I went to Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing last Friday night and I was shocked at what I saw.

Or more specifically, what I didn't see.


The place was practically empty.

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I was there at 7:30 on a Friday night exactly two weeks before Christmas Eve -- arguably, the peak of the holiday shopping season -- and it was almost a ghost town.

It wasn't really all that long ago that when you were within a few days of Christmas, the parking lot at the mall would be overflowing, there would be wall-to-wall people inside, lines wound be dozens of people deep at a register in any given store, and the line to see Santa would stretch down as far as the eye could see.

And none of that was at Hamilton Mall last Friday night.

So, how can it be saved?

While malls are fading as more people shop online, they're not totally dead. Malls surrounding our area seem to be doing pretty well, actually. The Deptford Mall still has two big anchor stores and they have replaced the old Sears with an entertainment venue. The Ocean County Mall has redeveloped itself with a nice combination of indoor and outdoor shopping. New stores are moving into the Moorestown and Cherry Hill Malls. Yet, while Hamilton Mall has had a few new additions, namely restaurants, none of them seem to be bringing droves of people into the shopping center.

I would love to see the mall as the focal point of a bustling mega-shopping district for South Jersey. The entire area between Walmart, the mall, and Target along and near the Black Horse Pike could be a huge retail hub for both Atlantic and Cape May Counties. Two major highways run right through the area; the infrastructure is in place.

So with the suggestions below in mind, allow me to head off one of the first arguments that someone will bring up: this area will never support a store like that! I absolutely hate hearing that comment. We're not second-class citizens down here. There are multi-million dollar beach houses 20 minutes from the mall. Atlantic City is a huge destination. We can support stores besides Target and Walmart around here -- we just need someone to give it a chance.

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