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Maplewood Mall celebrates 40 years
Shopping center marks milestone with new stores, new look
Shoppers can expect to find a new look at Maplewood Mall this season — and not just for themselves.
Maplewood Mall is marking its 40th anniversary throughout August with five new store openings, the unveiling of several remodeled stores and a back-to-school event with Teen Vogue.
"I'm excited about all the changes we've got going on," says Tim Pothen, director of marketing and business development at Maplewood Mall.
The shopping center, which is owned by the Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, opened in the summer of 1974 after two years of construction.
The official celebration will take place on Saturday, Aug. 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the "ABC's of Style" in Sears Court. The back-to-school event, hosted in association with Teen Vogue, will show-off the top fashion styles of the season.
The mall has evolved over the decades with store openings and renovation unveilings, and this year is no exception.
Two clothing stores, trendy retailer Buckle and women's boutique Francesca's Collection, will open later this month. Three new restaurants opened recently in the mall's food court: Pho Ger, an Asian fusion restaurant; Quench, a beverage bistro, and Adobo, a Filipino cuisine eatery.
The new additions to the food court intend to round out the mall's food offerings.
"The Maplewood area is such a diverse community. We really shoot to make sure we have diverse options in the food court," Pothen says.
Existing stores at the mall also got a new look this summer.
Claire's and Kohl's both received complete remodels. And updates and relocations of Champs Sports, Kids Footlocker and Zumiez switch things up for shoe-loving shoppers.
Additionally, tech-savvy shoppers will now have access to free Wi-Fi and six charging stations for cell phones, laptops and more.
"We really kind of transformed the shopping experience to a more upscale experience," Pothen says, one in which shoppers can take a seat, relax and recharge.
The mall's makeover continues
The renovations are part of a plan to revamp the mall that began in 2002 when the mall was purchased by the Simon Property Group. Since then, renovations have focused on cleaning up the mall and filling its vacant storefronts, Pothen explains.
Major renovations from 2011 to 2012 targeted the exterior and interior of the mall, which now spreads over 926,000 square feet and has more than 130 stores.
Exterior renovations included reconstructed entrances, new signs and additional landscaping, while interior changes included a redesigned food court and new flooring with a combination of ceramic tiles and carpeted paths. All restrooms and common areas were remodeled and energy-efficient lighting was installed throughout the mall.
Before the renovation, shoppers often described the mall as "dated," Pothen says. Now, he says the staff regularly receive comments on the improved appearance of the retail center.
"My favorite part is when I get to hear those shoppers who shopped here years and years ago, and they just stopped coming, and they come in and they're wowed by how (good) the property looks," he says.
Before the 2011 renovation, the last time the mall had received a major update had been in 1988.
The origins of "the mall"
On Jan. 23, 1968, plans were announced to build an $8 million, 125-acre shopping area in Maplewood, which would sit at County Road D and White Bear Avenue along the newly constructed Interstate 694.
Six years later, Maplewood Mall celebrated its grand opening on July 31, 1974.
It quickly became known as "the mall" to locals, though its customers weren't limited to people from Maplewood. Shoppers came to the mall from as far away Stillwater and western Wisconsin, says Pete Boulay of the Maplewood Area Historical Society.
Many locals initially opposed the mall's construction, Boulay says, fearing that the rural area around White Bear Avenue would become commercialized. As anyone who drives down White Bear Avenue today can see, the neighbors' fears were justified.
What was once a quiet rural area is now a thriving commercial district.
"People are always quick to point out that Maplewood Mall is no Rosedale Mall," Boulay says. "Well it never was. In reality, the Maplewood Mall became a bigger thing with an active and evolving commercial area around it, and continues to thrive with new stores including Hobby Lobby opening (across the street) in October."
Decades of change
In its 40 years, the mall has seen notable stores like Woolworths, Walgreens, Baskin Robbins and Sbarro (which had its very own 2-for-a-quarter video arcade) come and go, Boulay says, while other stores such as Sears, Claire's and Spencer's have withstood the test of time.
It has also seen the styles of a few different decades. The yellow and orange décor of the 1970s was replaced with white plaster and palm trees during the 1988 renovation. That same renovation expanded the mall to 718,000 square feet, adding 40 new stores, and moved the food court to the new west wing of the mall.
The mall's most recent renovations continue the effort to adapt to evolving shopping habits and customer preferences.
"We really try to figure out what people want, what our shoppers want," Pothen says, adding that he and mall manager Jennifer Lewis spend time poring over visitors' feedback on Facebook and comment cards.
"At the end of the day, our main goal is to drive shoppers into the mall," he adds.
While fashion styles, decorating trends and shopping habits have changed over the years, one thing hasn't changed -- kids' attraction to the mall's double-decker Venetian carousel. It was handcrafted in Italy and assembled inside the mall in 1998, and thousands of children and their parents have taken a spin on it over the years.
With an updated look and new stores, Pothen says he is optimistic about Maplewood Mall's future. "It's been a great 40 years for our mall, and we look forward to 40 more years of growth and serving our community."
Kaylin Creason can be reached at email@example.com or at 651-748-7825.