‘Retail apocalypse’ effects felt in State College
While anchor stores Sears, JCPenney and Bon-Ton have left the Nittany Mall over the past few years, new businesses — different from the typical department stores that frequent most shopping malls across the country — have popped up and are thriving.
Planet Fitness, for example, recently underwent an 8,000-square-foot expansion. The fitness center chain opened its doors in December 2014, and replaced many of its existing exercise machines in the expansion, according to an email to customers.
The success of Planet Fitness has also given a boost to other businesses, such as K n B’s Inflatables Please, which owners Keith and Rebecca Schulman said has benefited from the gym’s foot traffic.
K n B’s, which first opened on New Year’s Day, gives children younger than 10 the opportunity to play in multiple bounce houses and with other games. The first six months in the mall have gone well, the Schulmans said.
“We had a very good response over the wintertime, and the summer looks like it’s going to pick up as well,” Keith Schulman said.
They’ve since added more features in the store such as a rock climbing wall, and are considering opening new locations in the future. Being located in the mall has not been a disadvantage, they said.
“(Nittany Mall is) really turning into more of a family hangout center rather than a mall atmosphere,” Rebecca Schulman said.
Other non-traditional businesses to recently open in the mall include Blue Money Vapes and Rampage Room, which is set to open this summer in the space that was formerly occupied by rue21 in between the Macy’s and Express. Rampage Room hopes to bring people to the mall to break items instead of buy them.
State College’s first “break room” will allow visitors to blow off steam by smashing objects ranging from wine glasses and mugs, to coffee tables, washers and dryers.
The Rampage Room will also be replacing its originally planned escape room with a virtual-reality escape room, a change co-owner Erik Wine thinks will bring an extra element to a traditional escape room.
“Gameplay still involves working together to solve problems and to ultimately escape, but the game environment is now virtual,” Wine said. “Instead of a room with locked boxes, mathematical puzzles, and hieroglyphics players are immersed into a make believe world that can be anything game designers can dream up.”
After a few setbacks with what Wine said were “unforeseen things come in terms of coding,” the Rampage Room is set to open in August and is already taking reservations on its website.
Wine sees the online shopping boom as an opportunity to bring new types of business to the mall.
“A mall doesn’t have to be retail as people seem to think,” Wine said.
Another nontraditional mall tenant is the Centre Region Active Adult Center, which has been serving local seniors at the Nittany Mall location since 2015. The senior center has recently undergone some updates itself, including new sliding doors and signage.
Nittany Mall general manager Polly Welch did not return requests for comment on this story.