A grand opening was still nearly a month away, but you’d have never known it on Thursday, June 30, 1983, as thousands of shoppers from our area crowded the newly opened Southside Mall, either to browse or to spend.
Kmart was one of many stores to open that day, but two others, the Great American food store and Alice’s Restaurant, had opened Tuesday, the day the town of Oneonta issued a temporary certificate of occupancy for the property.
“This mall is just what Oneonta needed,” said Gloria Mastro as she entered the Kmart. Not everyone agreed, as construction, which had begun the previous August, had been delayed for several years by opponents of the mall who fought the plan in court. Downtown Oneonta merchants said the mall would create unfair competition and force many merchants out of business. In the town’s East End, Oneonta’s first enclosed mall, the Pyramid Mall, was open but partially vacant.
The mall opening was a bit earlier than planned, as there was still a fair amount of landscaping to be completed. There was no traffic light in use at the entrance, but one was on order. Otsego County Sheriff’s deputies were directing traffic as a temporary measure.
“Business is fantastic,” said Ron Osborne, Kmart manager. By 1:30 p.m. he estimated that several thousand people had shopped in the store. Lines were long at the checkout aisles.
The other businesses opening that day included an electronic game center called Dream Machine, Bee Gee Records and Tapes, Schatz Stationery, Pants ‘n Stuff Shed House, the Snack Shack, Soft Pretzel Factory, Puffs ‘n Stuff Bakery, Len and Nancy’s Coin Shop and Le Salon, a unisex hair salon. The 190,000-square-foot mall was eventually expected to house nearly 35 stores.
The way was cleared on Thursday, July 14, for the construction of four movie theaters in the mall, each seating 210 to 240 patrons. Construction was planned to begin in the fall. Adjacent to the mall property, a McDonald’s restaurant had been approved by the Oneonta Town Planning Board, and a groundbreaking was scheduled that month.