As COVID Recedes, Danbury Fair Mall Levels Up With Bowling & Arcade

DANBURY, CT — With the opening of a massive arcade/bowling alley/pool hall/karaoke joint at the Danbury Fair Mall this weekend, has Danbury finally kicked COVID to the curb?

Round1 Bowling and Arcade opens its doors — the ones that formerly belonged to Forever 21 before its 2019 bankruptcy — this Saturday morning. The ribbon-cutting follows a strong stretch of heightened mall traffic and a new demand for in-person experiences, according to Nicole Ruotolo, marketing manager for Danbury Fair Mall owner Macerich Shopping Centers & Fashion Outlets.

As retail has moved online, mall owners have had to get more and more creative. Some malls are trying out new unique events and entertainment to fill spaces. Others, including Danbury Fair, are even exploring offering housing, and rebranding— and rezoning — as a “24-hour environment.”

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But short of complete reinvention, the fastest path to post-pandemic prosperity seems to be expanding in-person, interactive experiences against which Amazon cannot compete.

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That certainly seems to be the case in downtown Stamford, where the Stamford Town Center has been inching back slowly to its former glory. Last September, the mall rejuvenated its vacant Saks Off 5th Avenue space with a Pickleball America facility, billed as the largest indoor pickleball facility in the country. Last summer, Connecticut’s largest mall, the Connecticut Post Mall, played host to the world’s “biggest bounce park.”

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“People crave new and engaging experiences and by providing an assortment of fashion, food and entertainment in an upbeat environment is what keeps our shoppers happy and coming back,” Ruotolo said.

Round1 promises to cover the food and entertainment, while a new Target handles the fashion, and most every other household need. The cross-category megachain is set to open a store in the mall in the space vacated by Sears in 2020. It’s on track to open this spring, Ruotolo confirmed.

What tastes aren’t served up at Round1 can probably be found at the mall’s expanding food court. Ruotolo said mall-goers can expect to welcome Terra Nossa Brazilian Grill, Taichi Bubble Tea and T-Swirl Crêpe this spring as well. Discount clothier J. Crew Factory, and niche jewelry retailer The Inspiration Co. are also scheduled to hang their shingles in the mall before the start of summer.

“Consumers like the social aspect of shopping, as well as touching, feeling and trying on new fashion,” Ruotolo told Patch.

The timing is nothing if not propitious. On Friday, the Connecticut Department of Public Health issued new and less restrictive guidance regarding COVID-19 isolation, mirroring the relaxed rules handed down from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

The Grand Opening of Round1 Bowling & Arcade will be this Saturday, March 9 at 10 a.m. The first 300 guests to arrive will receive a free tote bag and t-shirt from Round1 and the following 50 guests will receive a free pair of socks and water bottle from Danbury Fair.

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