Marquette Mall; Michigan City, Indiana

Marquette Mall pylon in Michigan City, IN

Cozily nestled on the southeastern shores of Lake Michigan, Michigan City is an industrial, working-class city of about 32,000 people.  It’s about 60 miles east of downtown Chicago and 40 miles west of South Bend.  The dominant features of the landscape are the giant, 600-foot NIPSCO energy cooling tower and Mt. Baldy, a 123 foot sand dune which is part of the beautifully underrated Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  Michigan City is also known for its downtown outlet mall and for Blue Chip Casino, Indiana’s largest riverboat.   

Aside from the outlet mall downtown, the dominant shopping area in Michigan City is on the south side along Route 421, on which sits Michigan City’s lone enclosed mall at the intersection with Route 20.  Marquette Mall opened in 1967, and today it is anchored by Carson Pirie Scott, JCPenney and Sears.  In addition to the anchors, the mall also houses a large office tower which seemingly sprouts from the base of the mall behind Carson’s.  The Marquette Mall Office Tower, at seven stories, is the tallest building in Michigan City.  On our first visit to Marquette Mall in 1999, both Caldor and I noticed the mall’s office tower upon leaving the mall and couldn’t stop laughing at its rather non-sequitur placement behind Carson’s, complete with blue letters reading “MARQUETTE MALL” at the very top. 

Marquette Mall directory in Michigan City, INOf Marquette Mall’s 500,000 square feet of leasable space, a large portion is vacant.  Even though the anchors are filled, the space along the mall’s T-shaped corridors is troubled.  For example, the only women’s clothing retailers currently open as of December 2006 are Lady Edge, which appears to be local, and Rainbow Shops, an urban-wear retailer chain.  Also, Marquette Mall’s website invites patrons to “stop at one of the Mall’s full-service restaurants such as Applebee’s or Old Country Buffet, or enjoy a quick meal at one of the many quick-food purveyors.”  On the current directory, I only count Applebee’s and something called Bingsoo, which I’m hoping is Asian cuisine.  Where are the many other quick-food purveyors?  And what happened to Old Country Buffet?  If they aren’t sticking around, something’s the matter.

It may sound like we’re poking fun at poor Marquette Mall, but we would love to see it succeed.  So too would local residents, who don’t want to drive over 30 miles to the shopping mecca surrounding Southlake Mall in Merrillville, or 40 miles to the shopping in South Bend.  Someone posted on northwestindiana.com last month and was dismayed about the mall’s offerings, blamed management, and even offered suggestions for stores even lower-tier successful malls have.   

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, INSo why is Marquette Mall mostly unsuccessful?  People don’t want to drive over 30 miles for a regular mall, do they?  The area around the mall is full of big-box, restaurants, and strip malls, and is one of Michigan City’s retail meccas.  The other retail mecca, however, might be the key stealing away Marquette Mall’s thunder.  Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets opened in the mid-1980s in downtown as part of an urban renewal project.  The outlets have been very successful ever since, and draw tourists from the Chicago area on their way to Michigan for vacation.  Furthermore, their offerings essentially replace the need for a regular mall. 

We visited Marquette Mall again in March 2005 and took the pictures below.  Share your stories and opinions here.    

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN

40 Responses to “Marquette Mall; Michigan City, Indiana”

  1. Really dig those stage-light effects, especially the rays “showcasing” Sears. That’s something I’ve never seen in a mall.

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  2. …couldn’t stop laughing at its rather non-sequitur placement at the mall…

    We laugh at really random stuff.

    Also, I seem to remember this mall as being a bit more… orange. Did they repaint it or something? I still love those funny slats all over the ceiling, though.

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  3. This is one funky, ugly mall. The office building is a neat addition though.

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  4. I think we’re in a factory here, not a mall. It looks so….industrial. It’s the ceilings.

    It’s also suprising to hear of a revitalized downtown with its own outlet mall laying a traditional enclosed mall to waste.

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  5. Is this named Marquette Mall after Madison-Marquette? They own a few malls here, but didn’t rename them. Are they going the way of Westfield in terms of naming?
    Scott

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  6. I’d heard that this mall was struggling somewhat. Its too bad the pics inside obviously confirmed what I feared about this place. But however, its interesting to see that it does have Carson’s, since I didn’t think any of their stores were that far east in the Chicagoland area(other than their Woodmar and Southlake Mall locations). That must be one of the few things that keeps this mall from completely dying(a la Randhurst, as its best-known anchor also is Carson’s, and that the difference between the 2 I can think of is that Randhurst lost Penney’s, unlike Marquette).

    And as for the fact that it has to compete with Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets for shoppers, I wouldn’t underestimate the impact that Southlake Mall also has on siphoning away foot traffic that this mall likely would have otherwise(not to mention as of right now on their site, Southlake has 199 stores). So, considering that both Marquette and Southlake have a Carson’s, I bet this is a major reason that even some local shoppers probably opt to drive the extra miles over to Southlake instead.

    But yay for the fact that it actually has an operating fountain!! I’ve been planning to make some trips to local malls near me to see how they’ve changed in recent years, and the Marquette fountain pic is a reminder that I should look to see if any of my malls I hung out at as a teen still have the fountain(s) in them.

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  7. This mall used to have a Walgreens at one point. I think it’s either the REX store or vacant.

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  8. I think the reason people don’t shop at this mall alot is that it probably something to do with the interior.

    windowless,dark,low ceiling corridors.

    Who the heck would want to shop at a place like that???

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  9. For the record, it was I (who did the Woodmar tribute site that Labelscar provided the link back to) who lamented at the lack of choice in the specialiry shops in the Northern Indiana forums.

    When you have mom-and-pop stores filling in the blanks, it cheapens the mall in the shopper’s perception and smacks of transiency. Blame should be placed on mall management, and rightfully so. They allowed the decline to reign unchecked.

    Marquette Mall needs more than an infusion of new national and regional retailers to reinvigorate the mall. It needs proactive, assertive management who could make such a rejuviantion endeavor a reality. One needs to look what happened to Hammond’s own Woodmar Mall just to get a foreshadowing of what could happen in the future if these issues are not addressed, and fast.

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  10. I would guess the mall is named after Father Marquette, who was one of the first European explorers in the area. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Marquette It’s just a hunch though.

    I agree with John Lowe’s comments completely. In order for malls to remain successful, management must acquire and retain popular tenants. All too often I’ve seen beleagured, dated malls fall by the wayside while new strip malls open adjacent to them and take many of their stores away. It’s a huge waste in so many ways.

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  11. I live here and shop at Marquette Mall often, many memories there but honestly if it wasnt for Footlocker and Pennies they would have shut down long ago.

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  12. For the person wondering what happened to Old Country Buffet. Old Country Buffet’s parent company Buffet Inc bought out Ryans, and in most areas of the country, wherever Ryans did better than Old Country Buffet, Ryans stayed open, while Old Country Buffet closed. That was the case at Marquette Mall in Michigan City. Buffet Inc decided to keep Ryans open, and close Old Country Buffet at Marquette Mall, and Old Country Buffet leaving LaPorte County Indiana. When I last went to this mall 3 months ago, I saw a restaurant called Ninas open where Old Country Buffet used to be. For dinner time on a Sunday, it wasn’t busy at all. I don’t know how well it did when old Country Buffet was there, but with the restaurant not having an exterior set of doors makes it difficult to tell from the street where the doors are, and if the restaurant is open or not, when regular malls hours say it’s closed.

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  13. I live in MIchigan City and that mall sucks really bad the only good stores in there are lady edge, footlocker, and the 3 main ones(jcpennys sears and carsons) other than that … the mall sucks … its not a place you can really have fun its just so dark and gloomy and not happy looking at all!

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  14. I regularly drive to Valparaiso or Merrillville to shop and my money ends up out of town because of Marquette Mall. Pure and simple.

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  15. this mall sucks they need 2 destroy it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! build a better one

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  16. Very interesting, if those are the future plans of the owner for remodeling/expansion. Since to my knowledge, the only Dillard’s in the whole state of Indiana is in a mall(Richmond Square? correct me if I’m wrong) in Richmond, Indiana, and also that’ll be the first time they have a store remotely close to the Chicagoland area at all.

    From what I’ve heard about this mall, it’s a very good thing this mall is getting a remodeling/expansion, especially since the outlet mall in Michigan City really seems to have hurt this mall a lot.

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  17. So Dillards wants in on Chicago? I wonder if a Dillards/Bon-Ton merger may be in the future

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  18. I sure hope not. Odd choices in the Dillard’s layout. The Ford City Mall and Woodfield Mall ones make sense (Woodfield is famous for having prototype stores). I haven’t heard too much about River Oaks, but none of it was very good. And The Plaza? Really? That’s great, but kind of too good to be true.

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  19. A Dillard’s store is a department store, mid-to-upscale, very similar to The Bon-Ton or Macy’s. Very common throughout the southern United States. Absorbed many brands, similar to Macy’s, though they have not absorbed any since 1998.

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  20. There are a handful of Dillard’s stores in Ohio, which are mostly the result of the Higbee’s acquisition.

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  21. Dillard’s identity isn’t what it used to be. They tended to absorb chains that were half a notch up from the old May chains and a little below the Federated chains, almost entirely in the Sunbelt. They are more conservative than Macy or Federated in their merchandise and often have no home furnishings. The store became popular with Wall Street because of its centralized purchasing, which unfortunately meant lackluster merchaniding and a lack of attention to local tastes. They’ve been slumping badly for several years and I don’t think they’ve been able to benefit from the Macy/Federated problems..

    They still have stores in Cincinnati. They’ve closed several former Higbee stores. They were a poor steward of Higbee’s upper-middle niche in Cleveland. Higbee had successfully latched on to the upper income shoppers that once went to halle’s once Halle’s closed. Dillard cheapened and cluttered the downtown store before closing it (Dillard usually closed downtown stores after buying chains, so it was a novelty to keep one) and basically narrowed the merchandise range. If Macy had kept Field’s as it was, Field’s would simply have destroyed Dillard. Macy probably would best them, anyway. They run crappy, largely uniform stores and do best in sunbelt markets where the competition is basically the same. they seem to invest rather little in stores. The test stores in Chicago are an odd bunch–Dillard seems particularly clueless in serving middle class African-Americans (most of the Cleveland stores they closed all had that clientele); Ford City, Evergreen Park, and River Oaks seem like bad places to start for them.

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  22. Interesting, so Dillard’s was briefly thinking about opening test stores in several malls in Chicagoland, then pulled the plug on that idea? Didn’t realize Dillard’s was briefly considering doing that. The 3 malls(besides Woodfield) would’ve been interesting choices for having test stores at, since(and like Jonah said earlier) usually no retail chains do test/new prototype stores other than at Woodfield Mall.

    I apologize too for making an error about the number of stores Dillard’s has in Indiana earlier, they actually have 3 stores, and not 1. The other 2 stores(besides the one in Richmond, Indiana, and interestingly enough, I visited that store on my last trip to Richmond) are in Clarksville and Evansville.

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  23. i live in Michigan City and i know about the mall and i dont shop there. It has nothing to do with how it look we dont shop there because the stores are to high!!

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  24. I lived in Michigan City for 4 years & rarely went to the mall there at all… interestingly enough, I lived in Richmond, IN both before & after Michigan City, and the citizens of both places think of their hometown malls pretty much the same… basically: they suck …yes, Richmond has Dillard’s, & that’s the biggest draw at Richmond Square Mall– they built on a whole new wing to accomodate Dillard’s… I have so few memories of MC’s mall because we went there so rarely… we always went to South Bend or Merrillville for REAL malls, just like in Richmond, we go to Indy, Dayton, or Cincinnati

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  25. I’m looking for trhe fredmyers jewelers can i please get the the number or the correct website. Thank you

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  26. Dillard would offer nothing new to Chicago. They do well in Sunbelt markets but have faltered once they crossed the Mason-Dixon line.

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  27. I remember fondly Higbee’s in Downtown Cleveland. It was a top notch store with a great deal of class,and offered good service,and so on. Then Dillard’s dove in and it just wasn’t the same. They closed the Silver Grille,and most of the restaurants that were popular with Clevelanders. Dry-walled off the elegant first floor elevator lobby,and the recently before they closed the historical wooden escalators.

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  28. My boyfriend and I visited this mall about 6 months ago, on our way to Blue Chip. There’s not much there except the three anchors, a Bath & Body Works, several cell phone stores, and a card store. The fountains were dry and it was practically empty. Sad.

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  29. I grew up going to this mall. It was much more convenient to go to Marquette Mall than it was Southlake Mall. I can remember how nice the mall was when I was a small child (mid-late 70’s). It had the only Walgreens I ever knew to have a restaurant. Soon, however, it became a mall where you didn’t really feel safe. There were fights and theft. This mall is another example of what happens to an area as a result of “white flight.” When the money left, so did most of the stores. It saddens me because I have a lot of good childhood memories at that mall.

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  30. We use to go their now and then when they had a OCB. Its no longer their Im not really sure it if was replaced either. I recall walking around the mall in 2005 I could have sworn their was a Gamestop in their but last time i looked their was no gamestop.

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  31. Since I live between Valparaiso and Westville, I realized that Marquette Mall is actually closer to me than Southlake (where I usually shop), so I decided to give it a try. I was so sad when I did! Even though it is only one story high (except for Penneys), I think this mall would have a lot more potential if all the stores were filled. I worked at the Carson’s that used to be part of Woodmar Mall in Hammond for a while (fairly recently), and although I never saw Woodmar before the rest of it was torn down, Marquette kind of reminded me of how Woodmar must have been before they tore it down (from the stories I’ve heard), run-down and getting more and more barren. At least Marquette has three department stores, but they are significantly smaller than others in the area. It breaks my heart… I might visit Marquette again out of sympathy, but as for when I am having a “serious” shopping day, I’ll probably end up either at the Outlets or at Southlake. Sad, because this is a bit closer. Oh well.

    I do have a question for those of you that have been around the area longer than I have, though: Marquette’s website mentioned something about wheelchairs being available on the third floor (obviously not current). Did the mall used to have more than one level, or was this just a typo?

    Thanks.
    Di :)

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  32. I’m ashamed I shop at the outlets, and usually just drive right by this relic of an enclosed mall. The big “MARQUETTE MALL” lettering actually is pretty funny, I can’t help but wonder if they are trying to trick gullible travelers away from the outlet mall and into their mall. I remember going there once as a child, they had a karate tournament in the middle of the mall and I think some kind of children’s museum. Today when I drive by it looks pretty dead.

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  33. Former Mills is comin to NW Indiana FINALLY. NW Indiana rulez!!! Valpo Valpo Valpo!!!!! Now if you excuse me, Im late for my sex job.

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  34. I visit this mall a few times a year. Usually I just go into Carson’s (got a new Calvin Klein winter coat about a month ago – great deal).
    My last time here, I visited “the Mall” for the first time in years and it was really sad. It appears the three anchors are still doing well. Maybe a power strip could work better here.

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  35. We used to shop here when I was really young (early 70’s) – Southlake was too far away and too big for my parents. We also shopped here a lot in the 80’s and early 90’s when there were a lot of nice local chains and some national brands and the hardware store on the west side of the parking lot. Lighthouse Place really killed it off and they even had a “shop local” anti-LHP advertising campaign!

    Yeah, the Walgreen’s restaurant was pretty nice and I have very fond memories of the Sherwood Forest/Robin Hood themed restaurant at the SE entrance.

    High end and big purchases, however, were done (despite living in NW Indiana) on State Street at Field’s (who delivered our laundry detergent, etc, in bulk twice a year).

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  36. Man, this place used to have a cozy little arcade hidden where you’d normally think the bathrooms were — down a long walkway which looked almost like a service corridor. It had glass doors and everything, but was a neat little place. That was a long, long time ago.

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  37. What keeps the Sears, Carson’s and JC Penny going at Marquette Mall is those three company’s own their stores at the mall as opposed to leasing. Most of the interior leased space stores are either vacant only a handful have indoor flea market type merchants as tenants. The office tower is The Swanson Center, which is a secured mental health facility.

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  38. The JCPenney at this mall is now closed.

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  39. I walked through here a few weeks ago almost a decade after this was posted. You think this mall was dying then. No it was more lively then ever. I am looking at these pictures and I am laughing. Cell Phone store, Book Store, Applebees, OCB. Its all gone. This mall is 100% empty except Sears and the other retail store. A small acarde, and inflatable fun zone that smells like toddlers vomited in it which is very unplesant to walk past btw. and the only thing some people probably still come to the mall for is a big game trade and sale store….not game stop but none alas a nice store. I still wonder how this building stills stands with the only thing keeping a hold is Sears, the game store and the chinese buffet in the old OCB resturant. I had my 15th birthday at OCB and the mall was still lively. Now I walk through it and its scary to see these white plaster walls down a long corodor that use to have stores in them and the sound of just footsteps is scary enough. When you push open the doors in what looks to be once a food court it sounds like your pushing a hudge metal grate across the floor and it sends chills up your spine. Like nails on a chalk board.

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  40. Last year we went to our hometown for a visit and im am sad to say that the mall has only a hand full of shops open.

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