Once again, hello and welcome to the Shoppes of Battery Mill
On our last visit, I dug through the treasure troves of the internet to present to you an archive of Shoppers Food archives, all from their working partner NARDI Construction. I promised to excavate more hidden gems from other NARDI clients as well, and today I shall deliver on this pledge.
So what other retail projects did NARDI embark on? While the firm has contributed to Shoppers, they have also pitched in on a number of other sites across the East Coast, including such notable malls as Potomac Mills and Johnson City, as well as at a variety of commercial centers, including airports, downtowns and big-box centers.
With all that being said and done, let's take a tour of their numerous other projects. I may also note that some stores and locations have an undetermined name/location, so if anyone can sleuth these out, any such comments would be gladly appreciated. Let's step back in time now!
Located in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Woodbridge, Virginia, Potomac Mills was the first Mills mall and changed the game upon its opening in 1985, combining the savings of outlet stores with the immersive shopping experience of traditional centers. Numerous other Mills (and clones) were constructed nationwide in the decades following, and I bet NARDI was fortunate to be a part of their early history.
Nevertheless, here is a look into the firm's gallery of retro PMills photos, coupled with some mysteries to be solved.
To start things off right, here is a view of an entrance basking in the evening glow, all the while radiating its own light onto a colorful set of icons. This image is located at the eastern entrance to Neighborhood 1, next door to present-day Buy Buy Baby. Unfortunately, this artwork has been dismantled in favor of a plain look, though the brick and lattice walls on either side remain.
We enter the center with a look at a stately Eddie Bauer outlet shop. The chain remained a fixture of the mall for many years, and is now no longer present. I believe it may have relocated elsewhere, but I cannot exactly confirm this.
The lattice ceiling fixture seen in this photo, among others, was an architectural signature and noise-cancelling item of Potomac Mills until the mall underwent a major remodel in 2005. Presently, the mall uses "sails" under the ceilings as an accent, with spotlights operating independently of these hanging fixtures.
To my best knowledge, this storefront would have been located in Neighborhood 1 (dubbed the "Fashion District"), across from the present-day Round 1 arcade and bowling alley. As of 2022, said space is home to an Ann Taylor Factory Outlet.
This is the next store we'll be passing by, known as the "He-Ro Group". One of the hundreds of shops that have come and gone from Potomac over the years, this one looks to have sold the work of famed designer Oleg Cassini. Little is known on what the history of the brand was, or where in the mall did the He-Ro Group set up shop.
This power center, situated on the Prince William Parkway east of Smoketown Road in Woodbridge, Virginia, was developed circa 1993-1995 as a big-box complement to Potomac Mills. Utilizing the then-new cross-county thoroughfare as a clean starting pad, Smoketown Stations was able to attract numerous tenants such as Best Buy, Petstuff, Lowe's, Kids R Us, and the previously seen Shoppers grocery store. The center is divided into five different blocks/sections, some of which will be explored below.
Now that we have arrived for some extra errands, let's go get some lunch at Boston... Chicken?! Well, if you didn't know before, this was what Boston Market used to go by. Regardless, it shouldn't be too far off from today's restaurant, so let's go in and eat.
On the technical side of things, this photo is most likely dated 1994. I inferred such as this was prior to Boston Chicken's renaming, but also the rest of this phase would open the next year and was still early on in taking shape. What is also noteworthy here is that Boston Market is still open as well.
Lunch is over, and that can only mean one thing: making plans for the rest of the day. How about some, uh, what's it called... Netflix with physical movies or something? Or at least that's what I saw when I went through those doors at this "Hollywood Video" place.
All jokes aside, here is the video-rental standby in the Smoketown Stations habitat, manifesting the golden age of this retail format. Being early on in the center's existence, it seems to have been next door to a couple of empty spaces. The rest of Block IV is to the right, with a couple more places we'll be checking into shortly.
Upon closing, circa 2008, the HV space would be subdivided with a Panda Express, a Sears Appliance Showroom, and an additional tenant slot. The latter two are now home to a spa and realtors' office.
Perhaps if all those fancy-schmancy shops aren't up to our liking, maybe we could just unwind with some arcade games and pizza at Chuck E. Cheese's (Pizza). Another signage change to add to the list... oh joy.
This restaurant is in Block II. This phase was anchored by a Lowe's in its early years, before relocating in 2003 and ceding space to Dick's Sporting Goods and LA Fitness. This one is another lucky tenant that remains open today, even after a fire ravaged the building in 2018 and a remodel was conducted.
What do we have here? A store with the word "mobile" on the building, that I know. Perhaps we'll check out all the latest iPhone 14 Pro Max Giga Folds... wait, what are these brick phones with tiny green screens doing here? Oh, I forgot, we're in 1995 or something.
Also in Block II, this storefront continues to sell cell phones under the Verizon brand. Regardless of what's sold inside, I must admit, a lot of retail renaming has happened in the center's lifetime!
As for any remodels of the sort... I take that statement back, it was indeed remodeled in 2012 to feature the "Connected Store" concept, and now features a metallic sheet facade. What I find interesting here, though, are the old-school teal lamp covers on the walls.
The Mall at Johnson City
And now for something completely different, as they say. Previously dubbed the "Miracle Mall", the center has been a mainstay in the Tri-Cities area of southeastern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee since opening in 1971. NARDI participated in the mall's early-1990s remodel.
Full disclosure, I am not very familiar with this area, so if anyone has some interesting comments or can identify the mall's layout, keep me informed.
This is what looks to be the mall's food court. Seems to be a rather stately affair, given the formal attire and a piano man at the helm!
We return to the Clopper Mill Village Center, home of the Germantown Shoppers, to rewind back to the center's early year. Here is a space for what looks to be a Glory Days Grill, an American-themed restaurant chain with locations from here to Florida.
We catch up with
(augmented-reality Netflix, in 2022 terms) Hollywood Video here at this center. At present, the space is split between T-Mobile, Subway, and a dance studio.
Speaking of this "video rental" thing, here is the interior of Giant Depot Video in the King Farm district of nearby Rockville. See if you can identify some of these posters!
Here is Villa Pizza, which also remains open, although with a slightly different name, again.
Thank you for choosing the Shoppes of Battery Mill! All I can say, it's been a wild ride back in time through these NARDI Construction PDFs. Remember: be kind, rewind! (if only I could figure how to work that darn "rewind" key on my computer...)