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               MAPLE HILL MALL: KALAMAZOO, MI

Bobby Peacock's Commentary

Posted May 3, 2011 (user submitted)

Maple Hill Mall opened in 1971 with four anchor stores: Wurzburg's, Montgomery Ward, Steketee's, and Gilmore Brothers. Behind the west anchor, detached from the mall, was a combination Turn Style/Jewel Foods. Across the street was another mall, which opened in 1969, called West Main Mall.

In the 1980s, Turn Style was replaced by Meijer Square, a failed Meijer concept that featured only a discount department store with no groceries. When Wurzburg's closed, the former Wurzburg's was gutted and expanded, allowing for more mall space and an entrance to the Meijer store. Jewel moved across the street to West Main Mall, and Meijer expanded into the old Jewel space, before a new Meijer was built down the road in the mid 1990s. The former Meijer was torn down for Target.

In 1981, a newer mall called Crossroads Mall opened across town in the suburb of Portage. This newer mall featured Hudson's (later Marshall Field's, now Macy's), JCPenney, and Sears as anchors (Mervyn's, which is now Burlington Coat Factory, was added later). Despite being a larger, two-story complex, Crossroads proved to be no threat at first, and the two malls shared several stores. In a 1993 phonebook, I've found many overlapping stores at both malls, including Zales, Waldenbooks, Hot Sam Pretzels, Dollar Tree, Sbarro's and Waldenbooks. West Main Mall, however, was long dead by the 1990s.

DOWNFALL

As stated above, Meijer was torn down for Target, and at the same time, Gilmore Brothers appears to have been divided into other stores. After that, the duplicate locations at Maple Hill Mall were closed in favor of the ones at the newer Crossroads Mall. Some chains like Dollar Tree and Braun's Fashions hung on for a long time, and some local stores did open. Nonetheless, by 2000, the mall's west half was almost entirely vacant.

Around 2000, according to Storetrax, some renovations were planned. The Storetrax site shows an artist's conception illustrating a Texas Roadhouse in the mall's east wing, and the lease plan shows Old Navy and Dunham's in the Target wing, with a space simply labeled "Bookstore" in the old Gilmore Brothers. The size of this bookstore space suggests that Barnes & Noble or Borders may have been slated to open in the mall in 2000. It is unknown why these plans fell through - perhaps the closures of Steketee's and Wards were a factor. Marshalls took a big chunk of the east wing in 2000 as well.

Surprisingly, the few holdouts in the early 2000s still kept their stores maintained. Hot Sam had the most recent logo, with "Hot Sam Pretzel Bakery" in a circle; GNC had the pastel colors and motivational quotes on the walls; and Foot Locker had a shiny black storefront. Eventually, some of the more common stores (including Pearle Vision, Hallmark and Payless Shoe Source) moved to a strip mall nearby, leaving the mall even emptier.

Montgomery Ward's bankruptcy in 2000 spelled the closure of their Maple Hill store, and Grand Rapids-based Steketee's closed its Maple Hill location around the same time. The number of tenants plummeted as these two anchors left, and by 2004 fewer than ten tenants remained, counting the remaining anchor Target and junior anchors Marshalls and Office Max. Hobby Lobby opened in half of the former Montgomery Ward in early 2004, then Value City Furniture opened in the other half shortly afterward. After the Wards space was filled, demolition began on the mall.

MY VISIT

In June 2004, I made a quick visit to this mall on the way back from a trip to Illinois. When I arrived, the middle section of the mall had already been demolished, leaving two "stubs". The west "stub" comprised Target, Office Max, Regis Hairstylists and a Secretary of State office, and the east "stub" consisted of Marshalls, Dollar Tree, GNC, and Glamour Nails, all located amid a bevy of vacated storefronts. Some patrons were still visiting the mall - many coming to walk, and some shopping at Dollar Tree. The mall's security office had been temporarily moved into the former Pearle Vision storefront. It was an almost eerie sight - the vacant stores, with their gates up, and the entries cris-crossed with yellow tape, amid the very few remainders.

I purchased a disposable camera at Walgreen's in the mall's parking lot, and then went in. When I spotted a security guard, I politely asked her if I could take photos of the mall for posterity. The friendly security guard said yes, much to my surprise. I had also asked if there were any other bits of esoterica she might be able to offer me; she offered me an electrician's map of the mall, as well as a bag with the mall's logo. After I was done taking pictures, she followed me out to the car, conversed with me some, and even told of a detour we could take to avoid construction on US-131.

MAPLE HILL PAVILION

Before 2004 was over, the conversion to Maple Hill Pavilion was complete. Target, Value City Furniture (which became Rooms Today), Hobby Lobby, Office Max, Marshalls, and the Secretary Of State office remained intact, and several strip mall spaces were built on the site of the former mall. GNC, Glamour Nails, and Regis Hairstylists have new stores between Target and Office Max. Dollar Tree opened a newer, larger store on the other side of Office Max. PetSmart, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Pier One Imports, Rue 21, Sports Clips, and EB Games have opened, as well.

Links

http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/forgottenmi/maplehill.html - The source of this history write up along with pictures and MUCH MORE!









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