Northwoods Mall; Peoria, Illinois

Northwoods Mall center court in Peoria, IL

With a population of 112,000 and a metro statistical area population of 350,000, Peoria typifies working-class middle America.  In fact, Peoria was often a test market for many national media products.  The saying “That won’t play in Peoria” referred to this testing, and how Peoria was commonly used as a benchmark for media standards in music, movies, and television intended for a national market. 

Northwoods Mall, Peoria’s only enclosed mall, opened in 1973 along War Memorial Drive near Interstate 74.  In many ways, Northwoods Mall also typifies mid-tier malls in middle America.  It is a two-level straight shot between anchors Sears and JCPenney, with a Macy’s at center court which was a Famous-Barr location until September 2006.  Many national mid-tier mall chains such as Spencer’s, Waldenbooks, American Eagle, Abercrombie, and Victoria’s Secret are represented.  Northwoods has always been successful and asserted dominance over the other enclosed mall in the Peoria metro area, Pekin Mall, which closed after years of struggling in 2003. 

Northwoods Mall Famous Barr in Peoria, IL

However, a large, new lifestyle center also opened in 2003 a few miles north of Northwoods, called The Shoppes at Grande Prairie, which features Bergner’s as well as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Linens ‘n Things, Gordman’s and Borders.  Unfortunately for Northwoods, many of the stores at Grande Prairie generally trend more upscale and features retailers such as J. Jill, Ann Taylor Loft, Charlotte Russe, Banana Republic, Sharper Image, and several popular chain eateries.  Grande Prairie is also larger than Northwoods at 850,000 square feet versus Northwood’s 700,000.     

Northwoods Mall’s decor went over 30 years without a major renovation, finally culminating in a major overhaul of the mall during most of 2005.  The renovation was most likely sparked, I suspect, to keep up with The Shoppes at Grande Prairie.  Though meticulously maintained, many elements harkened back to the mall’s 1970s roots, most notably the grand center court with the huge 1970s silver light fixtures hanging from the raised ceiling.  In February 2005, Simon announced Northwoods would be renovated that year, including new light fixtures, new flooring, and couches with easy chairs placed at both ends of the mall.  Outside, all mall entrances were refurbished and so were the parking lot and landscaping.  The renovation was complete in October of that year, ending an era of visible retail history in Peoria.

I visited Northwoods in January 2002 (pre-renovation) and took the pictures featured here.  Let us know more about the mall’s history or comment on how the renovation looks, as we haven’t seen it yet. 

Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL Northwoods Mall Famous Barr in Peoria, IL Northwoods Mall Sears in Peoria, IL

Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL

Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL

Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL Northwoods Mall Famous Barr in Peoria, IL Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL

Northwoods Mall in Peoria, IL 

68 Responses to “Northwoods Mall; Peoria, Illinois”

  1. The interior looks pretty faithful to the original design, though the floors look like they were changed in the four or five years before the pictures were taken.

    The Famous-Barr is very interesting. Outside it’s very typical May Company, but inside it’s got that (probably original) brick wall with that beautiful old FB script logo. Very cool.

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  2. I love the center court in this mall, even though its somewhat Brutalist trappings wouldn’t woo many. I still remember it vividly from my one and only visit in February of 1999.

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  3. I love that old FB script logo too. Heck, I generally prefer all the script-type logos (old FB, EB, MF&Co, L&T) over the all too present, boring block logos these days.

    Prangeway — what’s the layout of the FB store like? What I’m curious about is the exterior. In the second big picture, I see this early-70s, dark brick structure…then in the second thumbnail, I see this relatively modern, MayCo exterior, although I can see the older part peeking in from the right. Is the newer part a renovation (why wouldn’t they have done the whole thing), an anchor FB took over (although it doesn’t look that way from the mall’s floorplan), or something else altogether?

    Thanks for all you and Caldor do!

    Matt

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  4. I think the photo with the brown brick and the Famous-Barr label is actually on the west entrance to the center court and is not really the east side where the store is located. Wikipedia has Famous-Barr opening in 1985, so this store might have had an exterior makeover when their stores in Bloomington and Champaign opened in 1999.

    I love that older script as well.

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  5. It looked like only the exterior facade was renovated on FB. But, now that Macy’s took over the store and the entire mall was renovated in 2005, I’m sure it’s probably different.

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  6. I literally gasped when I saw Northwoods, as this is my hometown and I grew up with that mall. Famous-Barr (now Macy’s) opened in 1985, replacing Carson Pirie Scott & Co. the mall’s original upscale anchor. The exterior of Macy’s looks peculiar due to several uneven looking additions to that store which took away the ultra modern design of Carson’s original store. JCPenney has been at Northwoods since day one (and needs a big facelift), but Sears Roebuck & Co. was a new addition in 2001 when Montgomery Ward closed and Sears relocated from Downtown’s riverfront. The center court used to have a sunken pit with a big tall wooden sculpture that rose to the ceiling, and a unique trilon, modern clock that chimed loudly throughout the mall at the top of each hour. Each end of the mall had small octoganal shaped water fountains, and there were sunken seating pits that rose up from the floor on both levels. The center court, sculpture, clock, and seating pits were all removed in the mid 90s when Northwoods became a popular hangout for the city’s increasing gang population and such areas were gang magnets. Removal of those seating areas and the large center court took away a lot of Northwoods unique architectural appeal, so yes parts of the floors have been redone, but only parts – the terrazzo floor seen in these photos are original. There was never a food court at Northwoods, but the mall had several little eateries scattered throughout including a Skewer Inn which was responsible for poisoning several patrons with botulism in 1984 due to bad onions served on their patty melt. There was a Farrell’s turned Hardee’s, a Karmelkorn that permeated the mall with it’s caramel scented goodness, a Dipper Dan ice cream shop, Diamond Dave’s Taco Co., and Garcia’s Pizza In A Pan whose original first floor multi level location moved upstairs in the 90s and had the best pizza in the city. Northwoods was always a very fun place to go in the 70s and 80s, but by the 90s it had become a haunt for gangs, gang violence, and riff raff. People with money shopped Sheridan Village and it’s Bergner’s store, went to Bloomington’s TWO malls, or Chicago… but they avoided Northwoods – it just wasn’t desirable to shop there. The mall was in dire need of renovation, it’s decor was dated, and it was a magnet for teens, dropouts, and gangs. The Shoppes at Grand Prairie had truly created a division in the shopping habits of Peorians, but Northwoods will more than likely thrive and remain strong due it’s central location, it’s variety of stores, and by the fact that Simon owns it, and they know how to run a mall. Thanks for the entry on Northwoods, it was nice to go back home this morning.

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  7. Like Jack said, the mall originally had fountains at either end and a large sunken area at the center court with a tall, polished steel clock that extended from the base to above eye level on the second floor.

    The uniqueness of the sunken public areas allowed seasonal decorations (santa’s village, easter displays, etc) and many community events and expos to be located in the mall without intruding on the flow of foot traffic. The wide walkways allowed groups to set up tables against the railing without being obtrusive to storefronts.

    The mall also used to feature ceiling decorations hung from the high, massive rafters for seasonal events. Many of them were large enough that they would descend past the second floor to the “ceiling” of the first floor. It was a very nice effect!

    Interestingly, the small staircases at either end and escalators about one quarter way along each end were the only interior way to move between floors. The exterior entrances opened to either the upper or lower level. The anchor stores had escalators and the one in Famous Barr was the only one set to the center of the mall. I wonder if that was an intentional way to increase foot traffic or a function of the small design?

    Across War Memorial Drive is a strip mall with Toys R Us and Chucky Cheese (formerly a Showbiz Pizza location). Another strip mall is nearby with what was a Venture and Children’s Palace as anchors. Scattered around War Memorial are many furniture stores, fast food restaurants and recreational vehicle stores (ATVs, campers, etc). It would be interesting to study how Northwoods grew the area, yet never became overcome by the development it spawned unlike many of the other malls featured on labelscar.

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  8. Yes, I totally remember how Northwoods looked AMAZING at Christmas time as a child. John was right, they had magnificent displays over the center court with lights, banners hanging from those immense ceilings, and the sunken seating area was MADE for Santa and us kids.

    I also recall the escalator in Famous Barr when it was Carson’s had a really neat lighting fixture above that I would stare at in wide eyed amazement as we’d go up and down. That entire store was remodeled with Famous Barr came in. I think they spent a good year renovating it, because it seemed forever that they had the interior entrance to the vacant Carson’s covered with a wall that read “Famous People Are Coming”. Oh, and us Peorian’s HATED the name of Famous Barr… we thought it was the stupidest name for a store. Turned out to be the longest occupant of that store – over twenty years.

    God, I loved Northwoods as a kid. Thanks again for these pics. I wish there were some out there from when the fountains ans seating pits and the original center court existed. There are some down at the Peoria Public Library for certain, but I live in Nashville, Tennessee now, and don’t get to Peoria much these days.

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  9. I wish there were some out there from when the fountains ans seating pits and the original center court existed.

    That’s the whole reason for this blog, really. For obvious reasons, our own pictures are of a newer vintage, but we try and grab and save what we can, when we can, and share old gems with people when we can get ahold of them. I wish there were more places to find old photos of these places, because when they’re gone, they’re really gone.

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  10. Thanks for the great site. I was born and have lived most of my life in the greater Peoria area. It is great to see others with fond memories of Northwoods. I will check to see if I can come up with some older photos of Northwoods to share. I can also take some current shots of East Court Village (Pekin Mall) and the renovated Northwoods to post. Northwoods has not changed significantly in its 30+ years. There is now a smaller food court at the top center entrance–very busy, but still has three or more vacant spaces. It is correct the floors have only partial changes. The lighting has all been updated and the wood railings have all been replaced with a simple metal/glass combination. New signs were place on the building’s exterior and entrances. The parking lots were partially replaced. Sadly, I expected more from Simon after waiting 30+ years. They really did a patchwork job on the cheap for this one. They must not feel too threated by the Grand Prairie Development (it is a sharp lifestyle center with significant room for growth.).

    It is great to see others with fond memories of the Christmas displays. The center court displays are long gone. Santa now appears in a small decorated area on the lower level near Penneys (in an area that once had one of the great tube fountains). The mall had a unique u-shaped hallway area on its lower level which housed Garcia’s Pizza, Alladin’s Castle, BJ & Company and my favorite store, Jokers Wild. I believe the last remaining original non-anchor tenant is about to depart, Karmelcorn (now Peoria Carmelcorn) this winter.

    I have always been shocked that a market of our size has been stuck with this below-average enclosed mall for so long. Many similar trade areas, Quad Cities, Rockford, and Fairview Heights have much large facilities that have experienced multiple enhancements. I love the old, but this area remains underserved.

    Look forward to reading additional memories of Northwoods.

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  11. hey!! u guys have a photo booth???

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  12. Wrong place, Megan. You might want to try looking at http://www.simon.com/mall/default.aspx?ID=188 , which is Northwoods Mall’s official website.

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  13. Jack Shell mentioned the botulism outbreak at Skewer Inn.

    I was living in Peoria at the time (my 2 years at Bradley) and this occurred during that period. The mother of one of my friends at the school was one of the ones who got sick, and for some reason was the last one to recover. She was there for Parents Weekend, and had gone to Northwoods looking for a fun place to eat. Some choice they made!

    Oh, I just wanted to mention that Skewer Inn tried to reopen after a long period being closed after the poisoning scare. Knowing people would be leery eating there after the highly-publicized poisoning scare, they produced a series of commercials promoting the restaurant featuring prominent Peorians. My favorite (actually the only one I remember) featured Bradley basketball coach Dick Versace dining at the Skewer with well-known local Ford dealer John Bearce. I remember laughing at that commercial, thinking those two guys probably never even knew each other before they appeared together on the commercial.

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  14. […] As to Northwoods Mall, they have this to say about it, along with many photos, pre-renovation: “Though meticulously maintained, many elements harkened back to the mall’s 1970s roots, most notably the grand center court with the huge 1970s silver light fixtures hanging from the raised ceiling.” Unfortunately, they got there too late to see the red/orange carpet in the center court and the old clock (which I miss). […]

  15. “Will it play in Peoria?” had nothing to do with product market testing. The term was coined about 100 years ago, when roving vaudeville acts asked the question of each other, having just “played Peoria”. Richard Nixon brought it back, in the 1970’s, regarding how his “plan” to end the war in Vietnam would “go over”.

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  16. I was a manager at the J.C. Penny at Northwoods during the early 80’s. At the time it was in the top 10 malls in the country in profit per square foot…despite it appearance it continues to be a cash cow for the SIMON group…A fake overhaul was done in 2005..They did fear the new larger Grand Prarie…….Simons answer. not compete….but purchase the new Grand Prarie….from the Cullian group…………..The famous store was built by Carsons…Carsons enter the Peoria market in the 1960’s with the purchase of the 20 store “Block &Kuhl” chain…………..Block’s had a traditional downtown store with 7 floors often called the” big white store”……it was beautiful…Carsons opened northwoods in 1973 a smaller 2 level store and closed the large flagship downtown within 2 years………….Carsons never made the grade at Northwoods…..but May Co knew what to do…they added 2 additions to the store during there time in Peoria…….Famous was a nice store…..NOW. MACY”S the new mall wal-marts….God help us…………

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  17. Does anyone remember the talking Coke machine at Northwoods? That’s what sticks out in my mind.

    Once I saw some photos of the original look of the mall. The photos belong to the German-American Society and they were singing in the mall. I think some of the photos showed the clock. It was neat to see it the way it used to be.

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  18. Northwoods is a nice, but dated mall. Sears and Penneys are both clean and orderly, even better than many of their respectives stores in Chicago. I live in Bloomington and go to Northwoods about once or twice a year (many of the stores in Northwoods are located in Bloomington’s Eastland Mall). With good ownership, Northwoods can survive the Shoppes of Grand Prairie and being located near the crime-ridden East Bluff neighborhood.

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  19. I am a peoria native and I go to northwoods mall mostly on special occasions. Today northwoods is now a ghetto-mall due to the fact during closing time when waiting for the bus, people (mostly african-american) use this opportunity to try to pick up somebody who’s minding thier own business. I think security should be beefed up some more there…….

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  20. I went to the mall all of the time during the mid 80s to late 90s during the glory days of Aladdins Castle. I remember they had 2 music stores. Downstairs they had JR’S Music and upstairs Musicland. Where Finish Line is now was Browns sports. There was Orange Julius that had the logo of a devil with a pitch fork that scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. Upstairs was a place almost like it that was called Orange bowl. At one time downstairs near Farrell’s they had a place where you could buy lotto tickets and cigarettes. Downstairs on the other side they had Swiss Colony where I used to get beef jerky, cheese soup, or chicken sandwiches. A&W was there for a short time but didnt last cause they werent able to fix hamburgers cause the mall wouldnt let them put a grill in. Aladdins Castle, Garcia’s Pizza, Sam Goody, and a hand full of other stores had to close down due to the malls increase on leasing and also due to the Highway 74 project that was going on making customers stay away from the mall. Also what makes some people stay away from the mall is the old mall walkers or mallrats that doesnt like the younger crowd taking over their mall forcing an increase on security.

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  21. Northwoods Mall was instantly the most popular mall in the Peoria Metro area when it opened in 1973, and still is to this day. They recently got finished totally renovating the mall, and it looks much nicer than it ever has. I don’t appreciate all of the comments making the renovation sound mediocre and hoaky, because it is most certainly not. It is quality and very nice. Also, I don’t appreciate people making it sound like the mall is crime ridden, because it definately isn’t. However, there was once a time where this was the case, but it was in the early 90’s. It is a very nice mall, and after visiting numerous malls accross the country, I was surprised to find that Northwoods, by far, is one of the best malls in the country. I still remeber when they had the big clock and fountains. Good Times! I also miss Famous-Barr very much. They were one of the best stores in Peoria.

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  22. Reading the Christmas memories reminded me of how much I loved visiting Santa at Northwoods. The decorations with the bows and the little town always amazed me, and I loved running around with my cousins in the sunken area in the center court and riding in the little train with them. My parents opened a store when I was in jr. high in the area right next to the center court on the lower level. They sold furniture, lamps, and other home items. It was a great experience for me to see how they ran the store– they basically got an idea of buying furniture for less than wholesale and selling it at wholesale prices. My parents and grandparents set up and remodeled the space they rented and ran it out with the help of a few women who ran the front desk. I helped out putting together furniture and setting up displays, but most of my time was spent exploring the mall and playing games at the arcade. I was at the mall almost every day, as my parents had to work and I had no place else to be. The store turned out to be fairly successful after a period of about 2 years, and my parents opened a sister store at Eastland Mall in Bloomington. Unfortunately, sales started going down immediately after September 11th, and the Peoria location was closed. Due to long commutes and my dad’s work schedule at his job with the airlines, we had to close the Bloomington store as well. It was a fun and interesting time of my life, and really fostered a good work ethic in me and showed me that small family businesses can still be profitable.

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  23. What was the name of the store, Matthew?

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  24. Matthew

    Was your store in Eastland Mall next to the Hallmark?

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  25. I am SO glad this is here. We moved to Peoria in 1975 when I was 6 and my brother was 2. My dad was a manger for the Singer Sewing Company and I had been “raised” in malls and shopping centers (Now called Strip-malls). Anyway, the first store I remember visiting was Kaybee Toys. I think on the lower-level. Farrells was ALWAYS the birthday meal and the Skewer Inn (Sorry about the spelling). Then as I was a young teen, I discovered Jokers Wild. I also remember one of the music stores that sold NOTHING but 8-track tapes. I discovered Kiss the band here, sat on Santa’s lap every year and was amazed at the Winter Wonderland. I had and have never since been to a mall that went ALL out. The Mall Management should be very proud! I know that my parents are in their late 60’s and early 70’s now, and these are the best memories of my life!! When I was in Jr. High at Germantown Hills, our Choir sang Christmas Carols at the mall too. I was scared to death. I bought my Boyscout supplies at Carson’s. Thanks again for the memories!
    Transplanted to Texas (27 years ago)

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  26. JSD wrote: “Downstairs they had JR’S Music and upstairs Musicland. Where Finish Line is now was Browns sports”

    Yeah, that’s exactly how I remember it. I bought a boombox at Musicland and a lot of cassettes at JR’s.

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  27. My favorite parts of the mall as a kid were Aladdins Castle and the magic shop which was hidden around the corner. Also Swiss Colony for the beef sticks! Loved it.

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  28. Does anyone have any idea when the Toys ‘R’ Us across the street opened?

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    Dan Reply:

    @XISMZERO, I’m pretty sure Toys R Us opened in 1984. It was about a year after Childrens Palace opened in the Venture parking lot.

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  29. I love the mall but I wish that there was an Abercrombie kids alot of girls would go there. KICK GAP OUT!

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  30. This I the place to be in tha summer. U would catch me there very day If I don’t have any thing to do. The stores are nice but they need a little bit more. I love vanity Im so glad thats in there now!!! And everybody can stop talkin about my mall if u have a problem….. don’t shop there then.

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  31. This I the place to be in tha summer. U would catch me there very day If I don’t have any thing to do. The stores are nice but they need a little bit more. I love vanity Im so glad thats in there now!!! And everybody can stop talkin about my mall if u have a problem….. don’t shop there then.

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  32. Wow! I am so glad that I stumbled upon this site today. I was looking for something that would “take me back home.” When I read Jack and John’s entries, memories came flooding back. I had completely forgotton about the center court of the mall, but the fountains I could never forget. I tossed a lot of change into those things. I, too, grew up in the eighties and have many fond memories of Aladdin’s Castle, Garcia’s Pizza, and the others that have already been mentioned. But other stores that wear really important in my teens were Pasta, the Limited, and another store ( I can’t remeber the name) where I would get my ESPIRIT bags, Paris Sport Club jeans and either K-Swiss or Keds tennis shoes. It’s amazing how something so seemilingly insignificant can have such an indelible impression on one’s mind. After college, I left Peoria for good and only return periodically to visit my family. I still find myself returning to that mall just for the memories. Grand Prairie has some nice shops, but how could I turn my back on Northwoods when I have shopped there for every single phase of my life thus far?

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  33. This mall was the center of all shopping in peoria at one time. I remember hanging out here as a kid. The center court was awsome at Christmas time, nothing like now. Santa does not even get center court anymore. One of the things I noticed no one talks about is the invasion of the corporate stores. By the early 90s all of the independantly owned merchants such as JR’s Music, Byerlys, Browns Sports etc. Had been forced out and replaced by GAP, Structure, Eddie Baur etc. National Chain stores. When this happened the mall basically looked like every other mall in the midwest. If you go in one then youve been to them all. This is also about the time Malls started running off kids. The same thing happened to both malls in Bloomington/Normal and the Pekin Mall well it eventually shut down and was transformed into an out door shopping center. At least they have not turned them all into giant wal-marts-yet.

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  34. Loved Farrell’s, remembering those awesome multicolored lollipops. I’d forgotten the center court Clock. and Joker’s Wild was alot of fun. All of Simon’s mall do seem to be the same now, very few local retailers, which I like to support. I go to the mall for my teen daughter to shop, Me, just VS and Macys. I’ve moved on…I’m more of a Grand Prairie shopper now, but there is definitely room for both malls in Peoria. Northwoods will forever be a part of my life as I had a store there for several years(when local retailers were more welcome). It is like a world all of its own. Glad for the remodel, it needed a little love.

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  35. Sorry to be off-subject, but I have discovered a Bloomington/Normal visitors guide from 1997 that has a list of stores for all the local malls. This is before Eastland’s major remodel and expansion; so Famous Barr, Gap and Old Navy were not here.

    First is the Bloomington/Normal Factory Stores. This ill-concived outlet strip mall was a disaster since it opend in 1995. Nothing lasted here very long. It’s on the west side of town while the area sprawls to the east. It faces I-55/74, but sits on a hill so you cannot look into it. The main entrance is behnd the center so you see the back of the stores first and is easy to pass up. BNFS has been renamed Crossroads Center and is turning into business condos.

    Second is College Hill Mall. This mall failed in 2004, so the 1996 is about this mall’s heyday. Stores included: A&W hot dogs ( not full service), Barrel’s’ N’ Bins, The Buckle (now in Eastland), Braun’s, Campustown, Cartton Shack, The Closet, County Seat, Diamond Dave’s Taco Co., Dollar Plus, Etc., Five Star Collectibles, Foot Locker, GNC, Green Gables Old Country Store, JC Sales (now at Eastland), Kay Bee Toys, Kay Jewelers(moved to Eastland), Lady Foot Locker, Lerner New York, The Love Shop, Lox, Stock & Bagel, MC Sporting Goods (moved to Eastland when CH added Stein Mart in 1997), Montgomery Wards (closed in 1997, turned in Hobby Lobby), Moto Photo, Musicland, Newman’s Shoes, Northern Reflections, Old Country Buffet, Payless Shoes, Perfect Nails, Pearle Vision, Peggy’s Hallmark, Radio Shack, Rave, Regis Hairstylists, Spencer’s Gifts (moved to Eastland), Summit Stationers, Sunglass Hut, Target, Team Express, The Great American Cookie Co., Things Remembered, Tilt, Title Wave, Topkapi, Vanity, Von Maur, Waldenbooks, and Zales Jewelers (moved to Eastland). Only Target, Von Maur, and Hobby Lobby remain when the empty mall was turned into a half-empty lifestyle center.

    Finally is Eastland Mall. This 800,000 sq. foot mall started as a basic dumbell in 1967 anchored by Sears and JC Penneys. Bergners was added in 1974, making the mall T-shaped. Kohl’s came in 1984 with a new wing next to Penneys and doubling the mall’s size. Famous-Barr was built next to Sears in 1999. Many stores are still here today
    In 1996, the store roster included: A&W (full service), Aftertoughts, American Eagle (now by JC Penneys, original location now Tradewinds Shoes and Spencer’s), Applebees (outlot), Athletic Market (now Maurice’s) B.Dalton (now Christopher and Banks), Bachrachs, Bath & Body Works, Beyond Balloons (gone), Boojum’s Sauces & Spices (long gone), Campustown, Candles’ N Stuff( now Regis), Casual Corner (gone), Claires, County Seat (now Aeropostle), Custom Graphics, (gone), Chongwah Express (died soon after Panda Express came in), Deb, DK Dogs (long gone), Eagles Jewelery & Fine Arts( gone), Electronic Boutique, Etc. (gone), Experiences (gone), Express, Fannie May (died with chain, was a Sprint store but now is vacant), Finish Line, First of America (former bank now JC Sales boot store), Flash Photo (long gone), Flowerama (former kiosk where US Cellular is today), Foot Locker, Freshen Yogurt, Gadzooks (now Hot Topic), GNC, Gip’s Carmelkorn, Gloria Jean’s Coffees, Great Expectations (gone), Great Steak & Potato Co., Green Gables (now part of Old Navy), Hot Sams (gone), J. Riggins (black hole of Kohl’s wing also was Vanity and Mr Rages. Now vacant), JW (gone), Kinney Shoes (now The Buckle), Kirlin’s Hallmark, La Nails, Lane Bryant (moved to College Hills in 2005, half is Off the Wall, other half vacant), Lazy 8 Western (long gone), Lens Lab (now Pearle Vision), Limited, Limited Too, Merle Harmon Fan Fair (now part of the Gap), Merle Norman Cosmetics, Mole Hole, Mrs. Fields, Murray’s Shoes (moved to plaza across Veterans Parkway), Musicland (closed for Famous Barr expansion), Naturalizer, Niksky’s Deli and Bagel (closed in 06 now vacant), Off the Beaten Path (long gone), Page Jewelers ( now Zales), Pass Pets (become Kay-Bee Toys after Famous Barr expansion, now a kitchen store), Payless Shoes, Petite Sophisticate (gone), The Picture Show, Radio Shack, Rally’s Cobblers, Regis Hairstylists, Rogers & Holland Jewelers, Ryan’s Tie Closet (long gone), Sam Goody’s (now Vanity), Sbarro’s, Structure (became Express Mens), Successories (closed in 2008, now vacant), Sunglass Hut, Taco Johns (long gone), Talbots (outlot), Things Remembered, Time Out (gone), Trade Secret, Unlimited Treasures (gone), Valumax Gold & Silver, Vanity (original location is a part of American Eagle), Victoria Secrets, Wilson’s Leather (recently closed), Woolworths (included a restaurant, space turned into White Barn Candles, Bath & Body Works, Motherhood Maternity, and Pac-Sun). Also Eddie Bauer was added in 1999 and closed this year. Eastland Mall is still the center of the B/N shopping district along Veterans Parkway.

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  36. I’m glad to say that the death of Northwoods Mall has been greatly exaggerated. The place was jumping today. There were only 3 vacancies in the entire mall, two of those were in the food court area. This is the healthiest mall I have seen this year.

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  37. What memories…. I think it’s awesome to see so many Peoria natives on here sharing their experiences. Virtually every one of them is mirrored in some way from my own youth. Ditto on the scary Orange Julius devil.

    I still return to this mall when I’m back in Peoria visiting relatives over the holidays each year. It’s too bad that Aladdin’s Castle is no longer there and I do miss the sunken seating areas as well as the funky clock and the beef jerky from Swiss Colony, but I always get something from Karmelcorn and I hope they never ever go away.

    Does anybody remember if there was ever a Brooks Brothers store in the mall? I have a bet that there used to be a Christian Bros. (cowboy clothing stuff) store where KayB Toys used to be on the upper deck near where Montgomery Ward is/was. However, a friend is saying that it was a Brooks Brothers, which seems a bit too upscale, though I know in the mid-eighties there would have been a good number of Cat execs that could have supported such a store.

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    B&K Reply:

    @Kris, THERE WAS A CHRISTIAN BROTHERS ON THE UPPER LEVEL . NO BROOKS BROTHERS… BUT IN THE EARLY DAYS THERE WAS A RICHMOND BROTHERS MENS STORE

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  38. Many great evenings and weekends were spent by my friends and me at Northwoods Mall in the late 70s and early 80s.

    I recall the Moeckels Adidas store and the boot store next to it that thrived in selling many pairs of cowboy boots when the Dallas (J.R. Ewing) TV series was so popular.

    Dumped many, many quarters in the pinball machines of Aladins Castle and always enjoyed looking through the “Jokers Wild” store.

    I actually drove my ’78 Trans Am INSIDE the mall when I participated in one of the custom car shows and I parked it right in front of the “Chess King” store that offered all the satin shirts and disco clothing that became popular during that era.

    Thanks to all the others that shared their memories of the great mall.

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  39. The saying was actually “Will it Play in Peoria?”, not “That won’t play in Peoria,” originating in the days of vaudeville. When an act was ready for performance, it debuted in Peoria for several reasons: the city was geographically in the center of the country, it had a culturally diverse population and it was known for having “tough” audiences. The thought was that if an act won over Peoria crowds, it would be a hit anywhere; if not, it was rewritten or scrapped. For similar demographic reasons, Peoria is also a test market for many national products and brands for the same reasons.

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  40. Can anyone provide a list of merchants (food, clothing etc) that were in the Peoria IL Northwoods Mall from it opening until 1980? Thanks

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  41. This is the first time Ive heard of blood sausage..a simple wiki search and Im completely horrified. But then, I order all meat well done.

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  42. Steve-

    Do you have a list of the original stores? If not, that might be a place to start. I posted a list of the original Pekin Mall stores that I obtained from the Pekin Public Library. You might consider emailing the Peoria Library and see what they have (and then posting it here for us to see!)

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  43. Greetings:

    In documenting voluminous historic images of Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect (constructed in 1962), I have found about fifty slides from what I believe is Northwoods Mall, circa 1974. If these are of interest to anyone, please look me up and I would be happy to share. They are of great quality and feature a lot of what I assume are original storefronts. Some of these stores include Aladdin’s Castle, Baker’s Store, Brown’s Sporting Goods, Just Jeans, Johnson’s Store, Konee’s Restaurant, as well as a number of other shots of the mall. Beacuse of the lack of people in these photos, I assume these were taken shortly before the mall’s opening. There are even shots of temporary murals that hid construction. In the interest of not posting my personal info, please google the Mount Prospect Historical Society, where I am the director, and contact me from there. Thanks!

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    Debbie Norton Reply:

    @Gregory,

    i am very interested. My Mom and I both worked at Konees and it seemed like we lived at the mall. We know all of the security guards an we were all like family. Please send information to my email.

    Thank you,
    Debbie Norton

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    Mark Reply:

    @Gregory,

    I too am VERY interested as father was a manger at one of the stores from late 1974-1981. I am not sure if you can see my email, but I REALLY hope so as my father recently passed away. Guess I am just trying to reach for my roots. Once his company closed the store at Northwoods, we moved to Texas where he was raised and have never returned. I would love to see these shots as some of the best times from my youth are there. I only wish that my kids could see how they decorated for Christmas. Even Easter. That is what a mall should be!

    Thanks for your help!

    Mark

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    LJB Reply:

    @Gregory,
    I am interested in the photos from Northwoods Mall circa 1970s–was just reminiscing about the original retailers of that era! Thanks.

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    Mike Reply:

    @Gregory,
    If you still have the photos, I would be interested.

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  44. omg i miss the way the old mall was when i was a little girl

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  45. I frequently visit this mall. I love shopping at the Hot Topic, Spencers, Game Stop and Pacific Sunwear. Or even just getting a coffee at Gloria Jean’s or a pretzel at Diddos. My mom doesn’t like visiting the mall much though. Something about too many weird people. But it is really lovely at Christmas, I absolutely love how they do the little lobby type thingy area. If only they would do that for Halloween. That would make me happy.

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  46. The 80s was by far the best time to be at Northwoods. Byerly’s left Northwoods because Simon jacked up their lease. They found a home across the street on Brandywine Dr. for many years. By the early 90s, the thugs had sent every decent regular away from that place in droves. Can’t say if they still occupy the place since I don’t go there, but there was a stabbing incident on the upper level withing the last three or four years. I still have a Browns sporting goods commercial on an old VHS. I also remember back in the late 80s getting up early one Saturday morning with a couple friends and heading to Aladin’s Castle with these passes to play unlimited games before opening for the day.

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  47. OMG i was just a tnorthwoods toady and i LOVE going there. i love the holiday shopping and the decorations. I was offended by a manager at the Claire’s store but other then tha ti had a wonderful time and i usually do when i got to norhtwoods.

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  48. I have many great memories from the 80’s version of Northwoods. I remember shopping at Chess King, and Jeans West to buy the “Cool Kid” clothes. If I remember correctly, that little corner had a shoe store that sat in the pocket of the “L” shaped Chess King. Across from that was Jeans West, and down the hall, past Diamond Daves, was the Adidas store, where I got my track shoes.

    I got my first guitar, a Kramer Aerostar, at Musicland.

    Alladin’s was great. I vaguely remember Joker’s Wild. Wasn’t that a variety store, sort of like Spencers. I seem to remember them having really cool Haloween masks there.

    Garcia’s was a great place to take a date, as there were lots of “out of sight” places to sit.

    Brings back alot of childhood memories. Things like having to buy your concert tickets at Bergener’s, as that was the Ticketmaster outlet. Back then, you camped out for tickets.

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  49. My family and I were at the Northwoods mall and the wife and I were reminiscing about the Noah’s Ark Pet Store on the upper level. We both thought it was where the Bath & Body Works store is. It was there up until at least the mid to late 80’s. Anyone else remember it?

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  50. I took a walk through Northwoods yesterday; my first time there since 1985 (I no longer live in the area). Clean and vibrant and almost no vacancies. It was fun to try and spot the stores I remember from 1982-1985…. JR’s downstairs and Musicland upstairs were easy, as was the Tinder Box in its corner and a few others. I wasn’t sure which side of the lower-level hall the Skewer Inn was on, but I’m sure I was close either way. Even the place where we used to catch the bus is still there but the Caterpillar credit union that was there at that doorway is now gone. Fun to see the place after so many years.

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  51. Noah’s Ark was lower level across from Coach House. Skewer Inn was lower level as well and replaced by The Gap which has since moved upstairs. Love the picture of Nation Nails above… that was Moeckel’s Adidas, and the three stripes remain, hilarious! Caterpiller Employee’s Federal Credit Union became Citizen’s Equity Federal Credit Union when they let all people, not just CAT employees join in the nineties. I remember joking that CEFCU should just stand for “C’mon Everybody Federal Credit Union”.

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  52. Did Wards have a cafeteria? If so, can anyone describe it?

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    Dan Reply:

    @Holly, I’ve visited Northwoods since 1977 – I don’t recall a cafeteria in Wards. The downtown Sears (which moved into the Wards space) had a candy counter next to their lower-level exit onto Water Street. And I think Bergners in Eastland Mall had a balcony food area in the late 70s.

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    Chad Reply:

    @Holly,

    I worked at Wards on and off as a high school and college student from about 1987-1991, and I can tell you that it did indeed have a cafeteria. It was actually called the “Buffeteria,” or, as we employees liked to call it, “The Buff.”

    It was on the lower level in the back of the store (“back” being measured from the mall entrance) and looked out on the furniture department. As I recall, it had sort of a low wall that separated it from the rest of the store. You’d line up on the left, then move along the cafeteria-style counter, then pay and eat. The ladies who cooked there were really nice, and were actually pretty good cooks. They had the latitude to come up with their own recipes, i.e., there was no corporate mandate from Wards as to what to serve or how to cook it. I used to love the biscuits and gravy as well as the chicken and noodles.

    Hope that helps.

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    paul Reply:

    @Holly, I remember there was a eatery in the basement floor of Bergner’s called Peanut Butter Haven if memory serves. I remember they had great sloppy joes

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  53. Reading these posts are bringing back tons of wonderful memories from my childhood in central Illinois during the 70’s and 80’s! Some of my personal favorites were the Wicks n Sticks candle shop on the lower level corner near Famous Barr and does anyone remember the Tiffany bakery on the upper level? I think Gloria Jeans moved into that space but I remember the most amazing cookie aromas coming from there. I also recall there was a Stride Rite store and a teen shop called Ups N Downs? Am I imagining this in Peoria or was it in Eastland Mall in Bloomington?

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  54. Northwoods Update: store closed
    Didoughs Pretzels
    Charlies Subs
    and Abercrombie & Fitch
    all 3 are officially closed

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  55. I worked at Garcia’s Pizza when they had the multi-level seating area. Some of my favorite stores were JR’s (bought alot of cassettes there), Waldenbooks, and Coach House Gifts (they had the coolest posters).

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  56. Additional stores not mentioned that I remember as a kid in the 70’s-80’s: B. Dalton Bookstore, Kinney Shoe Store, Schradski’s, Bachrach, Holmes Shoes, Fannie May, Coach House Gifts, Moore’s Jewelers, Security Savings & Loan, Fannie Farmer, Father & Son Shoes, Thom McCann Shoes, Sun’s and Britches. JR Music early on was a two story music store in the same location that also sold stereo equipment. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, I remember Structure and The Limited being popular for trendy clothes. I used to love Bachrach’s in the 80’s as it smelled so good and had dark, mysterious ambient lighting.

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  57. Bakers Shoes was the only place we bought shoes. You always found something you wanted there. A group of us would go shopping here once a month and always went to Bakers, Schradzkys (sp), Casual Corner, JC Penney and Coach House gifts. Walking through today you don’t recognize the mall of our “youth”. Sad to see so many of the stores gone.

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  58. Anyone mention County Seat or Orange Julious? & I maybe thinking of Phoenix since that’s where I moved & the memory get a bit blurry from 24 yrs ago, so I maybe think of a mall here, but wasn’t wet seal there @ some point too? I have been gone since 1989, but have great memories of “the mall”!!

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  59. Like many other commentors, I grew up in Peoria during the 60s &70s, and remember Northwoods when it was still fairly new.Haven’t been back to Northwoods since 2002, but I’m hoping to get there sometime before Christmas. Really want to see how it looks after the renovation.

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