PLATTSBURGH — Champlain Centre is preparing to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
General Manager David Napolitan said Champlain Centre (called Champlain Centre North at the time) opened July 1, 1987. The mall will celebrate the anniversary on July 13.
He likes to think of the mall as a place for everyone.
”It’s more than just a shopping center for us,” Napolitan said. “There’s all these different groups and sub-groups who benefit from the mall.”
As the mall has grown, it has become a base for employment, community groups, mall walkers, students, tourists and families. People can shop, browse, dine, take in a movie or simply socialize.
Napolitan is proud that non-profit groups use the mall to promote their cause.
“It has been our team’s philosophy to make the mall a place for our community,” he said. “On any given weekend, you might find up to a half dozen different non-profit groups promoting their club or organization.”
One example is Journey into Reading, founded and managed by Alice Sample. She and other volunteers read to young children from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Thursday in the center of the mall near Kay Jewelers. The children are then allowed to pick a free book to take home.
The organization recently distributed its 30,000th book.
The mall hosts fundraisers such as the ARC Festival of Lights, where companies decorate Christmas trees that are auctioned off to raise funds for ARC; and the gift-wrapping station to benefit The Christmas Bureau.
The latter is a tremendous organization that tries to ensure every child has some gifts for Christmas, Napolitan said.
Champlain Centre also raises funds with The Wishing Well, where donors can watch their coin spiral around the collection device. The money collected is donated to a different non-profit organization every month.
Champlain Centre Marketing Director Amanda Walsh said they have collected more than $16,000 since the fundraiser was launched in 2008. Those interested in being a beneficiary can stop by the mall office for an application.
There are a number of people who walk daily at the mall. The mall opens its doors at 6 a.m. every morning to accommodate them.
The mall offers a controlled environment for the exercise, security, restrooms, water and an opportunity to socialize. There is a sign-in log at the counter in the hallway in front of Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Walsh said they have had more than 1,100 walkers in the last 20 years.
“We like to encourage and congratulate our walkers. We provide a modest give-away every month for them in hopes they will keep walking,” she said.
The mall offers full- and part-time employment to nearly 1,100 people every year, including janitorial staff, cashiers, managers, landscapers, sales associates and more.
A number of people have been employed at the mall since the beginning. They include Regal Cinemas General Manager Gladys Trudeau and Assistant Manager Lisa Brennan; and Things Remembered Manager Maureen Ratliff and her assistant, Denise Williams.
Napolitan said a number of employees have worked for different stores at the mall. For example, Yankee Candle Manager Nick Dupell has been at the mall for 10 years, first as manager at Pac-Sun.
The mall has provided an economic benefit to the region. It has provided more than $50 million in sales-tax revenue and more than $22 million in property and school taxes during its existence.
The mall also provides area students with employment opportunities as well as a place to shop.
Champlain Centre has worked with Plattsburgh State to provide the marketing student with the highest GPA a $50 gift certificate and plaque. The mall is also participating in a recently developed mentoring program offered at the school.
The mall offers a family-oriented destination, Napolitan said, especially during the holidays. That includes brunch with Santa during the Christmas season and the Easter Bunny around Easter.
Regal Cinemas has a popular $1 movie program Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the summer, while the Fun Zone arcade offers various video games and other attractions all year.
There are also treats available from shops like Got Yogurt, Auntie Annie’s or the food court, Napolitan said.
The Gizmo is certain to catch the eye of first-time visitors. Located between Kay Jewelers and American Eagle, the moving sculpture was installed in 1987.
After being in a state of disrepair for a number of years, it was adopted by the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum last year. Their volunteers have been repairing and refurbishing the contraption toward its original operating condition.
Napolitan said the relationship with the museum is another example of how they work with community groups in a positive way.
“They had the expertise to perform some much-needed repairs and we have given them a venue to promote their very worthy museum,” he said. “Anyone who has not seen the museum will be pleasantly surprised by the depth and interest level of their exhibits.”
Champlain Centre has always been popular with Canadian shoppers, as mall staff estimate 75 percent of the stores are not available in Canada. That has only increased with a favorable exchange rate, Walsh said.
“Our Canadian traffic is up by more than 40 percent this year,” she said. “We’ve also seen an increase in the previous two years.”
The “Back to the 80’s” themed celebration on July 13 will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will feature games, contests, entertainment and a dunking booth.
There will also be a free showing of the 1987 movie “Top Gun” to the first 300 people.
The event will also feature store give-aways, mall gift cards and discounts. All proceeds form the event are slated to go to the United Way of the Adirondack Region.
”The mall is the center of our region’s shopping, entertainment and community activity. Our anniversary celebration provides an opportunity for us to recogmize and thank our shoppers and tenants, while trying to raise a few dollars for a worthy cause like the United Way,” Napolitan said. “We hope to see you on the 13th.”
Email Dan Heath: dheath@pressrepublican