East Brook Mall is a True Community Mall

While many Northeastern Connecticut residents travel to Manchester to the Buckland Hills Mall, Providence to the Providence Place Mall, or to Waterford to the Crystal Mall, in their backyard is the East Brook Mall, one of the last community malls in the state.

A $4 million renovation project has been completed giving a facelift to this mall built in the 1970’s.

Two new 37-foot high signature towers and a 300-foot Alaskan Cedar Trellis were installed. The mall also has a new 18-foot highlighted sign and new “starburst” exterior lighting. These four major changes greatly improve the outside appearance of the mall. New benches and planters were also installed both inside and outside of the mall.

“These recently completed renovations reinforce the continuing commitment of the East Brook Mall in providing a premier shopping experience to our community. And there’s more to come. In the coming months, we will be undertaking additional renovations to the West Wing as well as announcing several new stores that will soon be making the East Brook Mall their home,” said John Fortier Property Manager of the mall.

Recent additions to the mall include two new anchors: Cinema North’s Mansfield Movieplex 8 in the west wing and Kohl’s Department Store filling the void created by the closure of Ames Department Stores on the mall’s south side.

While Ames and its predecessor Caldor gave the mall a discount store, Kohl’s fits in better by offering a classier department store with more name brands in clothing, textiles, jewelry and small home appliances.

This Kohl’s is not as big as others I have been to but it is well stocked, often has a good amount of clearance merchandise right after a holiday, and is usually not crowded.

Kohl’s eliminated a service hallway and made it a public hallway allowing customers to use it to access a brand new 37-foot signature tower which is located near the mall’s rear parking lot thus taking pressure off the parking lot in front of the store.

This new access encourages more to park in the back of the mall and a new road allows drivers to easily drive around the entire perimeter of the mall.

Mansfield Movieplex 8 is the only movie theatre in the area drawing in both students from nearby University of Connecticut and Eastern Connecticut State University by offering stadium seating, cup holders, traditional concession fare, a small arcade, and movie times as late as 9:45 p.m. on all seven days with afternoon matinees on weekends and Wednesdays.

Students and residents alike are glad to have a movie theatre in such a convenient location and wonder why for years a theatre of this quality has not existed in the greater Willimantic area.

Just remember that the auditoriums on the right side of this theatre do not have stadium seating due to size restrictions and have approximately 40 seats but these movies tend to be ones out for several weeks anyways.

Auditoriums on the left side are about twice as big but the chairs are almost on top of each other.

Cinema North used to own this theatre and the Willimantic Movieplex 6, an old movie theatre on Main Street near the Frog Bridge formerly owned by Hoyts, which it eventually closed due to lack of business.

Asian Bistro Restaurant and Bar opened across from the movieplex offering hibachi, traditional Asian fare, and the mall’s first alcoholic bar and compliments the mall’s other food offerings which include Subway, Papa Gino’s, Tropik Fruit & Nut, and Applebee’s, a restaurant which is an outparcel near the mall’s main entrance on Route 195.

Stores taking advantage of the exterior Alaskan Cedar Trellis by installing outside entrances in addition to ones opening into the mall include Subway, EB Games, and Fashion Bug.

EB Games replaces part of the former Kay Bee Toys and offers a variety of computer and games for a variety of game boxes such as X Box, Play Station, etc.

Hallmark has received all new fixtures, new carpeting, new merchandise, and a new card layout while Radio Shack also has remodeled and added 500 square feet to its store.

Your banking needs can be met with a Bank North lobby and walk-up ATM right outside JC Penney and a Savings Institute branch, an outparcel in the Kohl’s parking lot with a drive-up ATM as well as a walk-up ATM right near the Kohl’s mall entrance.

The new The Hoot store located between Westies shoe outlet and JC Penney offers more retail space than their former location in the west wing.

The Hoot is just one of several independently owned stores that truly make the mall a “community mall” and unlike larger shopping malls in the cities featuring only national name brand stores and restaurants.

Those shoe shopping can visit Westies shoe outlet, Payless Shoe Outlet, or Eblens, while those looking to eat healthy should visit GNC.

One store in the mall has a variety of frog memorabilia celebrating Willimantic’s fame as Frog City.

Readers will want to make a stop at Borders Express for the latest new releases, magazines, top 20 DVD’s, and even chairs for extended browsing.

For even more DVD’s and music, one should visit FYE, a former Strawberries which still sells some VHS tapes in addition to some accessories and game system units and games.

You can sell used DVD’s here if you show your driver’s license and you can either cash them in or trade them for their good selection of used DVD’s.

The exterior of both JC Penney and TJ Maxx has received a face-lift and a new canopy was installed between the entrances of the two stores.

The one-floor JC Penney is quite small which means little selection in all departments and a home department with only textiles, some luggage, and bed and bath items.

Those seeking a large JC Penney should visit the Buckland Hills Mall, one of the largest JC Penney’s in the state.

While the recent closing of CVS means the loss of a tenant that existed since the mall first opened, customers can drive up Route 195 to the Mansfield location at the Mansfield Four Corners or down Route 195 to Route 32 to the Willimantic CVS.

The East Brook Mall has a walking program allowing the public to get fit in a temperature controlled environment and the mall opens early so people can walk and jog around the mall before the stores open. Bikers who visit the mall can use the storage lockers located outside of TJ Maxx. The WRTD – Windham Regional Transit District has bus service to and from the mall – the bus stop is located outside the mall next to JC Penney.

The East Brook Mall is located at the junction of Routes 6 and 195 in Mansfield and is open Monday through Saturday 10am to 9pm and Sunday 12pm to 5pm though individual store hours may vary.

Restrooms in the mall are located in Kohl’s, JC Penney, T.J. Maxx, a small hall corridor next to FYE, Asian Bistro, Applebee’s, and Mansfield Movieplex for movie customers.

All mall entrances remain unlocked until the last movie at Mansfield Movieplex lets out allowing movie patrons to leave their vehicles in whatever lot they parked them in and not requiring them to walk out in the cold around the building like some malls do.

Remember this when you park at the Westfarms Mall’s Nordstrom that the parking structure has entrances to this department store and no direct access from the mall. If you forget, you will have to have a security vehicle escort to your car and have a story to tell all your friends like I did.

Security at East Brook Mall does regular trips around the mall keeping vehicles safe and their closed circuit television system keeps hallways and entrances safe as well.

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