University Mall; South Burlington, Vermont

Mall Entrance to University Mall in South Burlington, VT

A few weeks ago I started talking about my day trip up to Vermont, and then I uhh, stopped. Sorry about that. Let’s pick back up at University Mall in South Burlington, which is the largest enclosed mall in Vermont.

Of course, this being Vermont and not Los Angeles, the claim of being the state’s largest mall doesn’t mean it’s terribly large. With about 607,000 square feet and around 70 stores, the University Mall is only moderately-sized by most standards. Located on Dorset Street just off I-89, I’m guessing the University Mall was built sometime in the 1970s or early 1980s but renovated within the last five or six years. I visited only once before, in 2000, and I remember it being quite a bit different. Since then it’s been given a new, bright color scheme, and some of the tenants have changed.

University Mall is a decidedly suburban, middle-income suburban mall, with Sears, The Bon-Ton, JCPenney, and Kohl’s as anchor stores. The Bon-Ton store was one of New England’s few Steinbach locations until the chain folded in the 1990s, and the Kohl’s store was an Ames until that chain folded in 2002. The mall is organized in a long “L” shape, with high ceilings and wide corridors. For the most part, the decor is very pleasant and attractive, with a bit of a modern Starbucks/Pottery Barn scheme (complete with cushy couches in faux living room arrangements) that a lot of malls seem to be employing nowadays. My favorite architectural features are the high, sloping rooflines that housed long windows and the brightly-colored honeycomb ceilings in the mall’s largest court, near Sears.

Burlington is a small city, with a population of around 38,000, though it is larger than it sounds because its surrounded by a large handful of sizeable suburbs. That said, it actually has two malls–both this one, and Burlington Town Center in downtown Burlington. University Mall seems to have some of the more suburban tenants while many of the higher-end fashion retailers seem to have migrated towards the city’s center.

Incidentally, there used to be a third mall in the Burlington area: the curiously named Mall 189, located in South Burlington at the junction of US-7 and I-189. Anchored by a TJMaxx and housing under 200,000 square feet of floor space, it died sometime in the late 1990s. If you have information or pictures from when it was alive, I’d love to hear from you.

University Mall entrance in South Burlington, VT The Bon-Ton at University Mall in South Burlington, VT University Mall in South Burlington, VT

Center court at University Mall in South Burlington, VT University Mall in South Burlington, VT Kohl's wing at University Mall in South Burlington, VT University Mall in South Burlington, VT

Food court at University Mall in South Burlington, VT University Mall in South Burlington, VT Center court at University Mall in South Burlington, VT University Mall in South Burlington, VT

22 Responses to “University Mall; South Burlington, Vermont”

  1. I remember going to this mall as a kid on family road trips down to the USA. We used to live in Montreal and so every summer we’d head down to the Plattsburgh & Burlington area every couple of weekends. I remember this mall had a great collectibles store where you could buy those balsam wood airplanes. They were so much fun, especially when camping. I seem to remember a McDonald’s in the parking lot, and a Days Inn very nearby as well.

    You mentioned mall 189, which I believe was directly opposite this mall on the other side of I 89. There was a Barnes & Noble there and a really big grocery superstore, not a Costco or Wal-Mart, it was a local New England retailer, Mike’s or Mark’s something??

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    Vince Mercuri Reply:

    @Tyguy, me too

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  2. the ames was a zayre and the mall was built in 1979 and jc penny opened 1992. it was remodeled last year.

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  3. sears was constructed in 1998.

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  4. Along with Zayre an original anchor of the Mall was a branch of Almy’s, Boston chain of department stores. Almy.s closed aroudn 1988.

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  5. Regarding the August 06 post, the plaza you are speaking of was Gaynes Plaza, now Staples Plaza. Gaynes was a local Ames type store. Barnes & NOble and Price Chopper were there as well. Barnes & Noble moved across from the Umall and Price Chopper down to Shelburne Road.
    The Mall 189 waslocated at the intersection of Shelburne Road (Route 7) and Interstate 189. I remember it was more of an “outlet” mall. Linens & Things was there. Can’t really remember any other stores, except TJMaxx which is now across the street.
    Mall 189 was demolished sometime in the late 90s early 2000s and is now a small strip ctr with a Shaws Supermarket, STarbucks, Radio Shack, and a handfull of other small stores.

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  6. Don’t forget the “Blue Mall” across from the Unioversity Mall in South Burlington. Currently housing Outback Steakhouse, Presto Music, Clays, a nail salon, a mattress store, Play it again Sports, Sally Beauty Supply, Big League Haircutters, electrolux, UPS Store, Wings Over Burlington, Sylvan Learning Center, Replays, LA Weight Loss, CitiBank financial, Vt Sandwich Company, Dollar Store, a shoe store and a few other miscellaneous stores.

    Previous tenents: Radio shack, Bed Bath and Beyond, a pet store, a small convenience store (in the very early days), a Freihoffer’s Outlet, The Party Store, Mailboxes, etc, Friendly’s Restaurant, Dairy Queen…that’s about all I remember there.

    I lived in South Burlington for over 20 years.

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  7. Is the “Blue Mall” enclosed?

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  8. Interesting write-up about this mall, that (sadly) I only discovered now after so long. Really dig the sloping roof decor of the mall, and the faux living room seating is interesting, and seems a little more elaborate than the types of elaborate seating I’ve seen at other malls.

    Is it safe for me to assume that the circular skylights in the shape of a tic-tac-toe board are probably original to whenever this mall was built?

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  9. The Blue Mall is not enclosed –it’s a srtip mall in the shape of a “U”. Look here:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=blue+mall+dorset+street,+south+burlington,+vt&ie=UTF8&ll=44.464854,-73.179819&spn=0.001382,0.002494&t=h&z=19

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  10. Blue Mall is not enclosed and other than the hospital thrift shop and my husband’s hairdresser, I really find no need to shop there. Parking is a pain!

    I’ve been here for 32 years and can go into a little of the mall’s histories.

    Mall 189 was originally a Grandway department store (pretty sure that’s the right name). It closed when I was young – maybe 8 tops – so that makes it at least 30 years ago. Eventually they took the place and turned it ito a decent mall. TJ Maxx was there, a decent shoe store, RadioShack, a gourmet popcorn store, lots of clothing stores, and then a candy store. It used to be a treat to go there, but they shut down during my first pregnancy when TJ Maxx opted to move across the street to the space P&C, later Price Chopper, (grocery) held. Sears moved to the University Mall and Price Chopper moved to Sears’ space. There was also Service Merchandise, but they shut down and eventually became an Ashely’s furniture store. Meanwhile, the Mall 189 building was demolished to make room for a huge Shaw’s. There’s also a pizza place and a few other small stores there now.

    University Mall opened, I’m going to say in the late 1970s. Originally, there was Zayre’s where Kohl’s is now. Zayres sat by itself, but in the 1980s the mall was expanded putting in the new wing that connected the mall and the Zayres building. Zayres was bought out by Ames and that store did incredibly well. Not only did my mom lose her job in their offices, but the area lost a decent department store. Almy’s anchored the other end and was another decent store but that closed when I was in my teens, I had a friend working there sophomore year, so around 1986ish.

    The food court area of the mall was once the drugstore/pharmacy, I think it was a CVS, but that’s testing my memory. The mall’s main food stores were Papa Gino’s and then a neat burger joint that was called Friar Tucks or something like that. They both went in late 1980s/early 1990s.

    Papa Ginos also had a restaurant in the Burlington Square Mall (now the Burlington Town Centre). For whatever reason, they shut down in Vermont and are now looking to come back into the state. Personally, I think they’re too late. We have pizza joints all over the place and I think that market’s over run.

    Someone mentioned the shopping center where Gaynes and P&C was. Gaynes is another store that I miss. Gaynes turned into B&N and Staples as they said, but they moved to be closer to the mall when the movie theater on Dorset Street shut down. Staples is still there. There is a clothing store for big and tall men, Coconuts, Michael’s Crafts, and a car dealer. Where P&C was is now PetCo and a cell phone store. Either way, that was a shopping center, not a mall.

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  11. The pharmacy was a Welby Superdrug. It moved into Martin’s Foodstore (now Hannaford) when Martin’s moved from where they would build the new Zayres (now Kohls). I miss the old layout as a kid; the “food court” was a bunch of tables set up around where Customer Service is now. Musicland was where Bath & Body Works is now, next to Kinney Shoes and then Waldenbooks, Hallmark. Hallmark moved across the hall and Waldenbooks into the new expansion when they blasted through for the new Sears anchor and garage.

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  12. Tracy talked about Grand Way just north of 189 on 7. I think there was also a Grand Union next door (both were owned by the Grand Union company), and there was an opening to get from one to the other. I believe there was some sort of fast food establishment on the right hand side as you faced the “mall” (strip mall, really), possibly an Arby’s. I don’t recall any other stores in there.

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  13. Mall 189:

    I remember the Arby’s that was at Mall 189. There was also a Arby’S on Williston road near University Mall.

    What was the Hardware store besides the Martin’s at University Mall?

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  14. I worked at the U-mall in the eighties…Remember “The Great HotDog Experience”? It was a hot dog vendor where Annie’s pretzels is now…
    Bj’s Ice Cream was next to This End Up furniture and Merle Norman Cosmetics, all in the row where Things Rembered is now. Radio Shack and Spencer’s Gifts surprisingly are still there, in the same spots….Designs, the Levi store was where GNC and the new hallway to get to Sears are now. If I also remember correctly,Papa Gino’s was on one end of the mall and Wendy’s was on the other.There was no food court,then.The current location of Hallmark used to be Chess King. Where victorias Secret was, used to be Thom McCann shoes. this brought back some awesome memories of when I was a mall rat!

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    Matt Reply:

    @rob,

    The hardware store was a Hilson’s, I think.

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  15. Was that the Arby’s that is now Craft Barn? I believe they went rapidly through a few faces, including a strip joint that closed as soon as it was opened, practically, due to a sudden change of mind by the local government when citizens complained. The…entrepreneur in that case had several thriving clubs in sunnier, more free-loving climes, like Rutland. This back in the mid-90′s…not the same theme as the malls, but the only other strip club I can think of, also on Williston Road, was Vinnie’s HotSpot, which I think had been there for years, though on the fringes of the downtown area, not right off rte 89 like the Arby’s, now Craft Barn strippery. What ever happened to ol’ Vinnie, I wonder, and why the sudden cooling of the HotSpot (now a cell phone/paging company)?

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  16. I just finished my Christmas shopping at the U-Mall this week and picked up this interesting tidbit. I was there on a Tuesday night, and there was some sort of “game show”-type presentation involving kids and presents going on in front of JCPenney. While I was within earshot, the announcer stated that not only was this Vermont’s largest mall (which is no surprise given how often it’s mentioned in promo material), but that University Mall is currently the only mall in the country that is family-owned. Despite mention on their website that Finard Properties manages the mall, it’s interesting (and makes sense!) that the only remaining family-owned indoor mall is in Vermont, where family-owned business are most supported.

    While the GGP-owned Burlington Town Center has more of the stores I do clothes-shopping in, it’s a pleasant surprise to see that the U-Mall has held its own, even while having stores overlapped from the Town Center as well (American Eagle, Gap, Bath & Body, etc.). The U-Mall is also way ahead of the Town Center in its dining options – not only is there the IHOP joining Applebee’s as a sit-down restaurant, but U-Mall’s food court is the nicest mall food court I’ve ever seen as far as layout and diversity of food choices, including Dunkin’ Donuts and a Ben & Jerry’s. (The food court also carries Chittenden County’s only Taco Bell, which alone makes it worth the visit!)

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  17. Dont forget before P & C in Staples plaze you had the First National Grocery Store with Gaynes.

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  18. Was that the Arby’s that is now Craft Barn?

    Yes and I think it was a Dairy Queen before it was an Arby’s.

    But I’m 100 % sure there was an Arby’s at Mall 189, because I ate there several times.

    It closed before they one on Williston road. They one in Plattsburgh closed also at the same time.

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  19. Man, I sure wish there was an Arby’s in the Burlington area still. Apparently there’s not an Arby’s in all of Vermont now, and not even in North Eastern New York (Glenn’s Falls is the closest.). Boy, that roast beef sandwich and beef ‘n cheddar on the $1 menu sure sound good.

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    Mario I Reply:

    @Jason,

    There still one in Massena New York. I went in Late June. It was not bad, not the best Arby’s in the USA.
    Glenn’s Falls Arby’s is better.

    Ottawa Ontario has a new one since January 2010, I heard it’s excellent. The used to have 3 locations but they closed about the same time the Montreal locations closed. (1995)

    Arby’s rules

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