St. Charles Mall; St. Charles, Illinois

St. Charles Mall former Joseph Spiess Company in St. Charles, IL

As mentioned previously in our North Park Mall posting, the Chicagoland area was spotted with small, enclosed neighborhood malls built during the late 1970s and early 1980s during a trend in this type of retailing.  In around 1979 or 1980, St. Charles Mall opened on the west side of St. Charles near the intersection of IL 38 and Randall Road, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago.  Anchored by now-defunct Joseph Speiss & Company, an Elgin-based department store which went out of business entirely in 1996, and K-Mart, St. Charles Mall also had a main enclosed hallway of stores connecting the two anchors and shorter side hallways leading out to the main entrances along IL 38. 

1991 ushered in the death blow for St. Charles Mall, as a much larger mall opened across town on the east side of St. Charles.  Charlestowne Mall, anchored by JCPenney, Marshalls, Carson Pirie Scott, and Kohls, quickly became the dominant mall for suburban and exurban areas in the Fox River Valley in western DuPage and eastern Kane counties and beyond.  With two levels and one million square feet, Charlestowne debuted outside of St. Charles Mall’s league and immediately drew shoppers away from it.  At the same time, Joseph Spiess declared bankruptcy in 1991, unable to compete with the more modern and popular emerging chains by then; the entire chain folded in 1996.  By 1995, St. Charles Mall gave up and shuttered completely, yielding to the emerging presence of Charlestowne Mall and the box retail/strip mall boom along Randall Road to the north and south of it.

By 2000, we discovered St. Charles Mall randomly while exploring the Chicago area and were surprised it had been abandoned for 5 years despite the fact it was in the middle of the most prime emerging retail strip in the western suburbs.  Today, Randall Road is a major retail strip and thoroughfare all the way from Crystal Lake in the north to North Aurora in the south, with many millions of square feet of strip malls and big box, including 3 trendy ‘lifestyle’ centers.  Nearly all of this strip is less than 10 years old, and much if it is even newer.  The blighted St. Charles Mall shell was an eyesore amid this booming success and finally it met the wrecking ball in 2002.  Today, the site of St. Charles Mall is an empty field despite promises of turning it into an auto mall. 

St. Charles Mall pylon in St. Charles, IL

In a rather funny twist of irony, one of these ‘lifestyle’ centers, Geneva Commons, opened practically across the street from the site of St. Charles Mall in 2003.  Featuring stores such as Anthropologie, J. Jill, Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel, which typically locate in enclosed super-regional malls, Geneva Commons is an uncreative, aesthetic failure of a place.  The stores are organized mostly in a linear pattern – like a strip mall – and fronted by a giant parking lot, with a cluster of smaller service-oriented merchants and chain restaurants near the main entrance.  The rear of the center behind the strip mall is completely disused, and it is entirely unfriendly to pedestrians who would want to walk around.  But why would they, considering there is no communal focus or public gathering space whatsoever.  Developers, there’s nothing new about this type of suburban development.  The only difference between it and the 1950s-era strip malls are the names of the stores.  Stop trying to rebrand the decades-old concept of the strip mall into anything more than it is – a boring row of stores and a giant parking lot.  Since its debut in 2003, Geneva Commons has been stealing thunder from enclosed malls like Charlestowne, and possibly even other malls like Stratford Square and Fox Valley Center which are further afield.    

I took these pictures in July 2001, after about 6 years of the mall being abandoned.  Since the mall was only open for about 15 years and successful for only about 10, I’d guess all the decor is original. I wish I would’ve gone in the door that was open for whatever reason and gotten more interior pics.  Also check out the old Spiess logo visible at the rear of the mall; it’s the only one I’ve ever seen.  In addition, go see the demolition pictures posted by Mike Mustard in 2002.  

St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL

St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL

St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL

St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, ILSt. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL

St. Charles Mall in St. Charles, IL

The following 3 images are vintage photos taken by John Gallo in the early 1980s, probably not long after the mall opened.

St Charles Mall Joseph Spiess in St. Charles, IL St Charles Mall K-Mart in St. Charles, IL St Charles Mall vintage photo in St. Charles, IL

 

 

82 Responses to “St. Charles Mall; St. Charles, Illinois”

  1. Check out the first image in the grouip at the bottom. Looks to me like K-mart held on, with all its classic ‘red ‘K’ / blue ‘mart’) goodness, until the very end of this mall’s lifespan. That labelscar looks pretty fresh and not washed out.

    That sign of the Speiss Co. is a total knock-off of Carsons’ logotype used in the late 1970s (and still found on some older stores). A ‘modified / modernized’ version of this typeface is still used today across the entire Northern Group of stores now owned by Bon-Ton (Bergners, Younkers, Carsons, Boston Store, and Herbergers). Difference here is that flower pattern instead of the hexagon pattern seen to the left of the name.

    I doubt the two entities ever were merged, then split up during their seperate lifespans (before Speiss went out of business, and Carson’s went on through all its takeovers to eventually become part of Bon-Ton’s umbrella), but it makes you wonder, and if nothing else, it’s an interesting coincidence.

    The interior pics that you got through the doors, and the exterior cinderblock facades are, as usual, typical styles of the late 1970s. Your date range (1979-1980) is accurate to me.

    Charlestowne, which I visited in my 1995 annual Chicagoland excursion, to me, seems like it’s also suffering badly. The anchors (Sears, Kohls, Von Maur (former JCPenney) and a large cinema complex) all hold their own, but It, and Stratford Square (which opened in 1981 and serves the Elgin and Bloomingdale aeas), are just too close to both Fox Valley (10-15 minute drive to the south on Aurora’s east side) and Woodfield (abelt, it’s a 30 minute drive to the east in Schaumburg) to hold onto any tenants. Likewise, as you stated, there’s all that new development around the former St Charles Mall that is hurting things. I guess Charlestowne (which is on St. Charles’ east side for the unknowing) was part of a not-so-fully-realized new hub of development. There’s still a lot of empty land out there.

    It seems the west ‘burbs of Chicago is a goldmine for us retail history nuts. You really get a broad spectrum of what sprawl has done to retailing when exploring out there.

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  2. I guess I have a few questions and comments:

    1. What kind of store was Joseph Speiss? What store, by today’s standards, could it be compared to? They definitely had a cool logo and it’s hard to not love that script lettering!
    2. Did this mall suffer significant vandalism during it’s “dead mall” phase?
    3. Who was the management company of this mall?

    I know exactly where this mall would have stood, because I have eaten at the Colonial Cafe in the parking lot area (can be seen in 1 photo). I have also been to Geneva Commons many times…it’s actually a pretty nice mall, or should I say lifestyle center (that’s such an odd word to use to describe a shopping area!!). But there are better options for shopping (like the poster above discusses) in a relatively close proximity. I guess building Geneva Commons and the building of Charlestowne Mall was what really caused this mall to disappear.

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    mark Reply:

    @anonymous, Spiess was an upscale department store that wanted to rub elbows with Marshall Filed’s, but instead bellied up to Carson, Pirie Scott / Bergner’s / Boston Store. It was very successful initially, but ran its course. The Colonial Café was originally built as a Wag’s Restaurant & was also very successful until Walgreen’s sold off their restaurant division to Shoney’s.

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  3. Correction to my above post: I meant 2005…not 1995. My bad.

    I don’t think it was Geneva Commons had much effect on St. Charles Mall’s demise. Charlestowne Mall had some…mostly in chains jumping ship to the cross-town mall or closing secondary locations. (ie: The Gap has two locations and closes the older one, in this case, would have been St. Charles Mall’s location), but I think it was more or less, the impact of the super-regional players that did in this mall, and are starting to have an effect on Charlestowne Mall as well.

    When I went to Charlestowne in 2005 (there, got it right that time), it was half empty to my eyes. Not a good sign, especially considering that the mall has strong anchors in Sears, Von Maur, Kohl’s and Carson’s.

    That area of Chicgoland has, I think, one too many ‘large’ malls, considering you have Fox Valley, Yorktown, Oakbrook, and Woodfield all within 25-30 minutes of each other. Those have significantly hurt the spralwing Stratford Square (also half-empty when I visited…..and that mall had space for well over 150 shops), and Charlestowne Mall (which I would consider a ‘regional mall’ by Chicagoland standards), and all but killed off countless small malls like North Park, St. Charles and countless others.

    These so-called ‘lifestyle centers’ are just taking away possible tenants for already-existing enclosed malls. That’s what gets me about ‘progress’ in retaling these days. And HOW old is Charlestowne anyways? That mall looked fairly decent / clean to me when I visited. Being on the main east-west drag should be helping it too. I was suprised when I found the place half-empty.

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  4. i have my own photos of this mall when it was running and healthy if you contact me mr prangeway i will get them to you i have menny things you wood be interested in.
    speiss wood be like a small macys or carsons thay were a very nice store and started in downtown elgin. thay were founded in 1920 or21 thay bought the bilding and inventory from the geo. peck co. witch had just opened the new building it replaced the store distroyed in the palm sunday 1920 tornado that damaged most off elgins downtown.thay opened branch stores in the 1970″s first at crystal point mall then latter at st.charles mall. thay then closed the downtown store ans mowed into the spring hill mall that store is now a steve and barrys. thay then wood open a store at randhurst mall for witch thay won many desingen awards including the store of the year by visual merchandising magazine that store is now also a steve and barrys and a bed bath and beyond today. thay then declared bankrupcy and closed rand hurst and spring hill . thay were taken over by new managment and opened a store in highland ind.that store and a store and the store in st.charles wood close a year lattre and after the next christmas the cristyl point store closed thus ensing the speiss story.
    i also do not think that geneva commans is that bad i do agree that it is a strip mall i think real lifestyle centers are more like the glen or the new bayshore in milwaukee ware thay are more like a town center than a strip mall but time will tell what these centers will turn into . i suspect that the strong ones will make it but a lot will be closed down them selfs when thay age and the big name stores move on ond the thered and forth tear retailers move in.

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    Mr. Man Reply:

    @john gallo,
    If you’re still willing to do so, I would be interested in seeing your photos of the St. Charles Mall.

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    Scott Reply:

    Mr. Gallo sir … it would be a pure delight if you could share those photos of the old St. Charles Mall with me … I’m certain sharing them with others would bring about a similar reaction.

    Thanks kindly in advance.

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  5. I have a question. I’ve never noticed it on malls here in Canada, but I have noticed it on malls that I’ve seen here and on the net before. Maybe it has something to do with the weather. But if you look at the concrete of this mall, you’ll notice that it is blackened in patches, almost like some sort of moss. What is that and what causes that? Is it just dirt buildup or what?

    I noticed it when I was in Seattle last summer as well actually. Obviously Seattle is a very green and colorful city, but driving along the Interstates through the city, the concrete barriers and pillars all seemed to be patchy and darkened black in spots.

    If you understand what I’m talking about, is that sort of thing common across the US? Does it maybe have to do with the humidity and the weather? Not saying its a bad thing, but I’m just wondering what it is.

    Thanks.

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  6. My god, look at all that corduroy concrete. So ugly, yet sort of intriguing.

    This reminds me a bit of the Assembly Square Mall in Somerville, Massachusetts. It was in a similar state before they started tearing it up in early 2005.

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  7. Tyguy: the problem you are mentioning sounds like mildew, which looks like a dark or greenish stain on concrete, and is common throughout the world in moist climates. This would be common in a place like Seattle, and probably obsolete in much of the drier southwest U.S. It seems to collect more heavily on overpasses and structures of that nature because no one cares to clean it off. On most businesses, however, it is cleaned off and treated for prevention.

    And no, Geneva Commons had no effect whatsoever on this mall as it opened in 2003 and this mall closed in 1995. It’s just an interesting part of the backstory (futurestory?) of the surrounding area.

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  8. Tthat’s what I was thinking but I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe I was the only one who even seemed to notice it, lol. I guess it doesn’t occur here because it is extremely dry here and humidity and moisture in the air are almost non-existant.

    Thanks!

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  9. Thank you, John Gallo, for emailing your pics to the webmaster, and allowing them to be posted here. Those pics of St. Charles Mall are awesome!

    And though I’d never really heard of Joseph Spiess stores before, I like the logo those stores had. It kinda reminds me of the Marshall Field’s logo a little bit.

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  10. Thanks for letting us see your pics, John. That old K-mart signage brings memories of my childhood flooding back.

    Joseph Spiess’ logo in that larger form looks to me more like how Boston Store’s logo used to look back in the 1970s-1980s.

    What a striking contrast too with that interior pic. From lively and full to closed off and empty in a mere 15 years. Thom McAn, B.Dalton and Crown (Jewelery store I assume) all went out of business or really scaled back their store count in the early 1990s. It shows just how fast a mall can die if chains go out of business or scale back, and there’s no one next in line to take up the space.

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  11. Used to be a K-Mart in Calgary with an old logo like that. Closed up in 1998, I believe its now a second hand sports store. *sigh*

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  12. I grew up a few miles away from this mall and worked from 1993-1997 at Carlestowne mall. St. Charles was always a second class mall, K-Mart was an anchor! When we wanted to go to a real mall before Charlestowne opened we went to Stratford Square, Fox Valley, or Yorktown. When I was really young (early 80’s) St. Charles mall had the toy store (Toys By Rizzie, anyone have any info on that chain) where I got my first G.I. Joe’s! Even back then the mall was in trouble, the food court only had a few open stores. In the late 80s they knocked down the food court and replaced it with one resturant, Tropical Al’s by the 3 screen cinema and the K-Mart. The mall’s main attractions to me as a kid was the Aladin’s Castle video arcade, Camelot Music and the fountain in the middle. I remember Spiess as being a pretty nice department store, they even had a toy section and housewares like the old days. When Charlestown opened in I think 1992 it was the end of the St. Charles mall, weird local tenenets moved in and and just about everything closed but the Radio Shack, which I believe was the last store standing.

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  13. Last store standing was the St. Charles theater which was able to survive long after the rest of the mall had died.

    I was also friends with the guy that was supposed to collect all the shopping carts when K-Mart closed. He just went and got high instead, and so for years and years afterwards there were carts out in the parking lot.

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  14. I actually worked at St.Charles Mall for a year at County Seat (they too went out of business). I started off my retail “career” at County Seat in nearby Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee and was promoted to Assistant Manager at the smaller St. Charles Mall store…store 264 I still remember. This was in 1988 and Charlestown Mall wasn’t yet built.

    Reading Eric Eberle’s post stirred up some old memories in my head. I totally forgot about Tropical Al’s…we used to get lunch/dinner from there all the time!! I actually really liked St. Charles Mall and was sad to see it go. Probably more for nostalgia than anything else. I had a lot of good times there!

    My mom was a frequent Spiess shopper, so I always liked going in there. They had really nice merchandise and the stores were very “elegant”. I would compare Spiess to Marshall Fields or Carson’s. Spiess and Carson’s were never affiliated. Spiess came from downtown Elgin – used to shop at that store all the time as a kid. It was the flagship retail establishment in Elgin. It blew the doors off of Sears and Penny’s where were also located in the Fountain Square Plaza (which is now long gone).

    OK, back on track…as it ends up, I was transferred to the largest County Seat in the country at Woodfield Mall. I worked there for another year or two and then left retail to continue on in school full-time. I briefly went back to County Seat at the Charlestowne Mall to help out with their grand opening in the summer of 1991. I never really like Charlestowne much. I was there a couple of years ago and it was in pretty bad shape tenant-wise. I live up in the northwestern suburbs now and we go to Algonquin Commons (similar to Geneva Commons). They are opening a new Galleria soon across the street from that – can’t wait to check it out. Best Buy just opened, along with a furniture store.

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    James Reply:

    @John, How long did County Seat at Charlestowne last?

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  15. What’s interesting is that this mall had almost an identical floor plan to Crystal Point Mall in Crystal Lake…Spiess and K-Mart as anchors, line of shops in between. Once Spiess closed, the owners of Crystal Point Mall gutted the stores and turned it into a big box strip mall. Only K-Mart remains.

    Spiess was a local department store, much like Carsons or Marshall Fields. I can still remember the floorplans of the Crystal Lake and Spring Hill stores…..

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  16. I think Megan is right, the St Charles Theater stuck around a few years after the rest of the mall had closed. The theater was on the northside, or rear of the mall as I recall. After the the theater closed the St Charles Jaycees used the theater’s old space for their annual haunted house for a couple of years. I actually went to it, I think that was 1996. It was a pitiful haunted house.

    It seems like the old St Charles Mall and the Charlestowne Mall may have something in common with their movie theaters someday….

    Former Neigbors of the St Charles Mall in it’s heyday:

    -Wag’s restaurant/ Shoney’s restaurant — now a Colonial restaurant

    -Taco Bell — now Taco Bell is across the street, I believe Browns chicken moved into the old space.

    -Frank’s Nursery and Crafts — went out of bus. about 7-8 years ago, and then demolished the building not too long after. Now a Binny’s Beverage Depot stands there.

    -Baskin Robin’s 31 flavors– out of business about 7 years ago

    -Jewel, and Blockbuster Video are still in business.

    As of today a decrepit parking lot is all that remains on the site of the old mall and no plans are in the works to develop the space currently.

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    Ray Reply:

    @Mike, Burger King moved to in front of the Lowe’s on Randall Road. Colonial moved to the old Mr. Samurai Steak and Sushi next to the Kane County Clerk’s Office on Randall Road. Both of their old locations on Route 38 in front of where the mall was are now vacant.

    Browns Chicken did not move into the old Taco Bell space. The old Taco Bell space was torn down and a Popeyes Chicken was put there. It has since closed and is now vacant. Brown’s Chicken was several doors down and was recently renamed Choo-Choo’s Chicken.

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    Samuel Reply:

    @Ray, A new restaurant is opening in the old Popeyes, I don’t know what it is called, but it seems like it is a Japanese Restaurant.

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  17. That’s a beautiful shot of the inside of the mall when it was operational. I feel 25 years younger. Maybe I’ll stop into Camelot Records and pick up the new Blondie lp.

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  18. I’m looking for the coffee mugs Wags had. If anybody knows let me know please! THANK YOU

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  19. I guess I am going down memory lane today. I grew up in Streamwood, Il – moved from Chgo at age 6 when my parents bought our first home (1958). I foundly remember downtown Elgin – the center of our universe back then, Jos Speiss, Ackemans, JC Penney,Sears all in Elgin, The Crocker and the Grove Theaters. The Bowling Alley, Union Bank, The Chinese Restaurant in the Tower Bldg. My mom worked for Illinois Bell in Elgin. I just always feel sad when these staples of my younger days are closed, torn down, but I guess that is progress. St. Charles was a frequent spot as I got older and started to Drive-worked at Pheasant Run all thru highschool. Thanks for listening.

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  20. It’s funny seeing these pics again! I grew up in the St. Charles area. My dad was a carpenter and helped built this mall.In my opinion, this mall blew away Charlestowne Mall which led to this mall’s demise. This was built way before the geneva commons era so this had no effect on closing. Some stores I remember 1.Theatre (pics of people on the walls),arcade,k-mart,20 century realitors,toys by rizzi, payless shoes,performance sports,camelot music pearle vision thom mcann,karma corn,b-dalton,radio shack,16-plus,spiess,some pet store,hair cut place…..Help me refresm my memory and please if anybody has pics email -me!!!!!

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  21. Having grown up in the 1970s in the Wessel Court apartments directly across from the site of the St. Charles Mall, I have some even earlier memories of that now vacant concrete expanse.

    My little friends and I used to play hide and seek in the cornfields that grew there. I also remember flying kites there after the corn had been harvested. I recall one evening walking over to the St. Charles Mall right before it officially opened with my then-eighth-grade friends, and checking out all the new stores from the outside, as employees prepared inside for the grand opening.

    After it opened, we enjoyed hanging out at K-Mart, buying snacks in the snack bar, and making fun of the “blue-light specials” that were announced over their P.A. system. Unfortunately (at least at the time I thought so) my family moved to Arizona the summer of 1980 when I was 14, and I had to leave St. Charles behind. When I heard many years later that the “new” mall that was built in the old cornfields across the street had been torn down, I was incredulous. Things change, and then they change some more! I still miss St. Charles to this day – at 41.

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  22. Looking for the owner of this lot of land.
    Does anyone know who owns it?

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    Ray Reply:

    @Angie, Sho-Deen Management of Geneva owns it.

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  23. I worked at the Musicland when it was first opened up on the previous site of an electronics store. Funny story about that is that we found a stash of smut tapes in the ceiling when we were running some speaker wires. Unfortunately we were left with the boxes and no tapes. I can still picture that mall so well with all of it’s tacky smells. I feel like going down to Al’s Tropical Hut to grap me a cheesburger.

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    Schus Reply:

    @Chris, I believe the other electronic store was Curtis Mathes….

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    Lane W Reply:

    @Schus, You are correct sir. I know this because I designed the antenna and television distribution system there and also worked there until it was abruptly closed.

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    Roger Reply:

    @Lane W,
    The owner of the Curtis Mathes store (John) also had a location south of the mall (across the rail road tracks) that sold and installed satellite TV system. Frank and Mike were the salesmen. I can’t remember their last names,

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    Lane_w Reply:

    @Roger, Yep .. I was the service manager there and that was where my office and shop was. We also had all the stock of TV’s and what not that wouldn’t fit in the store itself. Quite ironically, I’d hired a tech person just before the store closed and his name was Roger as well.

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  24. I remember going to this mall as a kid in the early 80’s. I believe the store I liked was called “Arcadia” or something. I also remember the smell of the cinnamon roll store that would infiltrate the entire mall when it opened. Anyways, the owner of the land now is Shodeen – an RE developer that owns much of the commercial property in Geneva and St. Charles. Why they haven’t redeveloped it, I have no clue. Ironically, Charlestowne Mall is rumored to be very close to going out of business in 2008 – many of the very few remaining stores in it are finally pulling out or already gone. A “lifestyle center” like Geneva Commons is reportedly going to replace it.

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  25. I lived in the St. Charles area between the years 1989 -1998, and 2003 – 2005. By 1990, the economic pace at this mall had already begun to slacken. On a superficial level, a much “hipper” music store at a tiny strip mall across the street (Rt. 38) and another one on the other end of town were pulling some customers away, and popular home video game systems made going to the tiny arcade seem unattractive. Other tiny, but new 3 or 4-store “strip malls” were also popping up in St. Charles and Geneva at this time, likely pulling people away. More importantly, large waves of middle-class and upper middle-class families were relocating to this area in the early ’90s, and I believe their economic preferences and aesthetic tastes were shifting away from stores like K-Mart, Al’s Tropical Hut and Radio Shack. Spiess’, however, retained a good reputation until its closing.

    Management at this mall must have also become lazy; I remember it gradually becoming untidy and dilapidated, and couldn’t compete with the “shiny,” polished look of the brand new Charlestowne Mall (which also started looking bad within a few years of its debut). As mentioned, the Charlestowne Mall opened in mid-1991, and I think a lot of the new area-residents began a consumer relationship with the newer, “fresh” mall, rarely bothering with the older one. From 1991 – 1995 the St. Charles Mall persisted, but it lost more and more retailers each year. I remember going in there in 1994, and it seemed that 75% of the retail space was unused and unoccupied. The B. Dalton bookstore closed shop sometime in 1994, and I remember distinctly the last remaining music store (a Camelot, I think) having a going out of business sale in late January/early February 1995. I think Eric Eberle is right, the Radio Shack was the last remaining retailer, but by spring of 1995 the mall was completely closed except for the cinema. I can remember going to see the movie “Species” there in July of 1995. I’m not sure when the movie theater finally shut down. As Megan Ford said, shopping carts remained scattered in the parking lot there for many months after the closing, if not years.

    Does anyone remember when the nearby Wags became a Shooney’s? I remember going to Shooney’s in 1993, but I cannot remember when Wags vacated that some location. And as others have already stated, the Geneva Commons had absolutely nothing to do with the closing of St. Charles Mall. The Geneva Commons really began operating in early 2003; the St. Charles Mall was long gone.

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  26. Kris and Chad mentioned Charlestowne Mall…. Yep its on the slippery slope downhill. I was in there about a week ago and I’d estimate that about 1/3 of the mall shops are empty; its particularly bad on the lower level. They’ve tried to dress things up a little by putting displays in some of the vacant storefronts, with little signs that say “Merchandise by Aeropostale”, etc. but there are a lot more storefronts that are just empty or gated. I’ll have to keep an eye on this one.

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  27. my grandparents lived in Geneva, just down the road from this mall. i don’t remember much about this place (i was born in ’85) except that my parents really liked the kmart there. there was also some sort of candy shop/kiosk in the middle of the mall and my dad would buy me tart ‘n’ tinys. i believe though that that fenced-in outdoor area in the 2001 pics was probably the kmart garden center… i thought frank’s was a couple hundered feet down the road. sad thing is now that the Charlestowne mall is a pit, but i think even that place was doing badly before the “geneva commons” place opened, because there was a lot of other development up on randall road throughout the 90s.
    someone should post a blog about Charlestowne… it’s not dead yet, but it’s getting there.

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  28. I worked at the Radio Shack from March 1995 to September 1995. During that time, Speiss, KMart, Karmelkorn, and Camelot Music closed down. The mall didn’t actually close until 1996.

    One funny memory… RS sold an alarm clock that had “go to sleep” noises – ocean waves, etc. One of the sounds was chirping crickets. I connect the headphone jack of the clock radio to the input of one of the stereos, and turned up the volume. The sound of chirping crickets could be heard throughout the mall.

    Another funny memory… Ins n’ outs, an accessory story was closed and boarded up. Pitch black inside. The interior was black and white checker. I brought one of the RS strobe lights over there, and it was very interesting.

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  29. This is what is going to happen with the mall.

    http://www.shodeenmanagement.com/Assets/PDF/TheCentre_01-18-07.pdf

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    vanessa lasota Reply:

    @alex, No, this is not what is going to happen with the mall. Our St Charles City Council voted it down, last May.

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    Bob Reply:

    @alex, and the site will be vacant for years to come

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  30. Wow what a trip down memory lane… I lived in St. Charles from 78-85 (my mom was born and raised there) and that mall was like the center of my universe!! My mom even worked at the “Spiess” (as we called it) for a while. I remember thinking it was very, as a previous poster put it, “elegant.” My favorite stores were Brooks, B. Dalton, Camelot… pretty much what you would expect a 12-15 year old to like! I remember the Wags in the mall parking lot, and the Taco Bell when they were new!

    I also remember seeing someone holding her little toddler over the fountain in the middle of the mall to dig pennies out!!

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  31. From the City’s Planning & Development Department, here is a link to the latest “Towne Center” plans and public presentation for a mixed-use retail/office/residential redevelopment of the site of the former St. Charles Mall:

    http://www.stcharlesil.gov/departments/cdd/pdfs/STCTowneCentre2.pdf

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    vanessa lasota Reply:

    @John, nope, not happening- voted down, too.

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  32. Yeah they had plans like that for 10 plus years and nothing……

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  33. Yeah they had plans like that for 10 plus years and nothing……

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  34. to John gallo….do you still have pics of the old mall?????

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  35. Next labelscar post should be the mall that killed this mall. The Charlestowne Mall, which is dying itself. Last time I was there, most of the stores were empty. The anchors are still intact.

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  36. Can anyone post pictures of what the inside of the Spiess and the K-Mart looked like?

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  37. When exactly did the Spiess close? was it in early/mid or late 1995?

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  38. Count me in as another St. Charles resident who spent his formative years at this mall. It never had a whole lot of stores, due to it’s size I suppose, but it did have a record store, the B. Dalton’s (I got kicked out of there several times for trying to read Playboy), and of course the theaters and arcades. The right hand photo in the first row shows Al’s-it’s the blue framed board up. We used to eat there occasionally, and I remember it had a distinct 50’s vibe to it, complete with those jukebox controllers on the table. The restaurant closed and opened several times, as I recall. On the left would have been the entrance to the K-Mart, going further past Al’s was Aladdin’s Castle and the theaters. The exterior shots with the chain link fencing show the garden center at the K-Mart-stuff was stored out there, and it was used for flowers in the summer. It was pretty much dead by the time I was in high school (88-92), and I remember that the burnouts (yeah, that dates me!) used to hang out there and smoke by the entrances. I did sooooo much of my clothes shopping at the County Seat! I loved Body Glove shirts-shoot, I may still have some kicking around somewhere!

    To answer a few things: Spiess was definitely a Carson’s competitor, at least when it comes to quality of merchandise, although it was also pretty conservative. I don’t think we ever shopped at any of their locations except for the one at St. Charles Mall. I am sure if I dug around my folks house I’d find a Spiess shopping bag.

    Wag’s restaurants were sold by Walgreen’s back in ’88. That location was certainly a Shoney’s by the time I graduated from high school, because I used to take my girlfriend there late at night to drink coffee and smoke.

    I wish I’d have been as into photography and retail culture back then as I am now. I’d like to have a more concrete record of places like this than I do now.

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  39. I lived in St. Charles from 1994-2005 and remember Kmart and Spiess when it was still in business. I even remember a jeweler in the mall that sodered my wedding rings together!

    What’s sad is that it is evident that at the time Charlestowne mall had pulled tenants from this site. What is even sadder is that the building sat boarded up for years–eventually being torn down with the promise by Al Piemonte (if I recall) to build an auto mall–never happened.

    Now Charlestowne is going under because of Geneva Commons. All that has been done is simply shifted retail back and forth across the river.

    Unfortunately St. Charles did not offer the same tax benefits in retail as Geneva did. Also, the low intro rents at Geneva Commons is pulling people from Charlestowne.

    Lastly, in looking over Shodeen’s plans (who by the way made a killing on this mall when it sold it and repurchased, etc), is that they are creating another dying venue. I recently lived in Texas where this type of lifestyle center was also built as a Town Square venue. Unfortunately in the short years I lived there it too is falling short of expectations.

    I wish all the luck to St. Charles in trying to find the right fit for this space. I thought it was sad that Meijer built across the street instead of on this land–but that area is Geneva–and I’m sure it was a better deal.

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  40. If anyone is intrested, on January 29th, 2009 a story in the kane county chronicle was published about the redevelopment of the mall site and a picture of the concept. Also included is a picture of the Spiess being demolished in 2002. Click on the following link to read the story.

    http://www.kcchronicle.com/articles/2009/01/29/news/local/doc4981313d3b2c2615190951.txt

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  41. It is funny to note how the north entrance to the Spiess (Pictured Above) retained its Sign until it was demolished while all the other exterior signage was removed when it closed.

    Geneva Commons opened in 2003. St. Charles Mall was already torn down by then! (Except for the old K-Mart and the old Spiess which were originally going to remain as part of the new Auto Mall, but thats another story).

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  42. More Pictures of the Demolition in 2002 from Archives of the Kane COunty Chronicle! CLick the following link!

    http://nwherald.mycapture.com/mycapture/folder.asp?event=682210&CategoryID=33294&ListSubAlbums=0

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  43. Growing up in the ’70’s and ’80’s a few blocks away from the St.Charles Mall I too spent much of my formative years hanging out there. I remember at Christmastime they would set up a display in the center of the mall. As I recall it consisted of a chair for Santa, who was only there on weekends, and a two level barn type structure that sat behind him. When Santa wasn’t there, they had a full size Rudolph puppet that stuck it’s head out of the second floor window of the barn. It was a professional puppet and it’s operator could make it act disturbingly lifelike. There was also a PA system so Rodolph could interact with the holiday shoppers.

    It was after witnessing one of these interactions that I realised there was something not quite right with Rudolph. He spoke in sort of a Ralph Cramdon voice, which was very funny, but he just messed with people. There wasn’t anything holly or jolly about it…it was kind of disturbing. I remember confused parents dragging their kids away almost in fear. At this point I became keenly aware of Rodolph and began to avoid making eye contact when passing by. Unfortunately Rodolph seemed to become keenly aware of me too for some reason. He began to single me out of the crowd and mess with me, constantly. At first I was pretty weirded out by the whole thing, it was like this puppet was posessed or something! I was being deliberately harasses by Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer, it was not right…and after a while I decided enough was enough. I had to confront Rudolph. So, one afternoon after a particularly bothersome interaction I went up to the door in the back of Rudolph’s barn and banged on it with my fist. No answer. I banged on it a few more times and finally the door began to open. Turns out it was a guy I knew from school, St.Charles High School that is. He invited me in, we smoked a bowl and… messed with the holiday shoppers. I love the ’80’s!

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    Kimberly Reply:

    @Mike, this is an amazing story. Just made my day.

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  44. I use to hang out at this mall when I was a kid in fact did my fair share of shoplifting at that KMart with my friends…well Its really neat I saw these pics and it took me back to a time where Baseball cards meant more than any job and playing on the snow piles in the malls parking lot was what we all loved to do

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  45. I was born just a couple of years before the mall closed so I cant remember it like I want to. Therefore I am very appreciate for the pics.. I do still have still frames in my head from the demo though. I remember looking at the steel beams out the window of my Moms Blue Bereda as we came/left the Jewel.

    The Charlestown mall is doomed. I have heard there are official plans to tear it down, the theater will stay though. Iv been there some nights and only counted about 15 other shoppers in the whole mall.
    Its wired how it makes you think. I remember back when the fountain was still going there, sitting by it with all is glistening lights with the rest of my family eating peanut butter cookies from Fields.

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  46. I remember driving by this mall when I first moved to Illinois in 2000 and never gave it a second glace. Too bad I wish I had pics now. Is Charlestown mall really dying? I still have my shades that bought in 2004 from Sunglass Hut. Guess I have to make a roadtrip!

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  47. Dose anyone remember the Toyota touch contest?
    The last person left touching the Toyota( car or truck I don’t remember which) won the vehicle.
    How about guess the first snow fall contest?
    The mural of the people standing in line for the theater?
    Also can anyone help put together a list of the stores not already mentioned?
    Pearle vision, Critters? petshop, the TV / electronics store, or the restaraunts in the original food court..

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    CJB Reply:

    @brian,

    I got a job with Spiess before the mall opened and helped out with the interior and stocking the store and became a stockboy for a while.

    I also worked at the Orange Julius that was in the mall. Have not seen anyone else post that name. Good times a LONG time ago!

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    Christopher Reply:

    @brian,

    I worked at the Orange Julius that was in the mall. Have not seen anyone else post that name. Good times a LONG time ago!

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    Christopher Reply:

    @brian,

    One shop I have not seen mentioned was Orange Julius. I worked there and a Spiess..

    Cheers.

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  48. It seems like by next year, this site will be completely empty, both the Colonial Cafe and the Burger King will be relocating out of their current spaces near where this mall once stood. They will move to new spaces on Randall Rd. Both buildings are scheduled to be demolished following the departure of the Colonial and Burger King. The other thing is the Jewel next door to this mall might be remodeled or rebuilt within the next few years, even though no official plans have been announced as of November of 2009. If they dont start building on this mall site soon, it will just get emptier and emptier and soon, it will just be a broken up parking lot.

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  49. I lived around the corner on 14th St. for a couple of years (2005 – 2007 and my wife & I really miss St. C) . . . I always wondered what this area used to have sitting on it as I was never around for any of the Mall’s existance. Does anyone remember what was in the retail shopping center directly to the north of this one . . . current residence is the City of St. Charles Government . . . looks like it was a Kohls or something. Sad to see what has happened to these locations, hopefully they can find a good, non-retail use for it as I feel that the Randall corridor is currently at max cap. for the businesses it houses.

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    Jane S. Reply:

    @Larry,
    The building to the north at 540 S Randall was Montgomery Ward. It was there from 1971 until the company closed all stores in 2001.

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  50. @Jane S., That Wards is now Kane County offices, but they did very little to the building and you can totally tell it was Wards. It had one of the more modern facades too.

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    Schus Reply:

    @Prange Way, Do remember the cool facade look they had before the *redesign*? It had that teal look with that big overhead sign…..

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  51. I grew up with this mall as well. I remember when it opened and when it closed. I saw many movies there as well and always loved looking at the mural of people waiting in line for movie tickets. The mural was pretty well done – it even got a big write up in the Chronicle at the time. Eventually, the mural was getting defaced and they put plexiglass over it. That only invited troublemakers (like myself) to drop pennies down the plexiglass. I even took the “Pepsi Challenge” at a kiosk there.

    Along with the Radio Shack, there was a jewlery store (in the middle by the fountain), that held out until the end. I remember he was in there when the entire mall was dark and abandoned. He took up some legal fight to remain there (why, I really don’t know). Eventually, he left too.

    Anyway, just last night, the city council voted down the plans Shodeen builders had for this site. Shodeen wanted to build condos/apartments with ground floor retail an offices. It was a real mixed use plan. While it was far from perfect, at least there was some plan. Now, it will be another year before someone can submit a new proposal for the site. Looks like it will be crumbling asphalt for a long time to come.

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    WDH Reply:

    @Steve,

    That’s bloody ridiculous-the mall lot has been an eyesore for far too long now, especially in light of Burger King and Colonial moving on. Plus, the blacktop is so bad in the old parking lot that it’s damn near impossible to drive from the Rt.38 entrance to the Jewel.

    Just stupid, and now it sits for another year.

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    George Reply:

    @WDH, What they need to do is demolish the old Burger King and Colonial and tear up the parking lot and close it off until they can build something there. Instead, they are trying to lease out the old Burger King and Colonial, which is also just plain stupid! Who the heck would want to open up in those buildings? Both of them need major renovations and no one wants to spend the money and fix them up. So it would just be wise to tear them down.

    But yet, Sho-Deen doesn’t think that and they just want to make as much money as possible.

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    Schus Reply:

    @Steve, I remember those mural people too! I recall one day they had the worker’s entrance opened and by chance I peeked in there and actually saw one of the pieces of the mural! This was years past since they took it down…

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  52. Does anybody have any momentos or pics of the mall?
    Also, does anybody remember if there was a map, borchure, to the layout of the mall?

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  53. The things we never took for granted until they were gone. i remember driving by this mall many times when I used to work out of West Chicago and St Charles for Union Pacific. I wasn’t into retail history at the time and so wish I had taken pictures when I could have. You never think about it till it is gone. One thing funny about the pics on the site, is I totally remember the blue car parked like that. It sat there for a long long time. It was funny to see it in the pics. Where did the K Mart go? Did it move or just close up completely?

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @Jason, That’s funny that you remember the car. I wonder how long it was actually there. I wish I had gotten inside to take pictures somehow, because the interior closed long before I got my drivers license. I only ever peeked in a couple of the entrances, and remember the interior was like a time warp to the 1970s. It had never been touched, and many of the stores had intact signage and not the drywall that is common today when stores in a mall close.

    I am pretty sure the K-Mart just closed. The closest ones today are in Bloomingdale and Naperville.

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    Bob Reply:

    @Prange Way, There was a K-Mart that opened in Geneva a few years later in the former Venture store, but that ended up closing in 2002-2003 and a Gander Mountain store now resides there.

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  54. Love these! I was born in 1984 and I have great childhood memories of this mall! Thank you so much : )

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    Kyle Reply:

    @Julie,
    I was also born in 84′ and have my fair share of childhood memories from the mall. Sadly most of the memories I have were from 95′ or so when the place was just about dead. I remember going to K-mart and having carmel corn afterwards from one of the few remaining shops. We’d sit and eat it around the center fountain and I can remember gazing down the darkened corridor towards Spiess. The images are vague to me, but the feelings I had of mystery and wonder at why this place was so deserted still are clear in my mind. I think these sort of memories are what drive me to dig up history about this mall and other places I remember from child hood.

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  55. I moved to Elburn 4 years ago and wondered what the big lot was about. Found this today! My!

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  56. I lived about 2 miles west of the the St. Charles Mall from May 1998 to August of 1999. By that time, the mall was closed. The Jewel Osco was still open at one end. At the opposite end, there was a Frank’s Nursery & Crafts, but I don’t remember if it was attached or separate. There was a Burger King on the edge of the property that I stopped at just once, and that was to change clothes for a job interview that led to me living in the area for that year. I also only shopped at the Jewel once. I was disgusted that they wouldn’t take an out of state check when I knew there were Jewels in Michigan where I was from. As for Charlestowne Mall, I recall shopping there in the late 1990s at County Seat. It was half vacant then and no better in 2006 or 2007 when I dropped by on a break from a conference nearby.

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