Trial & Error

Although the mall’s visionaries were able to create something groundbreaking, Shoppers’ World still had its share of problems.  After all, there was really no road map laying out how to construct and operate a successful mall.  Predictably, some of the early mistakes were a result of the designers’ inexperience.

One issue that plagued Shoppers’ World throughout its existence was the weather.  While the covered walkways and accessible parking was a big step up from looking for side street parking and trudging through downtown Framingham, the winter weather was still a factor at Shoppers’ World.  Wind whipped down the walkways in winter months, prompting the developers to spend extra dollars to put up storm windows. 

The growing pains that Shoppers’ World would experience in its early days would lead to financial difficulties for Suburban Trusts, the company that founded the mall. 

A strange contrast soon emerged in the fortunes of Shoppers’ World.  While the location and concept played out much as Huston Rawls had hoped (making the stores themselves quite successful), Suburban Trusts and its parent company, Middlesex Center Inc. began hemorrhaging money.  A March 25, 1953 confidential report from Rawls to the new management admitted that “We have had more than normal failings due to mediocre construction.”  Management admitted that perhaps they should have waited to open Shoppers’ World until they had a commitment from a second major store to compliment Jordan Marsh.  500,000 square feet of store space had been expected rather than the 400,000 that existed without the second anchor.  Soon it would be new owners, Allied Stores Corporation of New York, who would be calling the shots.

The Christmas time “Joy to the World” blocks were popular in the mall’s later years. (Thisisframingham.info)

Many of the innovations and experiences at Shoppers’ World led to further developments as new shopping centers and malls opened throughout New England and the nation. 

As with any innovation, the original model was improved with time.  Winter weather woes at Shoppers’ World led other designers to construct completely indoor malls, such as the Natick Mall which opened across the town line in 1966.  Food courts and increased dining options also became common in malls during the 1960s and ‘70s. 

The size and scope of Shoppers’ World also came to be seen as lacking as the years passed.  

At the time of its opening, the mall’s size seemed more than adequate.  But as mall shopping became more commonplace and jumbo malls sprouted up all over New England, Shoppers’ World began to look rather undersized.  Malls in Braintree, Chestnut Hill and the North Shore contained rows of fancy boutique shops which satisfied newer Yuppie sensibilities.  As the Boston Globe pointed out in a 1993 story, “In an era in which gourmet food courts, grand pianos and glass elevators are becoming commonplace in malls, older shopping centers are considered too small and plain.”