A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

The slow decay of the Puente Hills Mall

“Back to the Future” Mall feels like a ghost town instead of a shopping center
The main area in Puente Hills Mall seems abandoned with empty lots.
Adrian Mencias
The main area in Puente Hills Mall seems abandoned with empty lots.

Online retail continues to trump traditional brick and mortar stores and malls like the Puente Hills Mall have all followed the same fate– abandonment.

The Puente Hills Mall was once home to retail giants such as H&M, Forever 21, Macys, Sears and many more – now all that is left are a handful of stores.

Walking through the mall, it becomes evident the decay of the once booming shopping center that provided customers with a variety of retail options is on life support.

According to Capital One Shopping analytics from 2024, malls across the U.S. have been in a steady decline for some years now with projections indicating that up to 87% of large shopping malls may close over 10 years and the number of malls declined 16.7% per year from 2017 to 2022. However, the borderline abandonment of the Puente Hills Mall is something unique.

Someone who has seen first hand the decline of this mall is Sebrina Mabrey*, who has been working at the Puente Hills Mall for seven years.

“Every year it’s been declining,” Mabrey said. “This year it declined from last year and the year before that it declined from the year before.”

Mabrey once held two jobs at the mall. She was an employee at the Vans store but because of the down years, the store was forced to shut down. Now she is the store manager at Lids.

When asked how the store was performing, she said, “15 people came in yesterday to buy [something].”

Several retailers and specialty stores such as Foot Locker, Champs Sports, Fanatics, Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret have all closed or have been seen with “store closing specials” within the past handful of years.

 

Trendy Gifts, a novelty gift and collector’s boutique, is one of the few stores operating at the Puente Hills Mall and signs saying “Store Closing, Everything Must Go,” can be seen almost on every shelf. (Adrian Mencias)

 

Another person that has witnessed the decline of the mall is Judy Labelle*, who owns and operates Alpaca Café, a tea shop in the Puente Hills Mall. “On weekdays, we see about 30 orders a day,” Labelle said. “We get a little bit more on the weekends; we are barely able to survive.”

A heartbreaking constant among most shop owners is the struggle to keep their doors open.

 

Several signs similar to the H&M banners indicating the location at the Puente Hills Mall is shutting down or is moving to a new location can be seen in all four quadrants of the mall. (Adrian Mencias)

 

For years now, the mall has had renderings of what a potential remodel would look like, but as time goes on, the future of the Puente Hills Mall looks more and more bleak.

“They had plans to renovate but they couldn’t come up with signatures needed,” Mabrey said. “Plus, COVID pretty much stopped the plans.”

“We haven’t heard anything since,” she added

Although the pandemic may have rapidly accelerated the persisting decline of foot traffic and shopping overall, locals and frequent shoppers have known that it was only a matter of time before this once bustling business complex would succumb to foreclosure.

One of the few draws to the mall are the two remaining anchor businesses located on opposite wings of the mall. Round 1 and AMC provide the mall with most of the customers as both businesses connect directly to the mall. The other frequently used business or service at this mall is the Foothill Transit Center Station, where over a dozen transit lines including the 482, 289, 185 and 178 buses all stop, connect or depart from the Puente Hills Mall as this is a midpoint for commuters from the Inland Empire and deeper parts of Los Angeles.

A shadow of what once was a busy center of commerce, the Puente Hills Mall sits neglected by an entire community awaiting its inevitable fate.

 

*Withheld their last names for anonymity

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