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updated: 5/3/2014 6:07 PM

Back in the day, St. Charles a mall haven

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  • Shoppers carry their bags full of purchases as they make their way through Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles in 2007. When the mall opened 23 years ago it was a go-to place for shopping. Now it's being revamped at The Quad after several years of being virtually vacant.

      Shoppers carry their bags full of purchases as they make their way through Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles in 2007. When the mall opened 23 years ago it was a go-to place for shopping. Now it's being revamped at The Quad after several years of being virtually vacant.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer


Settle in children, and you shall hear a story of wonderment about how St. Charles supported its malls through the years.

Yes, despite what seems like a setting that results in dreary wastelands for shopping centers, there was a time when St. Charles boasted of malls that were bustling with people. Merchants were dancing to the sounds of singing cash registers. No kidding, cash registers actually made some noise back then.

A story in my files from late March of 1992 supports that notion. It tells us about Charlestowne Mall and some retailers preparing to open stores there.

As most of us know, you could do a Swiss yodel in the mall today and hear your echo in the distance -- like at the other end of the mall. It's that empty.

But in the mall's timeline, this 1992 announcement would have been about seven to eight months after the mall opened with much pomp and circumstance in 1991.

It is an article that seems hard to believe, really, when considering the mall's struggles of the past several years. It could almost pass for a fantasy novel.

The story said the mall was adding stores to give the location on the east side of St. Charles "110 specialty shops or services, including Sears and Carson Pirie Scott."

Does anyone remember if any of these stores -- JC Penney, Ann Taylor, The Limited and the Disney Store -- actually opened that particular spring?

I know The Limited was there up until about a year ago. The others, I can't recall, but my wife says Penney's operated out of the spot currently occupied by Von Maur.

The mall was hopping pretty well in those early 1990s. When ringing the bell for the Salvation Army during the holidays, I remember the place being packed.

Charlestowne Mall, now operating under the name of The Quad as new owners try to resurrect the place, wasn't the only bustling mall in town in the past.

If you can't remember which stores were in Charlestowne, do you think you can recall which stores populated the St. Charles Mall on the west side during its heydays in the mid to late 1980s?

Kmart and Joseph Spiess Co. were anchors there, but what was in between those two is pretty much lost in my memory bank. It wasn't but a few years after the St. Charles Mall shut its doors that Spiess began encountering its own problems and ultimately shut down operations with a last gasp in 1996 when its store in Crystal Lake closed.

The St. Charles Mall lives as only a distant memory. Its legacy, in fact, is a weed-infested field and old parking area adjacent to the Jewel shopping area and the empty sites of the former Colonial and Burger King restaurants.

Food and lacrosse: The St. Charles Lacrosse Club has been getting its name out in the public eye with various events and fundraisers.

Another one is on tap May 16. This time the club is joining with Salvation Army and Butera Market for a food drive for those in need.

Those interested in helping can drop off nonperishable food items and toiletries when entering the gates at St. Charles East High School for the Crosstown Classic games. Those games start at 4 p.m. with the St. Charles East and North junior varsity teams going at it, followed at 5:30 by the girls co-op varsity team taking on St. Francis at 5:30 p.m. and the boys' East and North varsity clash at 7 p.m.

An alley upgrade: How do you add to the lure of Third Street in Geneva? By coming up with an excellent idea for making good use of an alley.

I mentioned the concept a month ago when Terry Emma of the Geneva History Center talked about pavers engraved with donor names for a pedestrian walkway next to the center, but the idea seems to have picked up added interest and support.

It's officially being called a Pedestrian Third Street Mall, and it will link to Campbell Street.

It will add much to Third Street, and it's a concept I have noticed in places like downtown Naperville and others.

It was Dry Gulch: Just got back from a short trip to New Mexico to visit family. And again learned the difference between a real dry place called Albuquerque, and a fairly wet one called Geneva.

I returned with chapped and cracking lips, dry skin and sinuses, and dusty shoes.

Yes, Wyatt Earp would have considered me a big baby in the Old West.

A salt palace: So, this is what it is like to work in a salt mine?

My garage qualified as such when I was cleaning it out after a thick layer of winter salt had settled in. The dust was thick, and I could taste it on my lips later in the day after lots of sweeping.

We'll mark it up as another annoying aspect of the Dreaded Winter of 2013-14.

Needed some humor: Jim Wheeler would have appreciated the comparison my friend and former Herald columnist Molly Kozik came up with as we stood in the long line for his wake at Yurs Funeral Home last week.

The former Pottawatomie golf pro was a real stickler for players keeping pace on his golf course. He'd cruise around in his golf cart to let you know you were slowing things down if he felt that was the case.

Because the line went all the way outside of the funeral home for those paying their last respects to this popular member of the St. Charles community, Molly came up with this:

"It took us just over two hours to get through the waiting line, or about how long it takes to play nine holes at Pottawatomie."

And my thought? Wheeler would have driven up on his golf cart and told those in line speaking to his lovely family to keep moving so as not to slow down the process.

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