Related InformationNew Apple Blossom theater construction under way
By Sally Voth
Apple Blossom Mall is in the midst of a long-overdue polishing.
The shopping center started getting its first-ever renovation in June - 30 years after it first opened.
Last spring, it was announced that the mall would get an overhaul - new ceilings, lights, floors, doors, entrances and outdoor signage, as well as a large children's play area and a renovated food court.
At the same time, the adjacent six-screen movie theater was to be demolished to make way for a 12-screen multiplex, which would include a jumbo screen and 7.1 sound system in what Carmike Cinema Inc. called its BIGD auditorium. Construction of the cinema is partway done.
Larry Nelson, area director of mall marketing and business development for Simon Brand Ventures and Simon Property Group, said the biggest thing for mall renovation now is the three entrances.
"They've all been pared down to their bare bones," Nelson said. "That was actually done through the holiday. All three of the entrances are going to get the slider doors."
Before, the doors entering the food court area weren't handicapped accessible, he noted.
There are new restrooms by the food court that while not yet complete, were open by Black Friday, according to Nelson.
Wide leather chairs have replaced wooden benches throughout the court areas of the mall. Nelson said coffee tables will be added to those seating areas. The ceiling areas also were opened up more in the court sections to allow more natural lighting to come in through the skylights, he said.
Lighting throughout Apple Blossom has been replaced, with large rectangular lanterns hanging from the ceilings of the court areas.
"I think the lighting is one of the biggest improvements to the center," Nelson said. "That's what I hear most from customers."
Mall-goers Peggy and Jimmy Dixon of Winchester were impressed with what they saw.
Dix, who walks the mall in the mornings, said he thought it was a big improvement.
"It really looks nice, what they've done," he said.
His wife complimented the new tile floor. There is carpeting in the seating areas.
"I love the floor because it's easier to walk on than that brick," Mrs. Dix said.
Nelson said he's heard the same remarks from many other customers.
Mrs. Dix told him that, "You feel like you're in a real mall now ... It was way over due, and it's amazing how they worked around [customers]."
Nelson said much of the heavy work had been done at night.
On Tuesday, he opened the new open-area children's soft play zone for the first time. The extra-squishy carpet was decorated to look like grassy, flower areas, as well as streams with fish.
Children can climb into a colorful car, boat or airplane, and there is a small building with a slide for them. Additionally, there are games on the wall, as well as piano keys that play and light up, and a funhouse-style mirror.
Leather seating surrounds the play area, and charging stations for parents' phones are available.
Stephens City resident Debbie Chapman, who was watching her granddaughter play, said she thought the mall changes were "awesome."
"It has a lot of variety, lot of choices and a lot of room to move," Chapman said.
Scott Dove manages the FYE store in the mall, and said he was pleased with how renovations were coming along.
"We will be especially excited once the theaters are done and the whole outside," he said. "We were due for a change, too. It's been 30 years, and people from Winchester know that the mall -- it was due."
Besides some new stores that are coming, but not yet announced, a full-service restaurant will go in near the mall entrance by JC Penney, Nelson said. He declined to say what it would be.
"It's a national restaurant that nowhere in the area has," Nelson said. "It's a great chain."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com