Rich's Commentary

Posted April 1, 2006 (user submitted)

Town and Country Mall was a relatively compact, local-scale indoor mall that was built at the corner of Palatine and Rand Roads in 1981. It was flanked by a small-footprint K-Mart at the east end, and Service Merchandise on the west end. In between was a single hallway which had three front entryways and two rear entryways. An Essaness (later Cineplex Odeon) 6-theater complex sat in the middle, towards the rear of the structure. In 1984, a Dominick's grocery store and Walgreen's drug store were tacked onto the west end of the mall structure (with no mall access), allowing the parking lot to be extended to Arlington Heights Road. None of the anchors were built to a large scale. The K-Mart in particular was cramped and had a low-rise ceiling, yet they still managed to squeeze an Auto Center into the space during the first several years of its occupancy, although this was eliminated toward the end. The Dominick's and Walgreens continue to present day. The Dominick's store, while decent-sized for 1984, has now been rendered small in this day and age - yet it has outlasted several larger and newer locations nearby. The Walgreen's is of the older configuration, which allowed for a (now-discontinued) liquor department, and it does not have a drive-thru.

There was never space inside the mall for a whole lot of stores, but decent occupancy was maintained for at least 15 years. There were a few prominent chains inside, including Radio Shack, WaldenBooks, Just Pants, and Casual Corner. There was a Just For Fun arcade situated right next to the movie theater entrance. Other highlights included the Father & Son and Thom Mc An shoe stores, Supercuts, Pearle Vision, Swensen's Ice Cream, Reiter's Draperies, Garibaldi's (a local pizza restaurant chain which for many years was the primary eatery in the mall), and Gamer's Paradise. There was a small satellite post office situated in the rear entryway next to K-Mart. Parking lot satellite structures included a Wag's restaurant (now Boston Market) and a standalone Gap (which also still exists to this day).

Later tenants included Women's Workout World, the Old Country Buffet (which replaced Casual Corner) and the Lord & Taylor Clearance Center, which was placed next to Service Merchandise and obliterated the rear entryway on that side. After K-Mart closed here in 1991, its space was split among Marshall's (which kept the mall entryway) and Best Buy (which continues to take up the east end of this parcel and has since expanded eastward by a third). By the mid-1990's, the Lord & Taylor Clearance Center was expanded to take up the entire western third of the mall, thus eliminating mall access for Service Merchandise in the process.

By the time the 21st century rolled around, the Lord & Taylor Clearance Center had been discontinued by its parent company, and its space was never properly filled after that. Walden Books closed down, and it was replaced for a while by a used book retailer. Radio Shack also closed its doors. And the movie theaters were shuttered, which essentially caused all the other tenants to eventually vacate their space. By 2004, the only mall tenant left was Old Country Buffet, and while you had to access their entryway by an outside mall entry door, the remainder of the mall had been blocked off (including the closure of the Marshall's mall door). Add to this the demise of the Service Merchandise chain, and you had a large vacant area between Dominick's on the west end and Marshall's on the east end.

As of 2005, the mall is finally undergoing its long-announced transformation into a strip center. The old indoor-mall portion has been gutted and converted into outward facing parcels. There is now a Jo-Ann fabric superstore and an Ashley Furniture store in this space, and there is considerable room for several other tenants. Old Country Buffet is still in the same space, but it has been reconfigured with its own outdoor entrance. The bank structure at the corner of Arlington Heights and Palatine Roads was rumored to be replaced by a standalone Walgreen's structure with a drive-through, but this has so far not materialized.

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