Beaver Dam Mall is a one-story, small enclosed shopping center located at the interchange of Hwy 151 and Business 151 North in Beaver Dam, WI (population: 15,000). Beaver Dam Mall opened in 1980, anchored by Woolco, Minnesota-based Herberger’s, and JCPenney. It was presumably built as part of the growing national trend for any decent sized city in America to have a shopping mall. The Hwy 151 bypass around Beaver Dam was slated for completion and the mall would be located on it, spurring a commercial strip along Business 151 leading north from downtown.
In 1983, the entire Woolco chain folded and that anchor closed. Not long after it was replaced with Wal-Mart. During the 1990s, Herberger’s was eventually acquired by the same company that operates Boston Store and Younkers. By the mid-2000s all the stores owned by this company (Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Younkers, Herbergers, Bergners) would brand exactly the same. In August of 2004, Wal-Mart opened a brand new Supercenter across Highway 151 from the mall and closed their smaller mall store; the mall parcel remains empty today. In January of 2005, JCPenney decided to throw an axe chop into the efforts to kill the mall and made their swift departure as well. In the past few years the number of vacancies within the mall have also increased despite the fact that as recently as 2000, there were several ubiquitous mall chains such as Bath and Body Works still operating. Sadly, I would definitely classify this mall in its current state as almost beyond repair.
The floor plan of Beaver Dam Mall is shaped like a carat(^), with Herberger’s in the middle and JCPenney and Wal-Mart abutting the ends (before they closed). There are entrances on all sides, but the main entrance is in the middle in front of Herberger’s. The decor of the mall appears original (ca. 1980) with no large-scale renovations; however, planters and mall seating areas have been more recently updated. Some stores in the mall, such as Regis Hairstylists, were shockingly still using their early 1980s-era stained wooden storefront and logo. This Regis was in operation in April 2004. It has closed since. Also, the Aurora Pharmacy looked like it was once an Osco Drug, but I’m not certain.
Why is Beaver Dam Mall faltering? I would cite mismanagement along with the national trend away from enclosed malls and toward strip malls with outside-only access. We already know about that trend, so let’s focus on what’s happening in Beaver Dam specifically. For one, Beaver Dam was never really large enough to support this type of mall, which is much more typical of a city twice Beaver Dam’s size. Also, Beaver Dam is about a half hour of the 1 million square foot, recently renovated East Towne Mall and every big box store under the sun in Madison. Forest Mall and many stores in Fond du Lac are about the same distance. Beaver Dam Mall could have also attempted to make Kohl’s fill space in the mall vacated by Wal Mart, which left about the same time Kohl’s opened across the street from the mall. To that tune, they could have also wooed the stores opening in both strip malls attached to the new Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, respectively, to the mall.
What’s next for Beaver Dam Mall? In 2006, a Slumberland furniture will open in the former JCPenney space. However, there are still a very large number of vacancies in the mall as well as the dead Wal-Mart anchor. It’s obvious that they haven’t scrapped the idea of the mall entirely, allowing an anchor to add onto it, but why did they allow this to happen in the first place? The law of diminishing returns definitely applies to these types of situations, so does reinvesting in the mall by adding Slumberland as an anchor make any sense? Is really going to bring the type of traffic to the mall that the few stores that are open need to survive? The mall still has Herberger’s as its saving grace, but for how long? Only time will tell. Any updates and additions to the information I’ve posted would be greatly appreciated.
Photos: April, 2004. Full list of tenants, April 2004: Wal-Mart, Herberger’s, JCPenney, Aurora Pharmacy, Flamingo Bay, Sterling Optical, Floral Expressions, Regis Hairstylists, Freier’s Fine Jewelry, Wonder Nails, Alexandra Jewelers, Claire’s Boutique, GNC, Emerson’s Hallmark, China Palace, Carlson’s Travel, CR Communications, and many empty spaces. Tenant list, early 2006: Herbergers, Flamingo Bay, China Palace, Wonder Nails, Floral Expressions, Sterling Optical and Evenson’s Hallmark.
UPDATE 5/29/2008: A few interesting, significant changes have been afoot at the former Beaver Dam Mall since we first posted almost two years ago. First, the mall has been renamed to Heritage Village Shops and Professional Center. And, as one of our commenters posted last fall, ownership has changed hands. The new local ownership, consisting of Dick and Todd Hedberg, Dave Fister and Jeff Kitchen, has begun to woo retailers back to the center. In addition, the mall has a website for the first time. The new website for Heritage Village Shops indicates future plans for bringing in a mix of local and national retail chains, dining and recreation destinations, and office-y businesses. The website also focuses on an area in the mall where comfy chairs and furniture are available for relaxing, the mall walking program, the farmers market, floral shop, the Chinese buffet, and the fact that the mall is climate controlled – a selling point often overlooked for enclosed retail centers in extreme climates.
We think this is an excellent path for the mall and really the only way it could be reconstituted as viable without major renovations. Such a small mall in an equally small market can only survive with local ownership who are willing to monitor the mall and be there regularly to work on its progress. It was said that the former owner, who lived about 5 hours away in Minnesota, did not care about the mall and did little when it lost all its stores over the past several years. This new ownership, new name and new logo should inject a reinvigoration for the mall, and become an effective metaphor for the new owners and their readiness to fix things up.
Hopefully we will see Heritage Village prosper in time, or at least hold its own by providing an adequate tenant mix to keep people coming inside. But first, they need to get the ball rolling, because as of right now there are only a small handful of businesses operating inside, including anchors Herberger’s and Slumberland Furniture, which replaced the former JCPenney. Once one or two tenants are in, others may trickle in as well, like a retail domino effect, and hopefully people in the area won’t need to drive to Madison or Fond du Lac as much for their shopping.
One question I have for someone who has been to the mall recently: Does the Slumberland have access into the mall or just an exterior entrance? Is it even open? The mall’s website has a pdf which shows Slumberland, but the tenant roster does not indicate it at all. Hmmm.