Village Square Mall; Effingham, Illinois

Effingham, Illinois is located at the intersection of two Interstates (70 and 57), in the east central region of the state, about 3.5 hours south of Chicago.  With a population slightly over 12,000, Effingham’s economy is currently rooted in its presence at these crossroads.  As such, the town bills itself as the “Crossroads of Opportunity”.

Effingham is home to a famous cross of another kind, too.  A 198-foot cross was erected along I-57/70 by The Effingham Cross Foundation in 2001, promoting “the values of faith and family”, along with a ten commandments display.  The cross is billed as one of the largest in the world, and is also Effingham’s biggest tourist attraction.

Effingham has also been a pop culture topic of ridicule, immortalized by the Ben Folds song “Effington”, which was inspired by a drive through Effingham, and by a parody on the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom radio show.  These references probably bring a lot of effing ire to local residents.

Because of its location at an interstate crossroads, Effingham has a plethora of retail, hotel and fast food options for a city of its size.  Another reason for a relative abundance of offerings is Effingham’s distance from larger cities.  The nearest major city, St. Louis, is 100 miles away, and the nearest major mall is in Terre Haute, Indiana, over 60 miles away.

Effingham’s retail exists in several clusters.  The area surrounding Exit 160 from the interstates is the largest and newest area, and offers big box stores like Big K, Menards, Super Wal-Mart, and Kohls, with additional strip malls like Crossroads Plaza.

Downtown Effingham, located a couple miles off the interstates, offers around 25 local shops and services in an intimate, typical midwestern small-town atmosphere.

The third cluster of retail in Effingham is located along US 45/Banker Street to the south of downtown.  This area is the least convenient to the interstates, and is not as successful as the strip around Exit 160.  It serves locals in and around Effingham, and has also seen the most turnover and vacancy in the area.  This cluster is anchored by a small enclosed mall, Village Square Mall.

In 1971, local developer Gene Mayhood bought 30 acres of farmland on the south edge of town with the intention of building a regional shopping center.  According to a 2008 article in the Effingham paper, a livestock sale barn was used as the base structure for retail outlets G.C. Murphy and Eisner’s, which were the first stores to open in the development in 1972.  Really?  Did this really happen?

The article then goes on to state that “The opening of 26 other stores led Mayhood to purchase another 50 acres.”  Was this part of, or prior to, the construction of the existing mall structure?

JCPenney, the mall’s south anchor, opened in 1977, and an adjacent building, the Lincoln Land Center, was operated as an amusement park through the 1980s before it was converted into an office/retail center.

Throughout the years, Village Square Mall has had some rocky spells and is currently at a visible low point when compared to the past.  It currently lacks even a simple website, but this site operated by Effingham’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has a blurb that lists it as “ultra-modern and growing” – hmm…what the eff, Effingham?  Seriously?

Anchor stores Stage and Rural King, a regional farm and home goods supply box store, have left the mall, and it is in dire need of a renovation.  Village Square received a renovation in 1994 under a new ownership, and it’s time for another update.   In recent years, apparel chain stores Glik’s and Deb have also departed, as well as other stores.  There have only been minor updates to the mall in recent years, including a new cursive logo to replace the western block font and a mural near the main entrance with the same new logo displayed.

Several factors have worked against Village Square Mall’s success.  First, Village Square is not easily accessible to the interstates – the retail district by Exit 160 is booming due to the accessibility and visibility the interstates provide.  Second, the mall was, for years, poorly managed by non-local ownership interests who bought and sold the property frequently and didn’t seem that committed to the investment.

While the first item, proximity to interstates, cannot be fixed, proactive management of the mall could possibly bring it up to par.  In 2008, the mall was again sold to a New York-based investor, Mike Kohan, who cited experience managing distressed properties and turning them around.  We hope that’s true, and I’m sure the residents of Effingham do as well, so they don’t have to drive an hour or more for a mall.

We visited Village Square Mall in May 2001, and again in April 2010.  The differences between the visits indicate a stark downhill spiral that we hope turns around real effing soon.

May 2001:

April 2010:

35 Responses to “Village Square Mall; Effingham, Illinois”

  1. For a couple years in the 80s I regularly went through Effingham, and didn’t know it had a mall. the interstates had surprisingly little going on back in the mid-80s and trust me I would have made use of whatever was there, the trip from St L to Terre Haute is mindnumbing in its boredom.

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  2. The mall’s original anchors in the 1970s were Murphy’s and Spurgeon’s. Eisner’s was a supermarket located in the mall building but with only external access. Spurgeon’s became a Stage in the early 1990s and is now vacant. Rural King was the Murphy’s. Eisner’s was later a Jubilee Foods.

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  3. Effingham is only 3 hours from St. Louis and not Chicago, by the way.

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @Josh, Effingham is only 100 miles from St. Louis on I-70. That’s way less than 3 hours!

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  4. As an Effingham resident, it is great to see this mall presented on labelscar. Yes, GC Murphy, or Murphy Mart as it was known was the north anchor. It was very much like a Prange Way, Ames, or Hills. It had a snack bar and had a great toy section. They also had clothing, etc. Penney’s has always been on the south end. It’s a very tiny store, one of the smallest I’ve ever seen, but does great business. The mall began just half the size it currently is, and Mr. Mayhood double the size when building the south Penney’s addition. The current 9 screen cinemas used to be a 2-screen theatre, but they bought out a big chunk of the north end and constructed the blue buildling you see in the photos to expand.

    There’s never been restaruants in the mall, but an ice cream shop existed, called “Dipper Dan’s”. Playland was the arcade, and a Sizzler restaurant was in the outlot. Some stores I remember are P.N. Hirsch, Spurgeons, Disc Jockey, Village Record Shop, Village Book Store, Stage, Coast to Coast Hardware, and Brown’s Drug. The current Dollar General closed in the past couple of weeks as a new store opened in the outlot.

    There is a large 4-5 story warehouse type buliding on the northeast corner of the mall, called the Lincoln Land Building. It currently holds offices. Build in 1979 or 1980, Mr. Mayhood built it as a tax writeoff. Lincolnland was a huge indoor amusement park. There used to be a connected hallway from the mall, but the hallway has been demolished. Lincoln Land had a huge full size ferris wheel that went floor to ceiling! A carousel, scrambler, and many other carnival type rides existed. On the 2nd floor there was a roller skating rink. A large stairway in the middle of the place took you upstairs. There was a big snack bar and lots of places to sit. Lincoln land is the main reason why there are thousands of parking spaces at Village Square Mall, as it would be packed nightly back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Effingham could use a good mall, but more and more retail options keep popping up on the north end. Residents here are used to driving to St. Louis to shop, it’s only 1.5 hours away. This mall is most likely doomed with dark anchors and about a dozen stores left, The only chain stores left are GNC, Penney’s, CJ Banks, Christopher and Banks, Zales, Maurices, and Bath and Body Works. Let me know if you have any questions-I can probably answer them!

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    Eric Fresh Reply:

    If you can dig up any pictures from back when it had the ice rink and amusement park, or the arcade and record store that would be fantastic! Thanks for the local info. I grew up in Chicago and now I live there again, but I never get past the suburbs, I’d like to take a road trip to your area and see more of IL.

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    Jody Reply:

    @Scott Wojcik,

    I just read your history about the mall. I noticed that you commented that there have never been any restaurants in the mall. Back in the late 70’s or early 80’s there was a pizza restaurant in the mall. I cannot remember the name of it, but as a teenager back then, I remember going there with friends on several occasions, especially right after watching a movie at the mall. If I remember correctly, I think it was located down the east hallway past Zales Jewelry on the south side of that hallway. Does anyone else remember this place and what was its name and who ran it?

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    jim Reply:

    the location of the pizza place is correct, i think it was the late 80’s early 90’s, people with the last name raditz ran it

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    Dennis T Reply:

    @Jody,
    Wasn’t it called Pizza Man? It was a super thin crust pizza and all the slices were little bite sized squares.

    That place could have been somewhere else in Effingham but I’m thinking that it was in the mall.

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    Jim Mayhood Reply:

    @Dennis T, Hi, the name of the restaurant your referring to was Angelo’s pizza.

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  5. HOw cool is that to have Dollar General in a mall!

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    James Reply:

    @Ashley, it’s not there anymore, Dollar General built them a new building out along Banker Street right in front of the mall last year. 1 less store in the mall now,

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    Allan Reply:

    @James, I’m so late in hearing that, but it’s a shame to see Dollar General pulled out of Village Square. Eventually, I should do a search to see what stores are left here, besides the usual dead mall suspects. *looks right at GNC*

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  6. This mall would not have survived past 1995 had it not been in the absolute middle of nowhere. That is a very trashy mall to say the least, but I’m betting it was a little better originally. It’s rare these days, though, to find those malls like that built on the cheap that have all the charm of a high school hallway. I noticed two you covered in NC fit this description pretty well. I would say they could fix the place, but it’s location sounds dreadful.

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  7. Does Mt. Vernon have a mall too? I remmeber seeing a Sears right off of I-57. BTW, Mt Vernon is the next town south of Effingham along I-57 and I-64.

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @Opkl, Yes it does. Times Square Mall is also very small, but without question more functional than the mall in Effingham. It has 3 anchors: Peebles, Sears, and JCPenney, and a handful of national/regional chains too.

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  8. What an ugly drab place. Its as sterile as a hospital. Not too surprised as this part of Illinois has been economically downtrodden for a long time. Malls in Decatur, Danville, Mattoon, and Marion are hurting too

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  9. That movie theater reminds me of the one that used to be inside Machesney Park Mall near Rockford, which I believe has now been torn down(correct me if I heard wrong, labelscar posters!). Very interesting mall to profile, and a nice writeup, as I always wondered about some of these central Illinois malls that I’ve never made a visit to. I’m not surprised one bit that the new retail and big box/chain restaurant area that has sprouted off of exit 160 on I-57/70 has greatly hurt this mall. Never mind that I’m not sure if this mall would still be alive today, if it wasn’t for the fact it stands almost alone in that retail area just south of town on US 45.

    Now that I think about malls that were built in this style(totally agree with the poster too who says Village Square has a ‘high school hallway’ feel, as that’s the truth!), I think there’s a mall around Sturgeon Bay, WI that has this same weird ‘high school hallway’ feel inside. Sorry I’m forgetting the name of it, but I’m almost positive Labelscar profiled it in the past. (just lazy to look it up this second)

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    James Reply:

    @Allan, after the walmart expanded and the strip malls just exploded in front of the walmart out by the interstate, that is when the mall really took a big big downturn. I for one have always wondered why they didn’t build the mall out along the interstate as I-70 was built through effingham in the 60’s and the mall was developed in the 70’s…

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    Allan Reply:

    @James, Thanks for your reply. The more I rethink what I said with my original comment, the more I think this mall would be hurting, even if the mall owners had thought about building it off of exit 160 as well. As for I-57 and I-70, was I-70 built first through Effingham, before I-57? I wouldn’t be surprised, if that was the case.

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  10. There was also that jeans store called The Fly. And wasn’t there an Aldi there at one point? I remember Murphy’s used to have a pay toilet.

    Lincoln Land also had a tilt-a-whirl, hurricane, and loads of skee-ball machines!

    I can’t tell you how many Friday nights I spent hanging out at that crap mall – and it was always packed!

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  11. Can anyone tell me where the antique store in the mall relocated? It was near Dollar General, if I remember correctly. They moved out several years ago. Thanks.

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  12. IIn the first place….it was a miracle that an inclosed mall was ever built in such a small town

    The locals loved it & Effingham is blessed with many smaller towns around. It was a wonderful blessing way back then to have an inclosed air cond. place to shop & not have to drive many miles to a larger town. Village Square Mall was patteren after the Honey Creek Mall in Terre Haute, Ind. which is STILL booming…..but of course it’s a much larger town. . The mall in Effingham and even downtown was doing very well until Wal mart arrived in Effinghgham.

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  13. IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE A PHYSICAL ADDRESS TO TYPE INTO A GPS FINDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Brett Reply:

    @Jason, the address is 1910 S. Banker Effingham, IL 62401

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  14. I remember as a young child spending a lot of time in this mall and can remember a lot of the stores that were in it (early to mid 80’s). My parents owned a store where the current GNC is located called Holly’s Fashion Fair for nearly 6 years and I played many an arcade game at playland. On the east side of the mall starting with her store there was a Zales, and then in the perpendicular hall there was a Merle Norman, a pizza joint, a small electronics store that sold printers and phones. Then a Radio shack, and a pipe tobacco shop, then playland. On that perpendicular hall there was a Land of Lincoln bank, and a cowboy boot store across from the theatre. Then moving north there was Dipper Dan’s, Spurgeons, Dollar General (used to be P.N. Hirsch), a small shoe store, and the hallway perpendicular to that led to the amusement park. The other side of the perpendicular hall past Murphy’s was a coin shop, and a barber shop. Then on the east side coming back south was a men’s clothing store, followed by Hallmark, a magazine/comic book/baseball card type shop, then another store with glass figurines, joke books, a pharmacy I believe, and other various items. Then Coast to Coast, The Fly, Maurices, Janlees, and JC Pennys. I hope I didn’t forget any stores!

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    Matt Reply:

    Jason,

    I think I played some video games with you at Playland (along with the pinball machine in the back of your parents’ store)- Double Dragon, Black Tiger, etc. I have some good memories of this mall too. It always seemed to be pretty busy when I was a kid- particularly around the holidays. We frequently rode bikes there in the summer for something to do. I bought plenty of baseball cards and coins from the book store, candy at Kirlin’s, and lots of music from Record Land and Disc Jockey. I also remember The Athlete’s Shoe starting out in there and a mens’ store that had dark red carpet called El Dorado. Dipper Dan had great fish sandwiches as I recall, and I can still see Granville being a regular in there. I can’t remember the name of the pizza place, but a family that moved from Chicago opened it up. The amusement park is a really distant memory, but I do remember World Color hosting some family event days there that we went to when I was really little.

    I think what hurt the mall quite a bit too was a changing soceioeconomic status and attitude towards travelling long distances to shop in larger towns. It used to be a big deal to take a drive to some place like St. Louis, or even Terre Haute, to shop. With 2-3 car families, less kids per family, more expendable income (or the perception thereof, anyway), greater demand for specific brands from chain stores due to marketing, etc it became a lot more standard and accepted to leave town and not depend on your local shops or mall. There’s no way a store like The Fly could exist now in the setting of Gap, Hollister, American Eagle, Abercrombie, etc. Internet shopping also followed at a later point, but I think the major damage was already done by then.

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    Jason Reply:

    @Matt,

    Transformer pool?

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    Matt Reply:

    @Jason,

    Transformers, Nintendo, TP’ing, Eric, Austin- good times!

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  15. Almost forgot Potpurri’s between Janlees, and Maurices.

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  16. I remember this mall and the indoor amusement park, although I haven’t been to Effingham since I moved from Vandalia to St. Louis in 1980. During 1979 and 1980 when my daughter was 2 and 3 years old, we used to go there with my mother-in-law. We’d shop, have lunch at the pizza restaurant, and visit the amusement park. I think they had a mini golf in there on the second floor, too. We especially enjoyed riding the ferris wheel! I think of that mall often and wondered if it was still open.

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  17. I lived in Effingham from 1972 til 1976. My mom worked at an Insurance office inside the mall. One day I went to work with her, I remember I was wearing orange and yellow but forgot my shoes. Then a lady my mom knew came in and asked if I wanted to be in a commercial, so I got a new dress and shoes. I remember in the commercial I was with 3 other people and we walked in the mall with our old clothes an came out with all new stuff. I would like to find out how to see that commercial.

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  18. While yes, the mall is not what it use to be due to big-wig investment companies running it in the ground, I must say this article REALLY offended me greatly. You talk about our town as if it is a joke. No it is not a major metropolis, but it is a vital town to all the smaller farming towns that surround it. Instead of looking for ways to criticize why dont you take some time in Effingham. We have MANY festivals in the summer and fall and the people that live here are litterally the salt of the earth. Dont get me wrong, we have our faults and i do like going to the bigger cities once in awhile, but there is no place on earth like Effingham. I dont mind critical opinions, but some RESPECT for the love of God is not too much to ask.

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  19. went there for the first time a few years ago. all I can say is wow, talk about a ghost town. I dont think their were more than a dozen cars in the huge parking lot and no more than a hand full of customers inside. I cant imagine how this place stays open.

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  20. Thank you so much, so wonderful to see this response!

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