Barbara Kaplan, owner of Roslyn Heights-based Specialty Connections, recently went to the Samanea New York mall. But beyond shopping, it was an experience.
Kaplan went to a moving Monet exhibit at Samanea New York, in Westbury, in a large space converted into an immersive video gallery. She had seen the same thing done for Van Gogh.
“Having just been in Paris, it’s very cool to see the interpretation of Monet’s life’s work. It’s a 3-D visual extravaganza,” she said in the hall of the mall outside Beyond Monet: The Immersive Experience. “Once you walk inside, you completely forget that you’re in a mall.”
The mall may appear to be an American invention – at least partly invented on Long Island at Roosevelt Field – but some malls are getting a makeover.
Samanea New York is Thriving
While Roosevelt Field faces competition from e-commerce, some others like Samanea New York, formerly the Mall at the Source, and Fortunoff, now owned by Lesso Mall Development (Long Island), are shifting in part to a more experience-based focus.
The result is a revolution reaching far beyond retail as some malls tout a lifestyle lift. Others like Samanea, which spans 750,000 square feet on 38 acres, emphasize experiences.
Movie theaters may be facing competition from Netflix, but nothing beats being there for experiences you can’t get online, like Let’s Craft’s wide range of crafts.
Samanea has traditional retail including anchor tenants 99 Ranch Market, Fortunoff Backyard Store and Bloomingdale’s furniture and rug outlet.
And furniture remains a major component at Samanea including Leonardo Furniture, MyPlanet Living Center, Arteco Cabinetry, Kawai Piano Gallery and Leon Banilivi Rugs.
In April 2022, the 99 Ranch Market, an Asian supermarket, opened its first store in New York State in this mall, to serve a growing Asian-American population.
If retail is part of the mix, so are traditional restaurants. Currently open are The Cheesecake Factory and KPOT Korean Hot Pot & BBQ; and opening soon are Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, Ichiddo Ramen and MoCA Asian Bistro.
You can do many other things at this mall, for the holidays or just about any day. Dave & Buster’s provides one entertainment destination. And it’s being joined by very different entertainment experience-oriented operations, although some are designed to be temporary rather than permanent.
The Van Gogh and Monet experiences, in approximately 28,000 square feet, are projects of Paquin Entertainment Group, bringing masterpieces to the mall.
“We’re creating a lifestyle destination, a unique place in Nassau County where people could dine, shop and play,” Dominic Coluccio, Samanea New York’s owner-developer, told the Press.
Yes, there are pop-up events in December, such as a Christmas Village, but there is a varied menu of activities.
“It’s a place for everyone, regardless of their age, to visit and create wonderful memories,” Coluccio says. “Beyond Monet is an immersive art exhibit to learn more about Claude Monet … you’ll also learn about Monet’s history and gain a better understanding of his art.”
The Monet experience is just part of what’s happening at Samanea, which is seeking to be a place to see and be at as well as shop. Snapology is a children’s enrichment program and STEAM learning center that brings education to the mall.
Then there is XP League, a gaming venue that Coluccio calls “a big thing” with teenagers who “compete against people around the country.”
X-Golf and Ryco’s Escape Room & Lounge also welcome visitors.
“We are the only mall on Long Island to have pickleball,” Coluccio says of Pickleball Smash-It.
Pickleball Smash-It and Smash-It Therapy both opened, giving people something else to do at the mall.
“Pickleball has become a national sensation over the past few years,” Christopher Michael, owner of Smash-It Therapy and Pickleball Smash-It, said in a statement. “We saw a unique opportunity to bring pickleball to Nassau County.”
While indoor pickleball may be very much in season now, Smash-It offers four themed smash areas and one paint splatter area, providing a recreational outlet to unleash stress in a fun, safe and stimulating environment.
Samanea New York is also building out The Gravity Vault, an indoor rock climbing gym in what was a portion of the food court.
A nearly 36,000-square-foot indoor recreational park, Empire Adventure Park, featuring activities such as laser tag and basketball, is on its way.
“It’s under construction,” Coluccio says of the facility anticipated to open in the first quarter of 2024.
Distanced Together, an immersive musical experience featuring “a virtual ensemble of 60 ‘musicians,’” is on its way for a 6-month run of what Coluccio calls an “extremely unique experience.” Distanced Together launched early this year at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) with a live performance of 60 orchestral musicians.
For the traveling exhibit, the orchestra will be projected onto a screen and the music heard through 60 speakers placed throughout the 6,000-square-foot room that take the place of each musician.
Coluccio said that guests will walk through the exhibit experiencing the music individually in a “communal space for reflection and healing.”
“One of the places people turn for answers is the arts, which can provide such solace,” composer Murray Hidary said in a press release. “Especially music.”
Experiences go beyond traditional entertainment with expositions also being organized at the mall. Kaplan ran three expos at Samanea, all attracting large crowds, including an over-50 fair two years ago and a kids fair twice, most recently in April.
“I had 3,200 people in this mall here with bounce houses, face painting, balloon artists, an outdoor petting zoo, and more than 80 vendors plus classes,” Kaplan said. “It was throughout this floor plus the food court, plus several storefronts and the parking lot.”