T.C. Square marks 30-year mile­stone

The Compass - - OPINION -

It seems like only yes­ter­day the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Square was open­ing its doors to its first cus­tomers. But would you be­lieve the of­fi­cial open­ing of the T.C. Square ac­tu­ally took place Feb. 19, 1979?The mall open­ing took place just three months af­ter the of­fi­cial open­ing of F. W. Wool­worth on Nov. 15, 1978 in the space cur­rently oc­cu­pied by Wal-Mart. Hav­ing been around since the beginning, Gla­dys Mercer, the T.C. Square's Prop­erty Man­ager re­mem­bers the mall's early days. Her first job at the mall was per­son­nel man­ager for Wool­worth's. When The Bay, one of the mall's orig­i­nal stores, moved out, Mercer be­came as­sis­tant man­ager of WISE Depart­ment Store and man­ager of Bar­gain Gi­ant be­fore be­com­ing the mall's Prop­erty Man­ager 14 years ago. But Mercer is not the only orig­i­nal em­ployee still em­ployed at the mall. "There are other em­ploy­ees still work­ing here from 1978, and they will be rec­og­nized at the T.C Square's an­nual din­ner April 14," she said.

DIS­TINC­TION

Af­ter three decades of serv­ing the peo­ple of Trin­ity and Con­cep­tion Bays, the T.C. Square still holds the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the largest in­door shop- ping cen­tre on the Avalon Penin­sula out­side of St. John's. Peo­ple from the cap­i­tal city have been com­ing to the T.C. Square, es­pe­cially since the com­ple­tion of Vet­er­ans Memo­rial High­way in 2003, which has cut the com­mut­ing time to an hour. They also come from Con­cep­tion Bay South and the Pla­cen­tia area. "They all love the friendly, homey at­mos­phere here at the mall," Mercer says. Sales growth over the past 10 years has been con­sis­tent, and is show­ing no signs of slow­ing down, de­spite the re­cent down­turn in the econ­omy. "Last year (2008) the mall recorded very sig­nif­i­cant sales in­creases," Mercer was pleased to re­port. While the econ­omy of North Amer­ica con­tin­ues in a down­ward spi­ral, one would be hard pressed to find ev­i­dence of any re­ces­sion dur­ing a stroll through the T.C. Square. For ex­am­ple the mall still en­joys a 97 per cent oc­cu­pancy rate, and its stores and ser­vices are busy, es­pe­cially the larger chains. To il­lus­trate the mall's con­tin­ued pros­per­ity, Mercer men­tioned just last year Wal-Mart com­pleted a ma­jor re­de­vel­op­ment of their store. And, she added, Rio Can Hold­ings Ltd., the mall's own­ers in­vested in new HVAC sys­tems, park­ing lot and roof up­grades and ma­jor ren­o­va­tions to the pub­lic wash­rooms. The man­ager said those in­vest­ments "show con­fi­dence in the fu­ture of the mall and area." Af­ter 14 years as mall man­ager, Mercer re­mains the eter­nal op­ti­mist. Re­fer­ring to the in­vest­ments in im­prove­ments, oc­cu­pancy rates and sales in­creases, she re­calls: "we had a great year last year and the first two months of this year (2009) have been quite good."

VA­RI­ETY OF SER­VICES

Mercer likes the fact the mall has a good mix of in­ter­na­tional chains and lo­cally owned en­ter­prises, all of which blend well to­gether to of­fer con­sumers such a wide va­ri­ety of ser­vices all un­der one roof. "Di­ver­sity is very im­por­tant for cus­tomers," she notes." Peo­ple still like to be able to browse through an en­closed (cli­mate-con­trolled) cen­ter like the mall," she says. Since the shop­ping cen­tre ob­served its 25th an­niver­sary in 2004, it has wel­comed sev­eral new stores and ser­vices in­clud­ing: Jenna's, Pen and Pa­per, Bluenotes, Ar­dene, Bac­calieu Im­ages, Easy Home, Wireless Hori­zons, the Cash Store, LeGrow's Travel and Robin's Donuts, which brings to 35 the num­ber of stores and ser­vices which em­ploy over 500 peo­ple from the area. They along with the other stores and ser­vices that have set up shop in the mall over the years have all meant ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions. And this is just an­other area where the mall con­tin­ues to con­trib­ute to the lo­cal econ­omy, es­pe­cially when lo­cal con­trac­tors and sup­pli­ers are brought into play.

SO­CIAL CON­SCIENCE

But apart from its ob­vi­ous com­mer­cial/re­tail role, the T.C. Square con­tin­ues to make an in­valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to the so­cial fab­ric of the com­mu­ni­ties it serves. Not for profit or­ga­ni­za­tions and ser­vice groups from all over Trin­ity Con­cep­tion ap­pre­ci­ate the venue the mall pro­vides for their fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. In fact the de­mand for space is so great that Mercer ex­plains, "we have to sched­ule them in be­cause we couldn't ac­com­mo­date them all at any one time." With an es­ti­mated 5,000 pass­ing though its doors each day, the mall has be­come a prime lo­ca­tion for such fundrais­ing ven­tures. One of the largest is the an­nual Toy Tree, a joint ven­ture of the Sal­va­tion Army, KIXX Coun­try, the T.C. Square and The Com­pass. It's been es­ti­mated the Happy Tree, as if was for­merly known, has helped raise over half a mil­lion dol­lars for needy chil­dren in the area.

TREMENDOUS GROWTH

No­body would have pre­dicted 30 years ago the day would come when Colum­bus Drive would need not one but two sets of traf­fic lights to con­trol the traf­fic. But that day has ar­rived and work is un­der way on re­design­ing the Colum­bus Drive-Goff Av­enue in­ter­sec­tion com­plete with a set of traf­fic sig­nals to help con­trol the flow of traf­fic trough that area. The T.C. Square can jus­ti­fi­ably take credit for gen­er­at­ing much of that traf­fic. It is a tan­gi­ble sign of the tremendous com­mer­cial growth, which has taken place along Colum­bus Drive be­tween Lon­don Road and Pow­ell Drive over the past three decades. Gla­dys Mercer de­scribes the Square as, "a ru­ral com­mu­nity-based mall, which still puts its cus­tomers first." As the T.C. Square pre­pares to mark its 30-year mile­stone, Mercer be­lieves the se­cret to its on­go­ing suc­cess has been the fact that the mall has never for­got­ten its ru­ral roots. "It has main­tained its strong sense of com­mu­nity, think­ing of cus­tomers first and in­volv­ing peo­ple. Our cus­tomers ap­pre­ci­ate that."

BILL BOW­MAN/THE COM­PASS

T.C. SQUARE - With 35 stores and ser­vices all un­der one roof sur­rounded by enough park­ing spa­ces for a thou­sand ve­hi­cles, the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Square is the largest in­door shop­ping cen­tre on the Avalon Penin­sula out­side of the cap­i­tal city of St. John's.

MALL STAFF - The peo­ple in this photo should all be fa­mil­iar faces to every­one who vis­its the T.C. Square. They are the mall staff. Seated from left: Don Cur­ran, Main­te­nance Su­per­vi­sor; Gla­dys Mercer, Prop­erty Man­ager and Stephanie Piercey, Prop­erty Ad­min­is­tra­tor. Stand­ing from left, Main­te­nance Per­son­nel: Ray Pen­ney, Ge­orge Peck­ham, Guy For­ward and Don Par­sons.

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