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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

White Oaks Mall

Coming up on 30 years ago, Springfield, Illinois, got its first (and only, as it turns out), mega indoor shopping mall. (Mega by Springfield standards, anyway.) It was and is called White Oaks Mall.

Springfield Rewind has a very nice article, with photos, on the mall's beginnings, including the excitement leading up to its opening as hyped by the local paper. (Springfield Rewind: White Oaks Mall.)

Yes, it was exciting. Local shoppers thought we were in hog heaven, what with a Just Pants, Tinderbox Tobacco, and an Orange Julius, the likes of which we had never seen before. Plus, Ed McMahon and Bruce Jenner were on hand for opening day. Whoop te de.

But, something happened after the mall opened. Something that took a lot of people by surprise. Retail in downtown Springfield suffered a slow and agonizing death. Case in point, a list of 10 downtown stores, all locally owned, that are no more:

  1. Myers Brothers
  2. Bressmer's
  3. Roland's
  4. S.A. Barker's
  5. Herndon's
  6. The Hub
  7. Roberts Brothers
  8. Arch Wilson
  9. The Bruce
  10. The Platter

And, don't forget Capitol Q Billiards. However, kids were not allowed to hang out there unless they were with a parent.

Most of those Springfield stores tried to make a go of it at the mall. None survived. Yes, S.A. Barker is still out there, but in name only. Of course, it should be noted that of the original stores at the mall, not too many are still there, having been replaced by other stores, which will probably be replaced by even more other stores, eventually.

I must confess to not having been inside the mall since my girls were old enough to be dropped off at the door. Yes!

Happy Birthday White Oaks. Here's hoping you survive whatever the next big thing in shopping turns out to be. Truly.

Posted by Marie at August 29, 2006 12:29 AM


If I recall correctly, a few of those stores moved to the mall.

I remember Myers Bros., S.A. Barker, Herndon's, The Hub and Roberts Bros.

I bought my first pair of Dr. Martens in 1992 at S.A.'s. My favorite pair of shoes of all-time. Wore them almost daily for nearly seven years, until my wife made me throw them out.

Posted by: The 26th Man at August 29, 2006 10:27 AM

I rmemeber Capitol Q. the cigaret and cigar smoke was so thick in there. ahhhhhh. real men played pool there not like pool halls today. Those were the days.

Posted by: t-rexx at August 29, 2006 10:44 AM

The mall where I live is portrayed as the social if not cultural center of the county. I hate the place and avoid going in there. Actually I hate shopping so it probably doesn't matter that it's a mall.

I've never been in a pool hall.

Posted by: Kem White at August 29, 2006 12:07 PM

One of the joys of my misspent youth was pool halls. Two that I frequented could easily have been the backdrop for the Paul Newman movie, The Hustler (One of my all-time faves). They never asked for an ID. It was 60 cents per hour versus 25 cents per game in the fun arcades. The tables were better, too. Never got very good at it and learned quickly to never play for money. Everyone, but me, was hustling.

Posted by: Rob at August 29, 2006 3:07 PM

Don't forget The Bootery. I use to put $10 Capezios on layaway for $1.00 a week. This was back in the 60's and if you went to SHS, you had to own at least one pair to be "in".

Posted by: carol at August 30, 2006 5:59 PM