Naugatuck Valley Mall

By Mark Jones

Before Brass Mill Center was built Waterbury relied on a previous older mall for it's retail. It was a main source of income for the Waterbury area. Many people blame the mall for the death of downtown Waterbury's shopping industry. While this is likely too be true, many people still favored the trip to the mall up to the end. Whether people loved it or hated it this mall was unforgettable.

Built in August of 1969, the Naugatuck Valley Mall first opened with an interior movie theater and two well known anchors in the Connecticut area,Sears and G.Fox. G.Fox was one of Connecticut's most proudly acclaimed department stores in the area when it was thriving, Sears also was a big name anchor back then. The malls layout was what you would call a "dumbbell" layout,in which a mall had two anchors on each side with the mall layout shaped like an arrow.

Sears anchored the North side while G.Fox anchored the South side,with the movie theater in the middle portion. The movie theater was later out parceled to the back of the mall in the 1980s. Unlike most malls built this mall only had a single floored walkway,however this didn't deter the stores from being multi-floored. Sears contained two stories while G. Fox contained three. Sears as I last saw it had a red & white color scheme,with high ceilings. It had white walls with two red stripes at the top and red wall portion at the bottom. Pathways were while with single red stripes. Clothing was took up mainly the front and middle area,jewelry and watches near the middle,while the video game area was housed in the far right behind kids clothes.Toward the back was appliances,electronics,tools,and carpeting. It came also with it's own layaway area in the back right corner complete with light avocado walls,a cigarette dispenser,bucket type chairs and a storage room at the back separated by plastic. Second floor more dimly lighted contained furniture and home decorations. Sears also came with it's own Auto Center separate from the mall, located north of the store. Housed in a slightly smaller brick building this Auto Center originally served its own gasoline,sold auto accessories,and serviced automobiles. G.Fox was considerably different compared to the rest of the mall, it's building was white and had a large overhang at the front that sloped downward creating a large triangular shape. At the peak of the overhang was a small black weather vane in the shape of the Connecticut state stenciled out with the letters shaped holes of "G.Fox". Beneath the overhang was an area where you could pick up and drop of customers at the store. The interior of G. Fox was pretty upscale,inside on the first floor it had light pinkish marble floors,purple carpeting,dark purple walls,and gold type of signage for each department. The first floor was clothing and jewelry,jewelry near the front clothing near the back. Second floor was plainer white walls gray flooring contained furniture,toys,and I think music,3rd floor was dimly lit and it contained home decor,novelty items,and provided the display for seasonal decorations a big one was Christmas.

This mall was very rustic in it's design. The parking lot while,very large was actually quite appealing to the eye. This area was covered with trees and bushes and oddly enough had flagpoles. There was a main one near the center main entrance with the American flag, and a set near the back close to the Auto Center. As I remember correctly the lot had vintage tall post top canopy concrete-reinforced lighting poles for illumination. They had a cup-type shape for the lamps with a small circular canopy on top,and at the bottom they had a yellow concrete cylinders attached for protection, they were pretty neat. At the front of the parking lot was a gigantic Cinema sign attached to light blue square poles used to display movies that are playing. It had the word "Cinema" in red capital letters in a western font at the top,above the coming attractions. Next to this was the sign for the mall itself on it it had the malls logo, only thing I can remember about it was it was either five or six red interlocked rings creating the shape of a flower within another red ring. Below that was the name of the mall in red fancy type lettering.

Now lets get to the mall itself.The exterior was your average modern dark red brick building,with a slightly peaked dark shingled type roof. At the left hand side of Sears facing the street was a large Sears sign, with the 70's all caps logo. The lettering was white attached to a black rectangle. First a brief description of the interior. Inside it had brick tiled floors.The shops on both sides had Tudor styled front with large wooden shingled overhangs,which were protected from the elements by a large white ceiling with hexagon shaped skylights. This place was far from bright however. Lighting besides the tenants interior lights and signs was provided by post top transparent globe lights,small lights at the bottom of the overhangs and florescent lights behind the overhangs,pointing upward. The only time it really gotten bright was if it was clear bright skies,but even so most of the skylights were closer to the anchors. The anchors store fronts were unique. Sears's I was especially fond of. It was all red brick faced with the large white/silver capital letters of "S-E-A-R-S" in the 70's sort of Times Roman typeface. G.Fox's front I don't remember that well I think it was black lettering of "G.Fox" on a white wall I think. Anyway let me give you a better picture of how the mall was.There were four ways of entering the mall one the main entrance right in the middle indicated by a light gray peaked through an area that lead you near G. Fox's store front,one through G.Fox itself,and one through Sears. At each of the three entrances leading right into the mall were working wooden waterwheels within brick fountains. Sears had the largest of the waterwheels and had a fountain that had a squarish semicircular shape it also had a seating area around the fountain as well, G.Fox had a similar but smaller waterwheel in a more circular shaped fountain,and the main entrance's was similarly sized but it was skinny and rectangular.

I remember the main entrance pretty well. You entered through three sets of glass doors,first set leading you into a small room towards the next set of doors. This area I believe had a bronze plaque that showed the malls first logo which was the the letters "NVM" in a wide san-serif typeface all stacked on top of each other (the "V" was conjoined to the "M") within a upright rectangle. This area was lighted by a ceiling mounted opaque globe light. Through the next set of doors you enter a small glass vestibule in which you then head right to the final set of doors into the mall. This was probably done since the fountain with the waterwheel blocked any chance of going straight through.

Heres how I remember entering the mall in in order. Immediately to your right housed within the Tudor style walls was an extremely fancy restaurant yet it had a funny name to it I think it was called "Mister Hippopotamus's". On your left you would see also Tudor styled walls but those walls house a small display of Pink Panther.(to this day I still don't know why it was there) further down to your left was a dark lighted fancy Italian restaurant. It was open air however and wasn't enclosed. I remember it was ambient lighted with dark wooden decor everything was almost wood. There was a front diner area complete with spinning stools that extended towards the front of the mall. I remember this because there was a window to look out at the parking lot.( I haven't a clue why that would serve as an appropriate vista) At this area was an ordering window where you could sit and order your food,mainly you ordered slices of pizza which came on a large napkin.

I still remember the order to this day I ordered pepperoni,while mom ordered vegetable,and dad ordered a sausage pizza. The food was delicious,the pizza was flat and kind of limp but that made all the more interesting. The slices were pretty big too and they were hot to handle. To the right of the casual dining area was the more fancy restaurant dining,where you sat and ordered your meal from a menu and tell the waiter your order. The place mats they gave you were maps of some portion of Italy, I think inked in red and white. They had garlic bread,pasta I think and also I believe if I remember correctly lasagna.

Let's get back to the rest of the mall, okay in the center of the entrance was a small Newsrack Magazine stand that had newspapers,magazines,etc. etc. At the back center area where the movie theater originally was located had been the location of Kay Jewelers and Suncoast. Other things I rember about the mall is near G.Fox was a Radioshack and a Kay Bee Toys. This mall also had a Friendly's, a Casual Corner,and a McDonald's. The mall also had hundreds of clusters of pay phones, complete with phone books attached. It also had tons of trees and vegetation inside,along with birdcages. I clearly remember hearing birds in the mall along with rushing water. The mall also was air conditioned.

The final years of it's operation were turbulent. Besides out parceling the movie theater the mall suffered through surviving Connecticut's recession,and the loss of Waterbury's famous Brass Mill industry. It was also a blow to Connecticut and the mall when G.Fox was bought by Filene's in 1993 and replaced it with their nameplate. At that time Connecticut lost one their greatest department stores,one of the highest sources of income for Hartford and Connecticut's economy was lost. The flagship store in Hartford was closed for business sitting relatively vacant for years until recently. The G.Fox was converted into a Filene's,it looked the same but it wasn't what was before. Gone was the upscale family friendly image,the Connecticut staple for our culture,the pride of having our own successful department store,the excitement of seeing the different departments and products, all replaced by a store that sold basically clothing and jewelery. Sigh,now Filene's is gone and replaced by Macy's same exact type of store only more affluent. Back to the mall though thats the subject here. What finally killed the mall was the news of a new mall being built first announced in 1996. I remember seeing the notice that they were moving,and I knew the mall was done for. Sears and Filene's jumped at the chance of being in a new mall and took advantage of it,the rest of the stores such as Kay Bee Toys,Radioshack,and Kay Jewelers followed while the remaining ones closed down. People knew the mall was old,and took it's age as a negative to the city and wanted something new. Waterbury suffered through hard times and wanted a quick fix to their problem. Everybody wanted things to be better.

The new mall which opened in 1997 is bland as every other mall out there,it surprisingly followed an almost identical layout to the original mall. It is completely different however with the usual two floors,and the nondescript walls crammed with store fronts. Your usual mall fare complete with a food court *barf* for "quick and easy eating" yawn. No class anymore,no friendly conversations with the owners,no relaxing meals,no simple casual dining,no ordering from a diner-like atmosphere,no memorable experiences,no actual sitting down and having a real meal. Sigh,no just eat-n-go. Anyway the old mall finally closed in 1998 and was demolished and replaced by another quick-fix a shopping center.

Satellite image of the mall:

My Naugatuck Valley Mall memories

By Jim Shine - See Jims Mall Memory Profile here

I will just add some of the places I remember in the Naugatuck Valley Mall. My earliest memories of the mall are back in the late 70's. Upon entering the mall at the water wheel by Sears, to there was a bank to the immediate right, Sears to the immediate left, and a pet shop straight across. Beside the bank was a tobacco shop. The whole section up there smelled of tobacco. Quite often in the open section of this area organs would be set up for demonstration. People loved organs back then as most had some sort of auto play feature. The tobacco shop later became Pearle Vision.

Another store that remained pretty much unchanged until the late 80's was McCrory's. They had a little diner built into the front. It still had these weird yellow, blue and pink pointy mesh lampshades. It was modernized after McDonald's came in and gave them a run for their money. What I remember most about McCrory's was it was a dump for K-Mart and Kresge to get rid of stuff they couldn't sell in their stores. In this mall outlet you would find price tags from all 3 stores on items throughout the store. But at Halloween, nobody had a better selection for costumes and candy than McCrory's.

There was a shop down in the GFox area called "East West" that sold Asian motifed statues and martial arts gear. They also sold heavy metal patches and pins. Across from them was a Spencer gifts style shop with a large neon rainbow sign (the name escapes me, but there were others in Connecticut malls).

An interesting area I remember back early on was in Sears. There was a section in the somewhat middle of the store where you could buy concert tickets and other items from cashiers behind glass. There were also bathrooms in here. It was still there at the end, but most of the windows were removed and walled up. Between this area and the main floor was one of those key cutting kiosks. Keep in mind, this was all contained within Sears, not out in the mall. In the last decade the audio visual would have faced opposite of this section.

The main entrance was detailed above. Beside the Newsrack to the right was a Baskin Robbins shop. To the left as a teenager was my favorite place to window shop, a store geared at 80's womens fashions, namely spandex wear. You would see teen girls walking in wearing and or buying all different varieties of spandex wear. Directly in front of you was Musicland, which later became Sam Goody and moved to the other end of the mall. To the right of that was a cookie shop.

Other stores I remember in the mall were Chess King (north end of mall), Waldenbooks (in the middle), Zinnos Music was there briefly on the southern end, KB Toys, Radio Shack (to the left of the south entrance), and Thom Mcaan. I remember another restaurant in the middle section when I was younger that was gone by the 80's. It was more of a sit down place very dimly lit.

I always remembered G Fox for its escalators. No trip to the mall was complete without a ride on them. It was right by the watches. The smell of perfume was strong when you walked through the entrance. Later on I began exploring the store and found it had a small lunch counter on the second floor. GFox also had an elevator. It was a fancy all brass one, but this was the late 80's and it smelled terrible, like people had peed in it.

To me it seemed the mall started its downhill slide when McDonalds came in. The modernization began at the rest of the mall, the cinema moved out of the mall, and things started getting shabby. Just about the only thing that went away in its last decade that was good was the smoking. It still amazes me all the smoke that filled that mall and it just was an ordinary day shopping.