Located in north central Indiana about 90 miles east of Chicago, South Bend, Indiana is home to the legendary Notre Dame University and for almost a hundred years was also the home of the Studebaker auto empire. In addition, South Bend is the anchor of the entire Michiana region, a 7-county area of north central Indiana and southwest Michigan containing over 800,000 people. Today, South Bend’s population exceeds 100,000, and an intermodal transportation network featuring two cross country interstates (80 and 90) combined with interurban rail links to Chicago make South Bend an enviable location.
South Bend, along with its twin city to the east Mishawaka, share two main retail areas. The largest and most dominant of these retail zones is located on the north and east sides of South Bend, extending into Mishawaka. It features numerous strip malls, big box, restaurants, and the area’s only enclosed super-regional center, University Park Mall. A secondary retail area is located on the south side of South Bend, located mostly along Ireland Road and S. Michigan Street, and it was centered around South Bend’s first regional enclosed mall, Scottsdale Mall.
Scottsdale Mall opened in 1971, anchored by Montgomery Ward, L.S. Ayres, and Ayr-Way, L.S. Ayres’s discount box. Scottsdale Mall appealed to the entire Michiana region and as it was their first mall, it became extremely popular. The two-level mall continued to be successful throughout the 1970s, as it had little to no competition in the area.
Then, in 1979, University Park Mall opened across town in Mishawaka, which not only established strong competition for Scottsdale Mall, but also shifted the entire region’s retail focus from south to northeast. However, throughout the 1980s, Scottsdale Mall held its own against University Park, even as more retail and big box was opening near University Park and not on the south side of South Bend near Scottsdale Mall. Also, in 1980, the Ayr-Way chain closed upon its sale to the Dayton-Hudson (Target) Corporation, and the Scottsdale Mall location reopened in 1981 as Target.
In order to compete with the newer University Park Mall, and attract more retail to its side of town, Scottsdale Mall embarked on a multi-million dollar top to bottom renovation, which was complete in 1993. The new development brought an early-90s, very colorful, pastel, rainbow-brite-threw-up-here vibe to the mall; but before this, Scottsdale was already tanking, and the LS Ayres store abruptly closed in January 1992 citing poor sales. It would later reopen, but the 1992 closure cast a pall on the store, and on the mall itself, from which both would never recover. By the late 1990s, the mall was once again tanking; vacancy rates were growing, and national chains began closing, being replaced by either local stores or nothing at all. Meanwhile, fortunes on the other side of town were growing ever greater, as throughout the 90s more national chains and box strip opened in and around the vicinity of University Park Mall.
The final throws to the Scottsdale Mall dunk tank came in 2000, when L.S. Ayres announced they were closing (again), and Montgomery Ward announced they were going out of business at the end of the year. Losing these two anchors proved devastating to Scottsdale Mall, and it never recovered.
By 2003, only a handful or so of stores were left in the mall, along with Target and a popular movie theatre. Unfortunately this was not enough to keep the mall afloat, and it was sold, closed, and promptly torn down in 2004; only Target was to remain at the site. Interestingly, a lot of the mom-and-pop stores moved about 15 minutes east to Elkhart’s Concord Mall. Also, unil the very end, the management was too lazy to update the directories, which still featured L.S. Ayres and Wards.
A short time after Scottsdale Mall became a pile of scrap metal and dust, a new strip-mall like development called Erskine Village began construction on the same site and opened in 2005. The new development features TJMaxx, Kohls, Target, Petsmart, several restaurants, and a strip of outward facing smaller stores. Erskine Village, not surprisingly, has been slow to get off the ground, and it certainly lacks the community and place-inspired memories an enclosed mall evokes. However, I suppose if people wanted that they would have patronized Scottsdale. Oh well.
We visited Scottsdale a few times before it got the axe; however, the pictures featured here are from a contributor and were taken in December 2003, a few months before the mall closed permanently. For clarification, the ad for the TV series was up from Summer 1999 until the mall was torn down. Feel free to leave your comments and experiences.