Hillsdale Shopping Center entertains with new North Block

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Reflecting a nationwide trend, Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo is opening its new north block – the former site of the Sears store and the mall’s food court – to include entertainment as well as shopping and dining. 

Venues in the redeveloped two-floor, 290,000-square-foot section of the iconic shopping center began opening their doors in late November, and continue to open this month and next.  Included are: 

  • Cinépolis Luxury Cinema – Featuring waiter service, a full bar, chef-inspired food items, advanced digital projection and sound, reclining leather seats and online reserved seating.
  • Pinstripes Bistro Bowling and Bocce – A 12-lane bowling center with three bocce courts, from-scratch Italian-American food, private event space and off-site catering.
  • West Elm – A division ofWilliams-Sonoma, featuring furniture and home decor.
  • lululemon – Women’s athletic clothes for yoga, running, workouts and other active pursuits.
  • Shake Shack – Serving classic burgers, fries, hot dogs, frozen custard, beer, wine and more.
  • BelcampoMeat Co. & Restaurant – A casual rustic restaurant and butchrey showcasing a full menu of organic meats. 
  • MidiCiNeaWpolitan Pizza Co. – wood-fired pizzas, appetizers salads and desserts. 

Introduced just in time for the holiday shopping season, the north block currently features a 40-foot-high tree with a light show coordinated with nearby fountains.  The show will run through the holidays. 

Hillsdale is hardly alone in its strategy to incorporate entertainment such as the new cinema and bowling-bocce complex.  According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, malls across the U.S. are combating online retailers and luring shoppers with attractions ranging from laser tag to escape rooms and glow-in-the-dark miniature golf. 

They’re also getting patrons to stay longer.  The manager of one mall chain told the Journal that customers were staying up to six hours while enjoying various amenities. 

“We realize there’s more to retail than just offering stores,” says Hillsdale Marketing Director Christine Kupczak.  “And in order to be competitive in today’s market, you really need to offer an entertainment value in the shopping center.  We took a look at an aging portion of the shopping center, which was the old Sears, as well as the old food court.  We demolished those, and put together a brand-new entertainment venue, which is really what shoppers are looking for in today’s market. 

“It’s all about creating a social gathering place where the community can get together and enjoy dining, as well as experiences and retail,” Kupczak continues.  “And that’s what we’ve put together for the north block plaza — something that was different and unique to the area.  We wanted to bring something new and fresh and vibrant to that mix of experiential entertainment.” 

Two of the new establishments – Pinstripes and the Cinépolis cinema complex – will be the first in Northern California, Kupczak says.   

Pinstripes, in fact, will be opening its first venture in the west.  Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, the company currently has 12 other venues, including one scheduled to open this month in Norwalk, Conn.  Many of the Pinstripes locations sit in fashionable burgs such as Edina, Minn. (Minneapolis), Overland Park, Kan. (Kansas City) and the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. 

Cinépolis, meanwhile, is reported to operate more than 300 theaters in the U.S., Latin America, India and Spain.  According to the company’s website, it has eight movie complexes in Southern California. 

Whereas many malls across the country have been fighting a downturn, Kupczak says business at Hillsdale remains strong. 

“It’s been very busy,” she says, adding that on Veterans Day, “it was so crowded, it was unbelievable. 

“We’ve seen a constant flow of traffic,” Kupczak continues.  “It’s been great.  We’re anticipating with the opening of this north block that the appeal will only increase as well, and just really provide a different amenity to our shopper.” 

Kupczak says the new development will elevate the mall, which opened in the mid-1950s, from simply a shopping center to an entertainment and retail destination. 

“It’s going to be just a fabulous community gathering place for people to socialize and be with their families and friends,” she says.  “Where they can really just enjoy themselves and have the opportunity of being able to enjoy some experiential entertainment, have a good time wining and dining. It’s really just about having a special place to be together.”  

 This story was originally published in the December print edition of Climate Magazine. 

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