East Towne Mall; Madison, Wisconsin

East Towne Mall main entrance in Madison, WI

Located in the south-central part of the state, Madison is not only Wisconsin’s second largest city, but the state capital, home to the high-ranking University of Wisconsin at Madison, and historically is known as a progressive hotbed of political activity.  With a population of over 200,000, metropolitan Madison has a population of over 500,000, including most of Dane County (which is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island).  The city is located on an isthmus between two beautiful lakes (with several more in the area) and is aesthetically gorgeous, especially during summer months.  In addition, over the years Madison has claimed numerous awards and ranks attesting to its livability, intellectual capacity, and beauty, such as #1 city in America, healthiest city for men, one of five emerging spots for Biotech in the world, and rather surprisingly, most romantic city in the country.  I agree completely, but I also live here so I’m pretty biased. 

East Towne Mall JCPenney in Madison, WIEast Towne Mall opened in former farm fields along East Washington Avenue (Highway 151) near Interstate 90/94 in 1971, a year after West Towne Mall, its twin across town.  East Towne was originally anchored by Sears, JCPenney, H.C. Prange & Company (a mid-tier department store chain based out of Sheboygan), Prange Way (Prange’s discount store chain), and Gimbels (a Milwaukee-based chain).  East Towne Mall was developed by Cleveland-based Richard Jacobs, but now it is owned and managed by CBL Properties

As the years passed, East Towne found itself the centerpiece of an explosive area of rapid retail growth, drawing the traditional shopping base away from downtown Madison which is five miles away.  Condos, strip malls, chain hotels, fast food and chain restaurants, and big box all exploded onto what once were pastoral farm fields in the far-reaches of Madison, enveloping them with buildings as far as the eye could see.  Today, the sprawl has extended far beyond East Towne and even the Interstate, and blurs into Sun Prairie, Cottage Grove, and DeForest to the north and east.

East Towne Mall in Madison, WIEast Towne has always enjoyed success, but in varying degrees.  From the 70s on through the 1980s the mall enjoyed a great deal of success.  In 1986, the Gimbels became a Boston Store location after Gimbels went belly up.  In 1992, another anchor shift occurred, as Pranges became Younkers (an Iowa-based chain) following the demise of Pranges. 

Through the 1990s and into the 00s, East Towne stagnated significantly, not attracting many emerging, popular stores and simultaneously losing some it already had.  The reasons for this stagnation are do to demographics and the competition resulting.  West Towne Mall, almost 20 miles away, has long been considered the best mall in Madison, always drawing the best mall retailers.  Abercrombie & Fitch, Williams-Sonoma, H&M, Godiva, and J Crew and other top-tier mall retailers have chosen West Towne to showcase their only store in Madison. 

But why is this?

Madison has always been a very economically (and racially) segregated city.  The east side, where East Towne is, has always been the more industrial, working-class side of town.  The west side, which is larger, has always been collectively wealthier, stemming historically from university professors and faculty choosing to build their nice homes on the near west side.  Even today, many businesses who only have one store in Madison have chosen to locate only on the west side, even though many chains (including big box) have duplicate east and west locations.  In 2003, Madison’s first lifestyle center, Greenway Station, opened on the west side (in Middleton), featuring many popular top-tier offerings not found on the east side.  I grew up about half an hour from East Towne but we rarely visited. West Towne was always so dominant during my childhood despite East Towne actually being closer.   

East Towne Mall in Madison, WI 

As the 00s began, East Towne found itself stagnating and had earned a reputation of being Madison’s second-class mall to West Towne.  Unwilling to let East Towne go further downhill, CBL decided a major overhaul of both Madison malls was in order in 2003.  At both malls, the Younkers locations closed and Boston Store moved into their respective spaces, as Saks consolidated their southern Wisconsin stores into one banner.  This paved the way for a major remodel of both malls as the former Boston Store locations were razed for the construction of Dick’s Sporting Goods locations as well as additional mall space.  For East Towne, it meant the addendum of a fifth, but short, short side wing ending at the Dick’s anchor (the old Boston Store anchor used to face the mallway directly), and also the expansion ofEast Towne Mall directory in Madison, WI the adjacent Dunham’s Sporting Goods space, replacing it with Gordman’s (a discount department store chain based in Omaha).  In addition to the expansion, the entire mall was remodeled with new flooring and signage and a new Steve and Barry’s was tacked onto the back of the mall near where the old theatres were.  The food court was also renovated losing its “Tastes of the Towne” name, and a Barnes and Noble was added adjacent to it at the same time.  All of the renovations were complete by Fall 2003.  This latest renovation has very solidly repositioned East Towne as a top-tier mall without question, once again able to compete with West Towne in the market. 

The pictures featured here were taken November 2006, with the exception of the first image which was provided by EMJ Corporation.  If you have any comments or experiences related to the mall feel free to share them.  In addition, if you have any photos (especially vintage) of East Towne feel free to contribute them as well. 

East Towne Mall Gordmans in Madison, WI East Towne Mall Dick's in Madison, WI East Towne Mall in Madison, WI

East Towne Mall in Madison, WI East Towne Mall in Madison, WI East Towne Mall in Madison, WI

East Towne Mall in Madison, WI East Towne Mall Barnes and Noble in Madison, WI East Towne Mall food court in Madison, WI

East Towne Mall in Madison, WI East Towne Mall Dick's in Madison, WI East Towne Mall Steve and Barry's in Madison, WI

East Towne Mall Boston Store (former Younkers/Pranges) in Madison, WI East Towne Mall Boston Store (former Younkers/Pranges) in Madison, WI East Towne Mall Sears in Madison, WI 

East Towne Mall main entrance in Madison, WI


62 thoughts on “East Towne Mall; Madison, Wisconsin”

  1. The remodel actually took from about February 2003, and was completed that November. You had 2004 down as the completion year. I got to watch the mall transformed from its older look to its current appearance through that year as I visited at least 5-6 times in 2003 alone.

    Speaking of its older appearance, it was not changed much from 1971 until 2003, save for some slight alterations in the late 1980s when the food court and several mall shops (FYE, then Record Town / Saturday Matinee, the old Payless Shoes location, and a couple others…these former storefronts are all now Barnes & Noble) were built onto the front entry of the mall. All it got at this point was just some new lighting and new floor tile…also if there were any fountains, those had to of been ripped out at this point. Other than that, the appearance remained intact until the big overhaul. The mall at that time was actually a little brighter.

    I like the new look more. It has that ‘moody’ aura of malls long gone that featured darker walkways and more interesting light fixtures.

    The JCPenney here once bore the ‘Penneys’ monkier, but this was pulled down in the late 1980s/early ’90s. The building still has that old-school ‘Penneys’ look though.

    East Towne is the mall I always preference when I’m in town. While West Towne is nice, it’s too ‘fashion’ oriented, whereas East Towne has more variety. E. Towne also has the more interesting layout (as shown on the picture of the mall directory you have here) out of the two.

  2. So that Steve & Barry’s was built from scratch?

  3. Yeah, Steve & Barry’s wasn’t there prior to the renovation. It was just a mall entrance, and where the bus stop was.

    The fountains were actually a major centerpiece of East Towne prior to the renovation in the late 1980s. I miss malls with fountains….ahh the chlorine and cigarette smell as you walk through the doors. Definitely better without the cigarette smoke though.

  4. I second what Matt said, I especially love how they added stringed lights to the mall(featured in pics 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, and 20) during the 2003 renovation.

    Too bad I never got to see the interior of this mall, since I definately recall eating at a Culver’s that was right in the shadow of the mall when I visited Madison I believe in 2003/2004, plus even stayed at a motel close to this mall(and I visited around what I’ll guess was shortly after the mall’s renovation was complete, or around the time when the mall renovation was almost complete).

  5. That JCPenney building looks different than any that I’ve seen. I like the changes that CBL did right after they purchased the mall. The food court in particular has a warm and cozy feeling.

  6. Those stringed lights are Christmas decor. They’re not up on a normal day outside of that holiday period.

    I also like what they did with the food court most of all. Beforehand, it looked very ’80s, with neon accent lighting and lots of pastels. Now it’s more pleasing to the eye, and ..as stated, has that cozy warm feeling.

  7. Didn’t realize that myself about the stringed lights. It’s just I started to think of older malls where they did have stringed lights(and/or decorative lighting), usually in interior mall areas right in front of anchor stores(a la pics I’d seen on this blog of Pekin Mall, and of certain malls on the Malls of America blog).

    Even as Christmas decor, I still think it looks very nice, obviously.

  8. Regarding the JCPenney building looking different, it’s not suprising to me because many JCPenneys don’t have the exact same look in that many of them are proabably in older buildings from the 70’s or 80’s,and in the rarerest 60’s.

  9. I can say for sure that JCPenney never had any consistancy in their building prototypes, especially during the 1960s through the late 1970s. They probably chose building designs that went best with the rest of the mall.

    The JCPenney at West (1970) and East Towne (1971) in Madison both look indentical, and the JCP at North Riverside Park Mall (Opened 1976-1977 North Riverside IL) and the former location in Port Plaza (1977) in Green Bay, and finally the Regency Mall (Racine, 1981) and Fox River Mall (Appleton, 1984) all had the same prototype of their respective eras. Other than these pairings though, there’s little consistancy.

    Likewise with Sears…..though to a lesser extent. It was more the signage on their stores that wasn’t consistant through the years.

    Actually my favorite slice of the mall exterior has to be the Boston Store building here, in what was a Pranges (with a small ‘Prange Way’ section off to the east side of the store). Other than the signs and the door facades being redone, the rest is vintage 1971, though West Towne’s Boston Store (again, in a former Pranges) is even better in terms of its exterior ‘retro’ appearance. You guys should blog this mall in the future.

    Got to admit though….it’s nice to see different building styles. Sure beats seeing the same ‘big bland grey boxes’ that now clutter the nation’s sprawl areas.

  10. Its interesting that JCPenney didn’t stick much with a single prototype look during the ’70s and early ’80s(since I thought they did, like say, many store chains and/or restaurant chains that expanded in this era(i.e. Marshall Field’s, IHOP, Bennigan’s, etc.)). But hey, maybe you might be right about JCPenney not having a single prototype used in all their stores(its just one of those things I probably never have closely looked at enough to know for sure if there are any similarities between their stores, or not).

    Of those malls you mentioned, I only very occasionally(and infrequently) make it out to the North Riverside Mall area. I guess I’ll just have to make a closer observation of this JCPenney(and of other ones I see occasionally, a la the Golf Mill JCPenney), the next time I’m in the area, so I can figure out if there are any similarities/differences between the stores. (not to mention I also imagine and will guess the JCPenney out at Golf Mill has probably been around since at least the mid or late ’70s, if not earlier)

  11. Actually, JCPenney was very consistent in its design ideas from store to store, especially back in the day. The basic prototype was the two-story box with a third-story mechanical penthouse used as a decorative feature more often than not. There were showcases most times but occasionally not, and the escalators tended to be located in the center of the store in a cris-cross fashion, with the escalator well itself staying cosistent in design between stores.

    On early frestanding Penneys Auto Centers, the styling was nearly identical from store to store, but by 1971, the main store details began influencing the auto center design. Eventaully, the Auto Centers began to be integrated into the stores themselves, with many stores from 1978-82 sporting old garage doors on the side farthest from the mall that were painted over or bricked shut.

    The exterior design details varied a lot (especially prior to 1978 or so), but the same basic themes carried through if you look at enough of the stores (especially with a side-by-side comparasin).

  12. Does anyone have any pictures of the East Towne Mall interior concourses at night? Also, any picture of the main central court with the lofted ceiling with the skylight cubes in it and the 4 large columns? The reason I am asking for these images is because I am a Architectural Engineering -Lighting/Electrical Student at Penn State and we have a class project of creating a redesigned lighting layout for the East Towne Mall. We came across all the photos that were previously posted, but could not get a sense of what goes on at night or at that main court from those pictures. These images would be extremely helpful for our class if anyone has them and could post them.

  13. Having grown up on the west side of Madison, I can attest to the loyalty one has for the mall on “their side” of town. West Towne has been and always will be the higher end mall (just like the side of town it’s on), but the area around East Towne has grown substantially this past decade, mostly due to the retail activity around the mall itself.
    The recent renovations have done a great job at making both malls viable to survive another 35+ years, but I do miss some of the great features they used to have. While I was growing up in the late 80s/early 90s, both malls had massive fountains in their center courts. I remember you could hear the sound of the crashing waterfall from almost anywhere in the mall. East Towne also had many sunken seating areas throughout that I always thought were fun to run around in and, if I remember correctly, there were also mini-fountains by the seating areas. They both also had a “streetscape” look with lantern-like lighting and dark brick that dated the malls quite nicely. One thing about East Towne that I was always jealous of, was that they had a movie theater in the mall itself (the theater at West Towne was in the parking lot). East Towne also had a much bigger arcade than West Towne’s Aladdin’s Castle.
    As was previously mentioned, when the food courts were added in the early 90’s, the fountains were all taken out and a more generic look was applied to the malls. The arcade at West Towne was actually around until the late 90’s as well as the 3 screen West Towne Cinema that was torn down around 2000 (but it was in pretty bad shape towards the end!). Both malls serve their purpose well as regional malls for the area as well as the city of Madison.

    I discovered this site when there was story run in the Wisconsin State Journal about another mall in Madison, Westgate. I’ve really enjoyed reading all the posts and learning about the ever changing retail environment around the country. Keep up the great work!

  14. I am looking for pictures of East Towne Mall at Christmas, specifically the decorations placed a top the center fountain (animitronic scenes depicting night before christmas) years 1974 – 1980. This was such a magical part of my childhood. If you have anything please email me, kjl3694@yahoo.com

  15. If anyone has any pictures of East Town Mall from 89-93 (that include the fountains, sunken seating, lantern like lightning and the brick that used to be in there) please let me know email me at heavymetalfan666@hotmail.com This was a big part of my childhood and I would like any pictures if possible of it.

  16. Also, if it’s any help as to what this mall somewhat looked like before renovation in 03, there was no Dick’s sporting goods and Steve and Barry’s. There was no fifth wing to the mall (by Dick Sporting goods) until renovation started. I remember it just having a long line of store’s like Dunham’s, Halloween/Christmas Express, Kaybee Toys, The Buckle and Younkers down the line until all were gone in late 02. I also remember Sam Goody, and the Cinema being down where Steve and Barry’s is now as that was basically just the back of the mall where the Bus Stop was. I also remember before Barne’s and Noble’s was added there was Record Town/FYE and Payless in the front of the Mall, as it didn’t really extend out quite as deep as it does now. I spent a good chunk of my childhood in this mall as I remember it quite well. Too bad they had to get rid of the Fountain in the middle, the sunken seating in the 2 side wings of the mall (which I believe someone mentioned they also had small fountains, I remember them as well) and I really miss the lantern style lighting with brick throughout the mall. It was a nice vintage feel to it that I haven’t seen again in quite sometime. If anyone has pictures like I said from about 89-93 which I think is the period that had alot of what I mentioned, please email me. A very big thanks.

  17. Does anyone know if there was ever a Pondarosa resturant located in the East Mall?
    Thank you

  18. I recall a steak house type restaurant to the right of the original front door,
    the space then became a discount drug store and is now a candy shop. Barnes and Noble was added on in front of that space.

    I miss the movie theaters inside the mall; wasn’t there a Burger King nearby?

  19. I’m looking for pictures of the fountains at Both East and West towne Malls or any old Mall Directories from1980-96 coreyc@tds.net

  20. Don’t forget to send anything you might have this way, too. I also grew up with this mall, even though we went to West Towne more often.

  21. I grew up in the madison suburbs in the seventies and early eighties. east town mall was a big part of my life. we typically went there after church on sundays. We had lunch at york steakhouse – the place nick was inquiring about above. it was much like ponderosa, maybe more upscale?

    I practically lived at hobby horse back then – models, rockets, toys, etc…we purchased most of our clothes at gimbels, the large anchor department store at the rear of the mall. other stores i recall fondly are merry-go-round, buddy squirl nuts, dartmouth, hughs & hatcher (sp?) and playback – the electronic playground

    One very interesting store at the mall in the 70’s was a headshop! it was called the moon fun shop. it sold bongs, pipes, posters, masks, magic tricks and the alike. does anyone remember this???? i’d be very curious.

    thanks for hosting this great site.

  22. Wow…absoulutely! Remember Moonfun, right next to Alladins. Than you got Hot Sam across the hall, past a fountain. Next to that, the T-shirt shop, that had the window wall. This was nice, cause when you were lined up to see a movie (OMG, remember people lining up to see movies?! The 70’s) (Yes, west-side Tim, it was inside the mall), you could peer into the shop and view the new T-shirt designs. Done with the movie, go down the hall a little bit to the Burger King (yes, in the mall) Is it still there?? Spencers gifts!! The posters in the back. Fart spray, pet rocks, funky dancing lightbulbs…Black lights! Hobby horse on the corner as you turn out the wing…

    Wow, I loved that place. Lived there. We’d take the bus to east towne, downtown, whatever…eight years old, unsupervised. A different time. “Cat from outerspace” oh yeah! The sunken “crash pads” for adults, adventurelands for the kiddies… Anyone remember the BAR in the mall… I believe it was called something like the “underground” and you took some funky stairs below the mall to party at the mall?? I was a little to young to have enjoyed it, but I swear it was there. How weird to think nowadays. The christmas-time centerpiece with all the anamatronic kids in their beds, walls of snow. Even after christmas…the massive fountains, smell of chlorine, the constant pounding of water…. i really miss Madison! Take care of my city people….

  23. The Christmas lights made me think the mall was a bit dated, based on other examples on this site…

    What’s with the cars? Is there a convention, or is it a trend? See, my local mall is CBL-owned and I don’t think I’ve ever been to the mall where there hasn’t been a car on display…

  24. Dave, Yes, we are still taking care of the city. To a large degree it’s still 20 square miles surrounded by reality. To cop the phrase of a recently deceased ex-governor.

    Unfortunately, other than downtown most of madtown’s retail scene looks just about like everywhere else in america. Even state street is losing it’s local flavor (& characters).

    Regarding the bar in east town. I was never familiar with anything downstairs of the mall. I dont think it was ever open to the public. There was however a bar across from the mall from the theater entrance called The Backstage. It had 4 or 5 old movie posters on the mall wall indicating it’s presence.

    The recessed seating areas were the only place smoking was allowed, if i’m not mistaken. They were heavily landscaped with artificial plants…

    Do you recall the number of fountains in the mall. I believe there were 4. A large center fountain, two at either end of the anchor arms and one outside gimbels. Those fountains made that place sing.

    Ever have the opportunity to eat at the old Mc Crory’s (sp?) lunch counter?
    and hum to the man playing the hammond organ at forbes Maegher on your way out the mall’s main door…ahh memories…

    On Wisconsin!

  25. Why did they get rid of the fountains and sunken seating areas, anyway? Was it too costly to operate or what? I think they just wanted more selling space for all the stupid kiosks.

    The place is so boring now, even though they renovated and added Dick’s, Gordmans and Steve & Barrys. I’ve lived in Madison for 8 years and usually shop at West Towne, but that’s boring too? As a kid 15-20 years ago we’d always come to Madison to shop too, but I can only barely remember the fountains and sunken areas. I think in the late 80s or early 90s they remodeled and took them out for that drab renovation which lasted until the most recent one.

    Where was this secret basement bar located?? I wonder if there are any remnants of it left today. I remember the old Brat & Brau in the “Tastes of the Towne” food court – doesn’t get more Wisconsiny than that.

    Was there ever a Manchester’s (old-school local dept. store) at this mall, or was that only West Towne?

  26. I don’t believe there was ever a manchester’s at east town. I only remember penney’s, sears, gimbels, and pranges/prange-way. We started shopping there shortly after the place opened in the early seventies.
    The only Manchester’s I remember was the one on the square, downtown. This would have been in 83/84. I remember it cause it was my first year at UW and we’d walk up state street to eat at the lunch counter at woolworths. Manchesters was right across the street. Both closed were closed by 85.
    Manchesters had one of the old steel automatic parking garages. You would drive the car on an elevator lift to hoist it vertically, then it would move horizontally to place your vehicle in a stall…a very precarious structure…

    The brat and brau had their original restaurant or regent street. They offered all-you-can eat steak dinners on thursday nights in the 80’s. The placed was packed with all us poor college kids…it was fantastic.

    I think you’re right Prange Way, they got rid of the fountains and recessed sitting areas to free up more pseudo sales floor area. Only to be populated by those kiosk eyesores….I recently went to the mall and was overwhelmingly disappointed by the so-called renovation. It was the first time I’d been there in at least 5 years. The atmosphere struck me as down-right gloomy and disturbing…

  27. BratundBrau orriginal location was on stoughton rd where concentra now stands the bar is still there.
    there was a fountain in front of sears, jcpennys, forbes mahr, prangies, in front of boston store( I think it used to be woolworths ) and last but not least the big one in the center court.
    I remember across from the theater next to aladdins was a pet store, KB Toys was across from radio shack, next to radio shack was a bookstore and next to that was a Mc donalds. wow memories coming back

    I too would love to get photos of the past mall if anyone has them

  28. Bizarre. Both East Towne and West Towne are owned by CBL. They have different floor plans. East Towne is a distinct “thunderbird” design while West Towne is a dumbbell with another wing.

  29. East Towne was a significant part of my child hood from the 70’s-80’s. I lived a mile up the bluff from the mall my entire childhood, so my friend and I would walk down to the mall every weekend and hang out at Aladdin’s Castle back when Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were the thing in the early 80’s.

    The steak house that everyone is referring to that was on the left side as you entered the front entrance of the mall was York Steakhouse. It was similar to a Ponderosa in that you took a tray through a buffet style line.

    I very much miss the vontage mall. The Christmas setting at the center fountain was awesome! It was so large, and to go visit Santa on top of the huge display was something magical. I miss the fountains and the sunken seating areas. They really added a lot of flair to the mall itself. Last time I was there was in 2003, and the mall looked terrible (they were remodelling at the time).

    Some of the stores I remember that people are referring to:

    McCrory’s was the five & dime outside Penny’s where Dunham Sports used to be.

    Kay Bee Toys of course…biggest one I ever saw!
    Chicago Cutlery
    Fence Post
    Hobby Horse
    Waldenbooks was a staple until it recently closed
    Prange’s/Prange Way
    Gimbel’s (I loved this store!)
    Pele Sports (outside of Sears)
    Deb’s (outside of Sears easily there since the 70’s.)
    County Seat
    Musicland (there was another larger music store outside Penny’s)
    Walden’s also had an electronic store with games
    Things Remembered
    Buddy Squirrel down by the Theater
    Pizza Pit
    Burger King (this was an awesome dungeon style King!)
    The Theatre of course!
    The Backstage Bar (I was in there once…very 70’s!)
    There was a drug store just inside the front entrance opposite York Steakhouse.

    And other standard mall stores that remain in business. Just trying to catch the ones that are no longer in business or there. I really miss the pre-renovation anything. The only thing that has stood the test of time on that mall is the exterior of Penny’s…somewhat Prange’s except for the new Boston Store entrances. Does anyone have old photos? I might if I rumage around my Mom’s photo albums!

  30. Lots of good memories came back reading the different comments. Reember at York Steak House they used to shout out the orders in french, they would let you substitute the pudding for the salad that was at the start of the cafeteria style line. Gimbels also had a restaurant called Tasty Town on the first floor, that did not last long. Penneys and Sear’s both had snack bars with grills and those both were shuttered. I remember buying one of those plastic blow up chairs at the Moon Fun Shop. They also had a location on State Street next to Singer Sewing Center. I remember walking by Buddy Squirrels Nut Shop and you could smell tham roasting nuts, and also a candy store called Mrs. Stovers Candies, where they gave out samples. Buddy Squirell is still there, Stovers closed around 1977, I think. There was a store called Id Boutique, where the lighting was very dark. Also, Thrift Drug store, owned by JCPenney, which was located across from York Steak House. When East Towne first opened, there were a lot of local Madison retailers, sadly, that is not the case anymore. I also remember a Pizza place near the Burger King called Orange Bowl- best soft serve in the mall as well.

  31. Sorry for posting this on the East Towne site, but I can’t find a similar thread about West Towne. Having grown up on the West side during the ’70s and ’80s I have fond memories of the place, having spent a lot of time there, especially since my middle school (Jefferson) and high school (Memorial) were right across the street. I was making a list of the old time ’70s-era stores, when the mod decor featured the (very loud) fountains and sunken living room look of a bachelor pad. Here’s a list of stores I recalled from the time; I’d welcome additions of others to aid my fading memory:

    York Steak House
    Aladdin’s Castle
    Stone Fence
    Fanny Farmer’s
    Buddy Nut Squirrel
    McCrorey’s Drug
    Walden Books
    County Seat
    Chess King
    JC Penney
    Spencer Gifts
    Casual Corner

    There was also a drug store right at the main East entrance (across from York Steak House) but I can’t remember the name. Any recollections?

  32. CBL Needs to put the fountains back in the East and West towne malls. The Macerich Corp. Has Fountains in all their malls. The Closest mall to Madison is Lindale mall In Cedar Rapids Iowa. CBl Just Dose’t put fountains in all thier mall
    The Brookfield Square has Fountains, That they just put in When They refurbished the mall.

  33. So they put fountains back into Brookfield Square huh?

    I recall before the 1996 renovation (when the mall looked very dated), it had fountains as well. The ’96 remodel added a food court, but dumped any character the mall had left in it, making it look as sterle as any other mall renovatrion of that period.

    While they’re not sinking in the floor level for seating, I’m noticing now that they ARE throwing down carpeted spots in the middle of the concourses of some malls and adding soft seating areas in this spots. Sort of a modernized variation of those classic sunken seating areas.

    Could this be a trend? I hope so. They need to start making any remaining malls asthetically pleasing to the eyes again like how they used to before turning to the total blandness of the late 1970s-1980s. That in turn may bring in more people and more businesses.

  34. Carousel (a hot dog stand) I remember my dad getting into a arguement with the cashier
    Bazaar (a pier1type store) i asked my mom for one of the stuffed Piranhas they sold
    Chess King (chams and colter brand clothes)
    Moon Fun Shop
    Petrie Sports

  35. @Dave T in AZ,
    I have the exact same memories of East Towne.
    I realize you posted a long time ago, but on a walk I just thought about MOON FUN SHOP and had to google it.
    And, I had forgotten about the bar. I think you have the name wrong, but, yeah. Wow. Ain’t nothing like it these days!
    Enjoy the memories,

  36. I just visited this Mall and I have a couple things to say about it.

    First, I hate All the Kiosk stores. I remember years ago these little crappy things would just be around during christmas. Now they are every place. There was a whole kiosk to buy feathers. Give me a break! I would never buy anything from a kiosk because honestly everyone looking at stuff in then looks like a complete jackass. Go into a store and buy things like a normal person. if you want to buy from a street vendor, then go to mexico.

    Next, All the bench pods. These are just circles of sadness. It is were all the guys sit with all there wives bags and they all look at each other. you guys look like jerks, go and buy a hat or something for christ sakes.

    Next. This is the worst damn food court ever. It has all the regular places and that is fine, but then they simple smashed about 500 table 2000 chairs into an area that should hold half that. You can’t walk to an empty table in the middle, if there are people using a table on the edge.

    All in all, this place has pushed me over the edge and I hope I never have to visit it again for a long time.


    PS, I saw some punk kid working a kiosk smoking a cig. That was nice.

  37. @eric, I used to work for Moon Fun Shop at East Towne Mall.

  38. I thank East Towne mall is becoming a dead mall. I notice that when I went to East Towne in Sept. A lot stores were empty. More people are going to West Towne Or Greenway Sta.. In favor Of High end and a better varity of Stores. That steakhouse in East Towne was York Steakhouse West towne also had one. West Towne also had a Ruby Tuesday a restarunt like TGI Fridays. that miss Gonig to. When that went out It became a Sam Goody Music store and is now Potbelly Subs

  39. @Corey Coyle, Westmoreland Mall near Pittsburgh, which is a CBL mall, still has three fountains in there. They were installed during a renovation in 1994 and are still there to this day despite the mall receiving a few cosmetic improvements here and there.

  40. @bill,

    The Ponderosa was across the street [E. Washington Ave.]

    There was a steak house in the mall, it was called ‘York Steak House’ and it was located right inside the door where the current food court is. At the time, there was no food court but there were a couple of restaurants scattered in the mall. I recall a Burger King begin close to the Spencer Gifts.

    Anyone with photos of the mall, especially the old benches and the center court circa late 70s/early 80s, as well as Christmas decor photos, please feel free to email them to


  41. I remember going into York Steak House and having to give your order verbally to the host, they would repeat your order to the cooks in French!!? I ordered the #4, which was the steak sandwich (would kill for one today) which was something like the ‘four bien twee’ when he would repeat it to the cook. haha

    The malls today are terrible (both WT & ET). The need to get rid of the Kiosks (and their carny workers that try to accost you to like you are at some local fair) and STOP SPRAYING THAT NASTY PERFUME/COLOGNE at Abercrombie and all the other stupid teen clothes stores. I can’t get that stank out of my nose or off my clothes for the rest of the day…just from walking by in the hall. Refuse to shop at either mall until they eliminate both kiosks and agent orange nuke spraying of nasty perfume…

  42. Wasn’t the drug store across from York Steakhouse a Rennebohm’s? This was a ubiquitous chain around Madison for decades until it eventually sold out to the Walgreens and other national chains.

    Also, does anyone else remember visiting Bruce the Spruce, the talking spruce tree that I think used to sit by Prange Way? He only appeared at Christmas time.

    Great memories of East Towne Mall – going with my mom in the 70s and then running amok there with my friends in the 80s.

  43. Bruce the Spruce! That was my own personal version of “A Christmas Story” (with me being Ralphie of course). I would come down to East Towne from about a hundred miles north to sort through the fake forest to see Bruce. Oddly enough, I thought a talking conifer was more believable than a fat guy in a red suit. The one thing I remember for sure, he was not in Prange’s/Prange Way (I worked for them for years). My recollection was that they set up that holiday set in the Sears store.

    On another note, I was working for Younkers (Prange’s) when we completed the huge renovation of the East Towne store (now Boston Store) when the dingy little Prange Way was evicted, the Younkers extended into its former shell, and all that pink marble floor was put down (to the delight of the store manager at that time).

  44. @Dave T in AZ,

    Yes, the bar in the Mall was called Backstage and they were FAMOUS for thier Oscars! Those were the days of no worries! Moon Fun, Sam’s, Spencers, York Steak House…. Wish we could go back to that for a moment!

  45. @Vintage Glory,

    Cant forget the County Seat….. Best Place to purchase jeans and cords!!!!

  46. @Prange Way,

    Manchester opened two stores away from their flagship on the Capitol Square around 1960. They moved their Westgate store to West Towne (where the food court is now) when West Towne opened, but they kept their store at East Side Shopping Center (or Madison East SC, across from where Johnson St. runs into E. Washington) until it was closed (early ’80s IIRC). That would have been after Chapman’s had bought Manchester’s. I don’t remember the exact order, but it seems that the West Towne Manchester’s lasted longest.

  47. @Rick, Rex Preston was a very dear friend of mine. I used to work with him at Harnischfeger when he and Ted planned the Moon Fun Shop. I also met Ted through Rex and one time assisted him on stage at one of his magic shows. I think of Rex so often. Do you know anything about what happened to him after the Moon Fun Shops closed? I tried on line but can’t find anything. I still think of dear Rex often. Would you know anything. I would greatly appreciate hearing from you.

    Thank you.

  48. @Ann Trummer, hello from Rex. Ted died in 1995, but I am still kicking in Phoenix AZ dba Old Moon Corporation. I was just talking about you to the person I work with, and he decided to do a search for Rex Preston Wisconsin. I had told him about our time at P&H and our meeting at that craft store where you were the head of customer service at Point Loomis.

  49. @eric, I was was just thinking the other day.. “Where are all the regulars of state st? Fat homeless crazy guy with walkie talkie. Skinny tall old dude with tight pants.
    gone. I can’t even remember some of the others now.

  50. @Daniel Conderman, That was an electronic cig that the kiosk was selling. lol

  51. Ah…happy memories of East Towne mall.

    I remember the Hobby Horse in the mall, with the large model gas powered cessnas hanging from the ceiling.

    And Kay*Bee…

    The fountains with all the retro looking colored lighting, and that chlorine smell.

    My favorite thing was the train at Christmastime, I’m 36 now, and must have been about 5 or 6 when I last saw that.

    They set up a big HO scale train layout, with 1-2 trains orbiting the loop, where all of the boxcars were decorated for a store in the mall (JC Penney, Gimbles, etc.))

    Would love to see pictures from the 70s or 80s as well…

  52. Wow! Memories.

    Bruce the Spruce was a Pranges thing to my recollection. Used to love the BK Yumbo, my sister ate the Hot Dog they offered on the menu. Was a regular spending my paper route money on HO trains and had some of my car and truck models on display at Hobby Horse over the years.

    The gaudy octagon shaped benchs with the fake trees in the centers. ET had stairs to the sunken rest areas, WT had ramps.

    Bought my first stereo at Playback, the electronics store basically across from where Gordmans is now. My dad had a CB installed by the guys at Radio Shack (out their back door) when it was located in that same area of the mall. Yosts had entrances on two legs. Swiss Colony’s cheese/gift store. The lunch counter and hair salon at Penney’s.The funky shaped door at Pier One Imports. Orange Julius-only for breakfast for this cat….

    Mom used to go to a fabric and sewing store towards Penney’s IIRC
    I was 5 yo in ’71, but by the time we were 10, we could wander without the folks and all was well.It was a different time.

    I’d love to see old layout maps through the years. Definitely not a big fan of the kiosks or removal of fountains, but time marches on.

  53. @Prangeway,
    Ok, so East Towne Mall was the one with the fountains…I’ve been trying to figure out which one it was because I remember going to the malls in Madison as a young child around 5 or 6 with my mom, grandpa and grandma, and seeing fountains, but there was a long gap between going as a child with my family and driving myself after I got my license. Ah…Memories.

  54. Anyone know how to find out the drink recipes from the old backstage bar?

  55. I spent darn near half of my life at East towne in the early 80s . I too would like pictures. Thanks….. vcmluke@yahoo.com

  56. I loved the mall back then. I worked at County Seat and would go across the way to eat at the lunch counter at McCrory’s. Movie Theater, Prange Way, Moon Fun Shop, York Steak House, fountains and sunken seating. All great memories. It is a good mall now, but not the same great memories.

    There were no Kiosks back then! I don’t like the Kiosks. Would be much better to have more seats but that doesn’t make you money, does it.

  57. @Nick, You’re thinking of York Steak House. East and West Towne had them. A blend of Ponderosa and the middle ages. “Three tray supplamoe?”

  58. Swung by after a bi-annual appointment today for a little Christmas shopping and lunch at the food court. Long-time FC tenant, Orange Julius is out, Subway is in (next to the Japanese teriyaki/sushi bar).

    It looked to me that, other than one small vacancy at the end of the wing that fronts the furniture store (Steinhafels ?), any other spots that would otherwise be dark, are filled with temporary tenants, essentially giving the mall 100% occupancy for the first time in a long while. This is good to see.

    Still miss the OJ, but it’s not a shocker. I think DQ (parent co. of the Julius brand) is phasing out mall stores, since they are essentially selling the drinks at most stand-alone DQ “Grill & Chill” locations. Case in point, my hometown’s two DQs both have Orange (and other flavor) Julius drinks now.

    That, and mall food court bay rent/leasing (especially) is ridiculously expensive compared to other inline tenant slots. They basically have to serve hot food to make enough to turn profit and pay the bills. No doubt, the court was hopping as I got to the mall around lunch hour. Guess cold treats (ice cream, smoothies, etc) are on the way out.

    Won’t ber surprised if the Julius location in Forest Mall calls it a day soon if this is the trend.

    (Sidenote: For the record another old mall stalwart, Cinnabon, has been literally disappearing too. There’s ONE left in my state, out of an original count of nearly 10 locations. Ouch! )

  59. I just went to East Towne Mall today (12/22/12) to eat at the Food Court & Walk Around & there is a new tenant coming to the mall a European bakery/cafe called Belle Pezzelle That’s going into the JC Penney wing in the comer spot of S&K & Master Cuts & Auntie Annies (Master cuts moved left of where they used to be, & auntie annies moved into a nice sized kiask by where they used to be) which is exciting since ETM has been without a bakery since cinnabunn closed a few years back. Also the Steinhaufels furniture store (formerly Steve & Barrys & before that a mall entrance with the cinema) is rumored to soon be building a new store down the street, which I would assume then that space will be turned back into being a mall entrance & would add onto the number of stores in the mall. Also Condon Healers (who used to be left of Barnes and Noble) moved into the center of the mall into the old Zales, and the old Condon became a best buy mobile. A new express store & a few other stores have opened stores in the mall so the mall is thriving once again plus the undeveloped since the mall was opened in 1971 piece of land between lien road and the Boston store parking lot is for sale for development which could be great and a big boost to sales for the mall too.

  60. First off, great site. I grew up in the 80’s on the west side of Madison and spent a lot of time at both malls.

    Does anyone remember south towne mall off Broadway in Madison? I believe in its prime it had a theater, an arcade (can’t remember if it was called gold mine or pocket change), anchored by shopko and one other store (now kohls). The mall was quite small and had maybe 20 shop spaces. I recall it only lasted a few years before most stores were gone, now the interior is gone and it just has shopko, kohls, and hobby lobby I believe.

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