King was a child, her mother brought her to the mall to shop for school clothes at the still existing anchor, JCPenney, and the now defunct Deb Shop.
King, who lives here, is now 25 and married to Jonathan Baez. She is a mother herself, and she brings her son, Nathan Baez, 3, to ride on the carousel on the mall’s first floor while her daughter, Kingsley Baez, 1, tags along.
“We have been shopping here all my life. I remember when there was a fountain with coins, and we would throw coins into the fountain, and the food court was totally different,” King said while sitting inside the mall recently.
But the Hamilton Mall did not always exist.
The grand opening festivities, featuring Miss America 1987 Kellye Cash and Robin Leach, the host of the then-popular TV show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” took place 30 years ago this month.
Even though the enclosed Hamilton Mall is the hub from which a great deal of development in the Township of Hamilton has sprung to the east, west and south, the commemoration has been relatively low-key.
Crystal Rodriguez, the mall’s marketing manager, mentioned it during National Night Out last month. The mall gave away 500 free cupcakes in the blue and white mall colors during that event, she said.
The mall’s logo has been temporarily changed to add the words “celebrating 30 years.” Banners mentioning the 30th anniversary were added to the mall entrances and in the sky overlooking the food court, Rodriguez said.
This month, the mall is giving away three $1,000 shopping sprees. The contest ends Sept. 30. The public can enter the contest through the mall’s Facebook page, Rodriguez said.
“It (the mall) has such a huge variety of different types of merchants that no matter what your style is or what your mood is for eating, you can come here and find what you are looking for,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about going to place to place to place to place. You park once. You come inside and shop.”
When all the stores, restaurants and services, such as Planet Fitness, are added together, the Hamilton Mall employs about 2,000 people during the course of a year, with more people working there during the holiday season.
The Hamilton Mall has been a convenient place for students to work while taking classes at either Atlantic Cape Community College’s Mays Landing campus or Stockton University’s Galloway Township campus.
Township Mayor John Kurtz is one of the people who is happiest the mall has remained viable over three decades.
After the mall opened, that corridor of the township became home to other shopping centers, such as Hamilton Commons and Wrangleboro Consumer Square to the east and Festival at Hamilton Shopping Center to the south, across the Black Horse Pike.
The area keeps growing and changing with the new AutoZone that opened in the spring on the southeast corner of Black Horse Pike and McKee Avenue and a new Home Goods store that opened in May inside Festival at Hamilton.
Mayor Kurtz has lived in the county his whole life and remembers the township before the mall.
“It is the largest tax ratable in our township,” said Kurtz, who added the mall is a good community partner. “Thank goodness, the mall parcel became a mall, because that set the stage for much of the other development along the (Route) 322 corridor that runs through Hamilton Township.”
Even though the mall was renovated in 2004 and expanded in 2013, it always has had more than 100 stores. The mall totals about 1.2 million square feet when restaurants and the convenience center are taken into consideration.
Besides JCPenney, two other original anchor stores — Macy’s and Sears — are still there, and two two-story mini-anchors — Forever 21 and H&M — joined the mall in 2013.
Some of the first smaller retailers are still there, such as Littman Jewelers, American Eagle Outfitters and Payless ShoeSource, but one reason the mall has not become outdated is that new retailers open their doors when others leave.
Level Up Entertainment originally opened in 2007 at the Tilton Times Plaza in Egg Harbor Township.
After moving to a larger location in that plaza, Level Up relocated to the mall in 2011. The business outgrew its space on the first floor, so it moved to a larger spot on the second floor in 2014.
“They want to help us grow these events because it helps the mall,” Level Up co-owner Gregg Mester said of events as Halloween Comic Fest 2017 on Oct. 28. “They have been very supportive of us. ... Some of the things we have done, we couldn’t have done without the mall. They have definitely helped us quite a bit.”