EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ -  1980's fever seems to be all the rage these days, with suburban malls and the "mall culture" beiing at the revival's center.  Catch an episode of Stranger Things lately? Ever since Fast Times at Ridgemont High, malls have loomed large in the popular imagination, with the open areas often filled with teenagers, moms with strollers, and busy shoppers.

But, hey, it's not the 1980's anymore.  So what's a mall to do?

Brunswick Square Mall, like so many other centerpieces of suburbia, is being re-imagined as a new type of "experience location" with different types of stores and services drawing a new audience for retail, food, and entertainment opportunities.  Ron Lichtenberger, General Manager, is helping the mall make the transition to new services and a greater connection to the community. 

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Last year, Brunswick Square held 82 events, in an effort to create a greater "town center" feel.  Special sales, Santa Claus visits, Relay for Life, library book sales, and health events are all ways that the mall continues to be a vital part of the community.  The mall is also responding to the increased use of online shopping that is growing in popularity, leading to a decline in mall retail sales generally.

Lichtenberger is looking for high-energy, engaging locations to draw pwople in.  "You cant buy that online, " he said.

The anchor stores at Brunswick Square are "in good shape," says Lichtenberger who noted that East Brunswick's JCPenney is the company's most profitable store in the region and rated highest in customer service.  He noted that the store has recently made an investment in the salon, which remains very popular.  He added that Macy's is continuing to to be a strong location.  "There is a 20% rise in foot traffic at the mall, and the stores are doing better, "he added.

Lichtenberger was excited about new businesses coming to the mall which will open up the space to new experiences for locals.  He was especially interested Footbik, an indoor soccer facility for children ages one to seven where kids use soccer skills to develop life skills.  Footbik teaches children how to play soccer and acts as an early development system for a child, using soccer as the main educational tool. A Dutch company, Footbik has a successful location in the Jefferson Valley Mall on Staten island.  There will be another Footbik location opening at Woodbridge Center on Sunday, August 18.

The location can accommodate up to 500 students in three age groups 1-, 4-5, and 7-9.  Although the kids don't play reall games, "Its a great way to get your kids interested in soccer, " he said.  The children learn to dribble the ball, kick it into a goal, to run without touching the cones as they practice skill-building and team building.  Footbik is scheduled to open at the end of October, just when kids need an indoor place to play.  Sign-ups are available now for the EB location.  Footbik will be represented at the Back to School Bash on Saturday at Brunswick Square.  According to Lichtenberger, "The phone is already ringing off the hook at this location."

"Children will be protected by the dedicated entrance, " said Lichtenberger of the location that will have an outside entrance near Macy's.  "This is a great operation with great people.  The best this is the energy between the coaches and the kids."  He sugggested that the owners are considering asking EBHS soccer players to  become employed as coaches.  "This is a good operation run by good people, " Lichtenberger says of the owners whose kids loved Footbik so much that they bought the East Brunswick franchise.

I addition to Footbik's opening this fall, there's a lot more happening at Brunswick Square:

  • There will be a new restaurant in the former Tilted Kilt location.  Negotiations are in progress with the mall, and TAPinto East Brunswick will let you know when they are finalized.
  • A new XFinity store opened that features service, repair and product demonstrations.
  • All-In Adventures, "Your Ultimate Escape Room Destination," according to the website, will open near JCPenney.  
  • Volta and Tesla power station usage is syrocketing as a service in the mall parking lot.
  • Bar Louie is revamping its outdoor patio to adjust the lighting to provide more shade.
  • Zuted, a store catering to skateboard culture, has already opened in the mall.  The shop features "iconic fashion" says Lichtenberger with a "more exclusive style."
  • Results Boxing and Fitness will open up next door to JCPenney.  "Results Boxing and Fitness offers a 50-minute, high-intensity, full-body workout that builds strength and confidence with powerful boxing sequences. ," says the website.
  • Dunya is a fashion store featuring leggings and evening wear that just opened near JCPenney.
  • In the Macy's wing, kids and families can visit the "Yard" that features a playspace with giant Connect 4, Jenga, and chess games; a carousel; a ping-pong table; and foosball.

Well, it's not the fabulous '80s anymore, but the mall is still alive and looking forward to those roaring '20s.