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What Does the Ocean County Mall Need?

Benihana and El Chico gone, so is Friendly's

Last week, Benihana and El Chico restaurants at the Ocean County Mall closed, and although the signage remains, the tenants do not.

We remember the last time the large square of that section of the Ocean County Mall was empty.

The wing was vacant for years after the departure of the movie theater at the mall, and now that area is home to an Applebee's and several retail tenants.

Our Question of the Day asks, what are you hoping fills the shoes left by the departing restaurants?

The mall grew to include El Chico, adding square footage for the eatery, so there are potentially two restaurant slots open in that wing. Plus, the longtime Friendly's by Sears is also gone.

If you could pick any business be added to the mall, what would you wish for?

Seriously? February 23, 2012 at 04:12 AM
They have one -- it's called Delilah's Den on Route 9.
Seriously? February 23, 2012 at 04:17 AM
There will never be a Whole Foods, Wegmans or Trader Joe's in Toms River because the clientele here spend their money on the most economical food possible. Look at the demographics of the towns where there are those three stores -- all are in upscale towns like Princeton, Ocean Twp., Eatontown and Westfield. People down here want cheap, not organic. We have become a lower-middle class town, thanks to the developers who built overpriced McMansions that are now in foreclosure and apartments that are rented to people who can barely make ends meet.
Securevelope February 23, 2012 at 12:55 PM
You're absolutely right. This whole county went down the tubes over the last 20 years. I moved here from the city to have a farm, ride horses and live in peace and quiet. Instead, I watched country roads turn to highways, stores upon stores pop up and those were all big chain stores that squeezed out Mom & Pop operations. I watched open space turn into row after row of housing - all of them cookie-cutter crap that I got away from. At a town hall meeting in the early 90's, in Jackson, we were opposing a 2000 - that's right, TWO THOUSAND home development across the road from my farm. I got up to state my concerns and the imbecile running the meeting asked me where was I in 1962 when the plans for this were already in progress. I replied I was an infant living in Brooklyn and had no idea that NJ even existed. It got a laugh but those homes did get built, along with a whole mess of others and so many half started projects littering the county. The Mall was upgraded not too many years ago. I know, you forgot. Know why? because it was a half-hearted effort to modernize a place that already outlived it's usefulness. Sadly, if it closes it's going to remain an eyesore for decades like the rt 37 corridor between Hooper ave and the Seaside Bridge.
Ken G February 23, 2012 at 01:56 PM
"The Ocean County Mall is going to end up like the old Dover Mall eventually." Unfortunatley it already has. It wont last much longer, and you can tell their in a last ditch effort to save the place.
BN February 23, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Oh, I see....what the kids really need is a skate park, head shop, tattoo parlor, and a planned parenthood office because organized sports are bad for society.
barbara February 23, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I think the money and time invested in improving the mall would be better used to figure out how to get stores and restaurants downtown. I know a lot of people I talk to would love to be able to walk around and shop and eat without going to a mall. The downtown area of TR is going to waste. There is a river there. There is a walkway. Why can't anything be done there? I think it's a shame that we live in a county that is surrounded by a river and beaches and all we can see is garbage, vacant land, vacant stores, crappy motels. Shame on the powers that could change this.
Mark Wendell February 23, 2012 at 08:31 PM
@ Seriously?, Simon has used a tactic to get some tenants into OCM. Coach is an example, I think its Coach but if not one of the fancy handbag places, they wanted to rent in a Simon property someplace else and they had to come here to. How Simon makes them do it I dont know, sounds like a threat to me.
Mark Wendell February 23, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Wegmans may be a possibility because it has 2 sides, It has a regular grocery with the "Whole Foods" look on the other side. I shop at Wegmans in Ocean. I cant see a Whole Foods moving here. You would think with Lakewood being the biggest OC town and Brick and TR right next door we could get a Wegmans but OC is known as a low price piont. I E-mailed Wegmans once about plans to expand to the area and they said wasnt out of the question but not right now. Was'nt this part of the reason they changed the name from Dover to TRT. Didnt work.
Mark Wendell February 23, 2012 at 08:39 PM
YES! Red Robin would be good!
Mark Wendell February 24, 2012 at 03:45 AM
One would think that at least a certain amount of the restaurant equipment was left behind and that those locations being on the new side will drew other restaurants. As for the kids they have been there since the mall was built. The next generation always scares the one before. The older people in the mall were most likely worried about me and my friends in the 80's. As far as a dollar amount someone from around here will spend it has to be value based. I walked up to look at the menu at Benihana but that was it. This not being a destination mall I cant see a theme type place making it. It has to be like Applebee's or it will not survive. I think a stand alone ElChico's on Hooper or 37 would have made it. Plus it was facing the smaller of the 3 roads along the mall and off the main walkway inside the mall. To tell you the truth I don't think I ever even saw it I was handed a menu and a coupon inside the mall.
barbara February 24, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Wow.. that's just too nasty.
Da Gr8 1 February 24, 2012 at 05:55 AM
put an in and out burger there. it would be a friggin gold mine
lisa February 26, 2012 at 02:51 PM
bricks restaurants are always packed because their upfront and people can see them from the road. you can't hide a restaurant in the back of a mall and think it will do good. of course price also has alot to do with it too. benihana too high priced and i didn't even know chicos was there.
Mark Wendell February 26, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Lisa is right, Look at the "outside" the mall stores at Monmouth Mall. The ones that are totally separated are smack up on the road with two of them almost in the jug handle. The ones that are in the mall but have outside doors like the Barnes and Noble are facing the road and clearly visible. The OCM's farther away from Hooper Ave and does not present a good face at that. I never understood why they put those mall entrances that front as the "front" of the mall are facing the smallest of the roads that go around OCM.
manchester_resident March 08, 2012 at 06:42 PM
how naive of you to think that because your children do not go to the mall and socialize that they do not participate in drugs or drinking! When I was in high school I was involved in MANY sports, 3 season athlete and when I was hanging out with the team we were drinking at the cool parents house or in my own house while my parents were sleeping. "NOT MY KID" is just as bad of parenting as "DROP MY KID AND GO".
Rico Suave March 08, 2012 at 09:01 PM
It needs a jail cell for all the delinquents.
Rick Molinia March 27, 2012 at 03:46 PM
asian massage parlor.. "rates are negotiable" just like up in Fort Lee!! Seriously BRO.. come on.. look @ Freehold. even its food court is decent.. Ours will make you sick from both ends.. i dont even know where to start, but right now the OL' Slash & Burn method comes to mind...
Springfield May 04, 2012 at 02:42 AM
I was a store manager for several years at OC mall. The number one complaint from customers was the poor food court. People view this mall as a quick stop for Macy's only. There have been numerous store closings in the last few years. The traffic in the mall is so slow, the "mall walkers" in the AM and teens on a Fri night is all that is left. I think the mall needs a few classy women's clothing stores (banana republic, Ann Taylor, chicos, etc) and a total food court makeover complete with taco bell, chic fil a, baha fresh, and a self serve yogurt shop. I still have faith in the good old' OC mall!
cody May 08, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I'm begging for a Buffalo Wild Wings in O.C., you find them everywhere but here! I think Triumph Brewing Co. should put a location here! I go to the one across from Princeton now, great food and fantastic craft beers!
jack smith May 08, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Yard House, Tilted Kilt, and Hooters. All would be great additions to Ocean County.
10% Tax Cut NOW May 08, 2012 at 01:29 PM
FIve Guys , Cheeseburger Cheeseburger or Smash Burger - High end restuarnts will not work here. The problem is the rental cost is keeping the business from coming. Just look at Brick the Turning Point isn't cheap but they are always busy.You can also look at Joe's Crab Shack which does great at the Monmouth Mall location.
wila franklin June 24, 2012 at 06:28 PM
i agree with both of these ideas... and arcade and day care center would be great!!!!!!!!!
J1998 July 21, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Screw that homophobic bigoted company Chick-fil-A. If the OCM every opens their doors to them I will never shop there again.
Mark Wendell July 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM
@ J1998, Thanks for posting this. I WAS a Chick-Fil-A fan until your post made me look up some company info.
John August 11, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Chic-Fil-A would be great to add to the food court. It really needs a make over.
. August 11, 2012 at 11:37 AM
No more chain restaurants please! This area is flooded with them!
Sandra Dorsey August 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Hi everyone, can anyone tell me the name of the apartments very close to the Ocean County Mall? Thanks for your precious time on my behalf. Sandt ~Smile~
Mark Wendell August 27, 2012 at 10:19 PM
If your talking about the ones across from Sears I think they are called Penny Lane.
ed galloway October 01, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Outback would do the job
Harry May 01, 2013 at 12:18 AM
In reference to Wholefoods, Wegmans etc., I know that Wholefoods does a ton of research on the communities they expand into. It is all based on education. I just don't see Toms River being up to the standards of say, Cherry Hill, Princeton or any of the affluent communities up North. Like some others have already pointed out, I believe the mall needs a complete overhaul or significant expansion. We moved to Toms River ten years ago and do all of our holiday shopping in Freehold or Menlo Park. The Ocean County mall has always been a "last minute" trip, nothing more. Freehold has turned it's mall into a complete entertainment experience with indoor and outdoor shops and restaurants. There just isn't any comparison. Toms River has always been a major disappointment in that sense. Very little in terms of night life, restaurants and entertainment. It has a very "bay shore area" kinda feel. Sad.

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