5 things we miss about the old Centre Mall


It’s been a while since the Centre Mall underwent its transformation from mall to Big Box shopping centre and yet there’s a part of me that yearns for the good ol’ days.

Sure, towards the end, it was clear the mall needed a massive upgrade to the 21st century, but we had some good times there, didn’t we?

Don’t get me wrong, I still find myself at Centre on Barton and everything they’ve got going on is great (love Michaels and that CT is my favourite in the city, also Giant Tiger!!!!). But there’s so much I miss about the indoor shopping experience that was unique to the Centre Mall.

Interesting fact: The Centre Mall opened nearly 64 years ago, on Oct. 26, 1955, as a open-air shopping mall and it was one of the first malls in North America.

Here are 5 things we miss about the old Centre Mall.

5. Fancy bathrooms in Sears
Now, I may just be remembering these through rose-coloured nostalgic glasses, but the ladies room in Sears was high class. I remember I was there with my mom when she had to go, I got to sit in the nice little waiting room adjacent to the washrooms. Everything was pink and pretty and I remember liking the smell of the handsoap (this is actually a super important factor for me in gauging the awesomeness of a bathroom). The chairs in the little sitting-room were super comfortable as well so that when I was older and went to the mall with my friends this is where we’d hang out and wait for our concert tickets to go on sale at Music World. The lighting in these bathrooms was ideal for makeup application as well.

4. Fountains
These big beige and blue-tiled fountains were maybe my favourite part about visiting the mall. I’d always have a penny to throw in and make a wish. While my mom was shopping, I’d sometimes just hang out around the fountain and climb the steep, tile walls to get my hands in the water. When my mom came back, I’d try to splash her. She didn’t love them as much as I did. There’s just something about mall water features that I think captures children’s imaginations and having the opportunity on a regular basis to wish for my heart’s content was pretty special.

3. Movie theatre
I saw so many movies for the first time here and I know there are a lot of people who lamented the loss of the Centre Mall movie theatre. From what I can remember, it had a lot of theatres and I’m pretty sure this theatre had the best popcorn in the city. Nothing could beat their cheap Tuesday nights (which saw line ups out the door) and the convenience for people living in the lower city.

2. IT Store
I know this store isn’t particular to this mall but it was my primary IT store and its where I got my first Beanie Baby and fake barf and poop from so it’s dear to me and I’m sure many other North-East End Hamiltonians. That neon sign will forever be etched in the back of my eyelids and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to purchase top-notch gag gifts right in my own back yard. I’m pretty sure my ‘Don’t worry be happy’ shirt came from here too. Its proximity to Baskin Robbins didn’t hurt either.

1. Jim’s Nut Shack
Ah Jim. The proprietor of Jim’s Nut Shack, Jim, was a fixture in this mall. He seemed to know everyone and he never seemed to leave. He’s a real Hamilton treasure and I’m sure I’m not the only one who misses him. His little kiosk, located out front of the old CIBC, housed so many treasures. My particular favourite was the sour penny candies that you can’t seem to find anymore. And he had an insane assortment of nuts. As my mom would do her banking, I would wander around the kiosk marvelling at the colours and imagining what I would beg my mother to buy me. All the while, Jim would chat with me, laugh at me and make me feel like a kid in a candy shop. Oh hey! That’s where that saying comes from!

Honourable mention: The Bi-Way. Back in the day, we didn’t want to be spotted shopping here but nowadays, I’d give anything to have one nearby again. Oh, how the world goes round!

Question: Does anyone remember a children’s clothing store located just outside the old Robinson’s? I think there was an elephant in the logo. I have vivid memories of a ball pit in there but I haven’t been able to confirm if my memories hold true.

Photo courtesy Centre on Barton facebook page

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