Coming out strong from a bout with pandemic-related closures, Eastpoint Mall celebrated its 65th birthday last week, honoring the establishment’s long history and future in the region.

Starting out as one of the Baltimore area’s first shopping centers in 1956, much has changed at Eastpoint since the beginning, when it was an open-air mall, John Hess, the mall’s current owner, said at a 65th-birthday ribbon cutting event last Thursday, accompanied by local elected officials as well as the sounds of laser-blasting arcade games in the mall.

Hess, who has been the general manager of the mall for the past five years, said in an interview the mall is still well-leased, and 43 of the mall’s tenants have been there for over 10 years.

Brick-and-mortar malls have had a rough time in the advent of the digital age, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Hess said the mall has kept chugging along.

He said after three months of being closed at the start of the pandemic, the mall’s shops “have survived. Out of 140 tenants, we’ve only lost two due to COVID.”

Councilman Todd Crandell, whose office is located in the mall’s atrium, said he believed the mall has “seen a resurgence” under Hess, with the mall becoming more involved with community groups and events, and a healthy amount of tenants using the mall’s space.

“They’ve maintained being a part of the fabric of this community,” Crandell said.

As with any celebration involving the mall, the penguins, a year-round display of live penguins in the olden days of the mall, had to be mentioned.

“I do remember the penguins,” Sen. Johnny Ray Salling said, adding that while he grew up in North Point Village, he would walk to the mall with friends. “We used to love coming here.”

Del. Ric Metzgar said he “always had a desire for fashion” growing up, frequenting menswear stores at the mall, also recalling going to the mall with his family and taking advantage of his mother’s Baltimore Shoppers’ Card.

Del. Bob Long said that the delegation hopes to continue partnering with the mall, “doing whatever we can to support them.”

“I remember when this was a premier mall,” Long said, also mentioning that his family would go shopping there often, even before it was enclosed.

“There’s a lot of history here,” he said.

The mall hosted a weekend of celebration for its 65th anniversary, including a 1950s-style party, a comedy show and a family fun day, which brought in, though not penguins, live ferrets.

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