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The Huntington Mall opened its doors on Feb. 3, 1981, and hosted a grand opening ceremony on Feb. 18, 1981.

When the Huntington Mall opened, management of The Herald-Dispatch directed reporters and editors to refer to it as The Huntington Mall in Barboursville at Ona. The geographic gymnastics were done to establish the location of the new shopping destination as separate from downtown Huntington.

Today, no such linguistic precision is needed. As these things tend to do, the Huntington Mall in Barboursville at Ona became its own geographic landmark. It’s “the mall,” as the only one.

The mall has grown since it opened 40 years ago this month, and it has attracted many freestanding stores and restaurants to its outer rim. The mall is the retail center of a region spanning 20 counties or more.

As told by reporter Fred Pace in The Herald-Dispatch on Sunday, West Virginia’s largest shopping mall is preparing for a “refresh” this year. Cafaro Co., the mall’s developer and owner, plans to invest more than $1 million in new directional signage, carpeting, interior landscaping, roofing, upgrades to interior and exterior lighting, repaving of parking areas and driving lanes and a new pylon sign with a video display.

This follows a larger renovation the mall underwent in 2011.

“This current project will augment that renovation, refreshing the look and feel of the property for merchants, customers and other visitors to the property,” Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the mall, told Pace.

The 1970s saw a surge in the construction of shopping centers and malls. Some prospered, while others have shrunk or closed entirely.

Forty years ago, who could have foreseen what Amazon, eBay and other online shopping sites would do to brick-and-mortar retail stores? Or who would have seen the possibility of a vocational school occupying anchor store space in a regional shopping mall, as could be happening at the Huntington Mall in the near future?

A look around the internet reveals any number of former malls that are now empty or abandoned. Not so with the Huntington Mall, however, a fact for which the region can be grateful.

The business of large enclosed shopping malls has changed. As with any other endeavor, refreshing, innovation and adaptation combined with size help some survive. Other malls may have closed, but the Huntington Mall hangs on and continues to attract tens of thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of shoppers from a wide area each year.

It’s not easy to predict the future. One thing is sure, though: The Huntington Mall is our area’s retail anchor, and is likely to be so for years to come.

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