The mall had sales of $500 per square foot in 2013, about $320 above the national average; Garden State Plaza is one of the most profitable malls in the country. In a study of malls in the United States performed on behalf of CNBC, Westfield Garden State Plaza ranked ninth in the nation, based on sales of $950 per square foot. Most of the mall is closed on Sunday in accordance with state and local blue laws.
Garden State Plaza was built in 1957 by the Muscarelle Construction Company for owner/developer R.H. Macy & Co. as an open-air shopping "plaza".
The original anchor was Bamberger's (owned by R.H. Macy since 1929). Gimbels and J. C. Penney were added in 1958. Total construction costs were $26 million in 1957 for the mall and its original group of 90 stores.
Garden State Plaza on Labor Day 2007, taken from second level above mall's food court
Garden State Plaza drew much business from nearby New York towns and cities, whose shoppers wandered across state lines to take advantage of New Jersey's lower sales taxes and its policy that exempted clothing purchases from sales tax. By 1961, it was the world's largest mall.
The mall was enclosed between 1981 and 1984 in response to competitive pressure from newer fully enclosed malls such as the Willowbrook Mall in nearby Wayne. Later in the 1980s, a lower level was added by converting a former basement truck tunnel into retail space. The existing J. C. Penney basement was given a new entrance on the lower level, but since the floors were at slightly different elevations, that entrance features the shortest escalator in North America, at a height of six steps.
In 1987, Gimbel's parent company, BATUS, which had been selling off its Gimbel's stores, sold its Garden State Plaza location to Associated Dry Goods. Associated reopened the store as the new headquarters for its Hahne's department stores. Hahne's had previously been headquartered at its flagship store in downtown Newark, which the company wanted to close. In the mid-1990’s, a Nobody Beats the Wiz store was added as an out-parcel to the mall site; it later became a Best Buy store that closed in 2018. The site was then occupied by a toy store called Toy City, owned by Party City.
The AMC Theatres at the mall
On September 7, 1990, Nordstrom opened its first New Jersey location, building a $37 million, 272,000 sq ft (25,300 m2)., three-level store on the former Hahne's site. In 1996, Lord & Taylor opened a store in the mall; its seventh in the state at the time.
In 1996, Garden State Plaza marked the completion of a $200 million expansion and major remodeling project that added over 700,000 sq ft (65,000 m2) of retail space and two four level parking structures, Parking Garage A, and Parking Garage B. The downstairs food court was connected to the lower level from the previous expansion. J. C. Penney grew by 62,000 to 150,000 sq ft (5,800 to 13,900 m2), and two new anchors were added, a 150,000 sq ft (14,000 m2) Neiman Marcus on three levels and a 135,000 sq ft (12,500 m2) Lord & Taylor on two levels, both targeted at the upscale fashion-conscious shopper. A Venetian Carousel was also added at that time of the expansion and remodeling and was located in front of Macy's. The carousel closed in 2016 and was removed so that the mall could use that space for The Bergen Performing Arts Center to give performances and shows. There was also a Bergen PAC ticket center located nearby as well. The performance area was short lived and was replaced by a video game theater before converting into a lounge area in 2017. By 2018, the Macy's area of the mall was labeled as "The Restaurant District" because three new restaurants moved in with Ruby Tuesday and Shake Shack. These three restaurants are Bar Louie, Mighty Quinn's BBQ, and Tomato & Company Pizza.
The Borough of Paramus petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court to review a decision by borough's Planning Board, asking it to review the plans to construct a 163,000-square-foot (15,100 m2) "entertainment lifestyle precinct" at the mall that included a 16-screen AMC movie theater and 10 specialty retail stores, along with a 158,000-square-foot (14,700 m2) parking lot below the new wing, known as "Parking Garage C". The petition was turned down, and the mall celebrated its 50th Anniversary with the new expansion and stores opened on May 25, 2007. Other than the AMC, some of the stores and restaurants that are in the expanded wing are Grand Lux Cafe, Jamba Juice, a Sprint store, and Vans.
In 2013, the mall rebuilt Parking Garage B, expanding it to five levels and 1,800 parking spaces. Adjacent were built a new guest services office and a valet lounge. A year later, the mall added a 55,000 square foot wing at a cost of $160 million known as the "Fashion District" that has 22 stores and restaurants.
In January 2018, Best Buy announced that they would be closing their two-level store at Garden State Plaza and would be relocating to a single-floor building to be constructed at The Outlets at Bergen Town Center nearby. The store officially moved on April 14, 2018. J. C. Penney closed on March 10, 2018. Both stores are expected to be redeveloped by Westfield in the future, though as of October 2018, no such development has been announced. In July 2018 North Jersey Media Group reported that Uniqlo will be relocating from Westfield Garden State Plaza to Paramus Park. The Paramus Park Uniqlo officially opened on March 1, 2019. Westfield Garden State Plaza announced plans to build a mixed development center in the old JCPenney space.
In July 2019, Tru Kids announced that one of two Toys "R" Us stores being opened by that company as part of that toy retailer's recovery from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017 and its acquisition by Tru Kids, will be at Garden State Plaza. (the other will be at The Galleria in Houston.) Eschewing the "warehouse" arrangement of previous stores, Toys "R" Us stores, these revamped versions are much smaller, and centered around open play areas, interactive displays and areas for special events and birthday parties.
Due to state blue laws and more restrictive limitations in place in Paramus, Garden State Plaza is almost completely closed on Sundays, except for some of the restaurants and the movie theater, all of which have special Sunday entrances. Garden State Plaza's parking lot is accessible, on Sundays, only from the Route 4 and Route 17 access points. Gates are down so that the access roads from the secondary streets are blocked. The Paramus Borough Code forbids the performance of any "worldly employment" on Sunday, with very limited exceptions. These laws were enacted shortly after Garden State Plaza opened out of fear that the mall would cause high levels of congestion in the borough. During the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Governor of New JerseyChris Christie issued an executive order that suspended the state's blue laws, allowing stores to be open on Sunday, November 4, 2012, for the benefit of those severely affected by the hurricane. A week later, after a public outcry that included the mayor of Paramus announcing that the borough would continue to enforce its own restrictions, the state's blue laws were put back into effect.
On November 4, 2013, 20-year-old Richard Shoop, Armed with a SIG 556R semi-automatic rifle, fired multiple shots in the mall. Customers and employees were evacuated immediately from the mall premises shortly after the shots were fired and the mall was on lockdown for hours. The mall remained closed the following day. No one was injured or killed. The day after the shooting at 3:20 AM, Shoop committed suicide.
Garden State Plaza is the setting for Tricia Sullivan's science fiction novel Maul (2002). The novel takes its title from the way that the word "mall" is pronounced with the New Jersey accent. In the novel, three teenage girls start a shoot out with a local gang.
Several episodes of The Sopranos, the HBO mob drama were filmed at the mall, which was called the "Paramus Mall".
^"Shoppers Throng to Opening of Bergen Mall in Jersey". New York Times. November 15, 1957. Retrieved June 7, 2007. The 106-acre Bergen Mall regional shopping center here will open Thursday morning. The center, at which Stern's will be the principal-store, is being built by the Allied Stores Corporation at a cost of $40,000,000. It is at Route 4 and Forest Avenue.
^Remo, Jessica. "This N.J. mall is 1 of most lucrative in country, study says", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, January 31, 2018. Accessed March 7, 2018. "The study (done for CNBC by analysts Boenning & Scattergood) says Garden State Plaza ranks ninth in the country for revenue-producing malls and put it among the top 10 malls in the U.S. with 'A' ratings and little to no vacancies. The mall has a total asset value of $2.71 billion, which equates to $950 in sales per square foot, according to the research."
^Karsian, Dillon. "Garden State Plaza Reshaped Landscape."[dead link], Shopping Center World, May 1, 1999. Accessed October 20, 2007. "Having undergone periodic renovations and expansions since its spring 1957 debut as an open-air center, the property today stands in the superregional class."
^"Garden State Shopping Center Due to Open May 1 in Paramus; It Will Be Largest in Jersey --Bergen Mall Being Built Less Than a Mile Away", The New York Times, March 20, 1957. p. 49.
^Hill, Jeffrey. "Taken for a Ride: The insanity of escalators", Next American City, Summer 2008. Accessed February 11, 2011. "By contrast, the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, boasts the world’s shortest escalator pair in front of its JCPenney, at a comical height of six steps. Kids play on them while adults use the more practical, non-moving staircases to the left and right.""Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 11, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
^Verdon, Joan. "Best Buy relocation creates opening for new moves at Garden State Plaza", The Record (Bergen County), January 17, 2018. Accessed January 27, 2018. "The freestanding Best Buy store in the parking lot of Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus will be empty soon, and that will give New Jersey's largest mall an opportunity to make some new moves.Best Buy is preparing to relocate to the mall next door, The Outlets at Bergen Town Center, in a new building under construction in the east section of that mall, on Forest Avenue."
^Attrino, Anthony G. "J.C. Penney quietly closing another N.J. store after 60 years at mall", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, January 26, 2017. Accessed January 27, 2018. "J.C. Penney, an anchor for 60 years at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, will close on March 10, according to a recording on the store's phone line.... After its 1958 Paramus opening, the Westfield Garden State Plaza -- located on Route 17 near Route 4 -- expanded and grew around the retailer, NorthJersey.com reported. The store was remodeled in 2012 and 2013, according to the report."
^The Sunday Closing Law, Bergen County, New Jersey. Accessed January 28, 2018. "Bergen County has by referendum become the last county in New Jersey to retain the Sunday Closing Law, N.J.S.A. 2A:171-5.8 et seq. As a result, the sale of certain items is still prohibited and the law should still be enforced."
^Sullivan, S. P. "Bergen blue laws are back: Paramus mayor says Gov. Christie has reinstated Sunday shopping ban", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, November 13, 2012. Accessed January 28, 2018. "Gov. Chris Christie is expected to lift a temporary suspension of Bergen County's blue laws Tuesday, Mayor Richard LaBarbiera said.... Christie had issued an executive order suspending the decades-old ban on Sunday retail shopping in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, allowing stores throughout the county that normally would have to remain closed to sell their wares on Sunday. The executive order caused a legal tussle, though, when officials in Paramus — where mall traffic is heavy and blue laws remain popular — announced they'd still be enforcing their own blue laws."
^Nash, Margo. "Footlights; All About A, And Don't Forget Z", The New York Times, September 4, 2005. Accessed July 19, 2019. "When it came time to choose a shopping center, the video's makers headed, quite naturally, to New Jersey. Mr. Colbert, dressed as a big blue letter Z, and Ms. Sullivan, appearing as a big red A, are shown in the video ambling around the Garden State Mall [sic], asking people if they know any words with their letters in them. Ms. Sullivan got a lot more responses than Mr. Colbert."