Thursday, July 3, 2008

Westgate Mall Racine Wi.

The story of Westgate Mall con not be told without talking first about Turn-Style discount department stores. The site of the mall Had been the Turnstyle store and the Westgate outdoor theater. Turn Style and a Jewel food store were built in front of the theater in 1962 . jewel food stores owned Turn- style and racine was the first store in the mid west for the co. It also had a Osco drug store in the Turn- style store. It wood be Remolded in the early 1970s and the Jewel wood Be converted to Big E foods a Test concept for Jewel in 1978 Jewel wood sell the Turn-style division to Venture stores of stlouis . Venture did not want to enter the Wisconsin market and sold the store to Shopko stores of Green Bay the theater was not doing well by this time and was kind of odd to be right in the middle of a city so the property owner and Shopko decided to build Westgate Mall. shopko wood anchor one end and Sentry Foods the other. in the middle wood be local women's retailer Eitles witch wood move from downtown. the first problem arose when sentry pulled out with no reason given then Eitles decided to relocate to Regency Mall that itself was just being built westgate also had problems finding tenants do to Regency being only two miles away. sentry wood be replaced with Randalls county market.
shopko opened first in nov of 1979 the mall wood open the next spring with only one in line store and Randalls wood soon open the Eitles spot wood be taken by a retailer called the Gamut it was a sportting good art supply store with some clothing in the mix a vary odd first big box type store. during the next few years the stores wood come and go with the peek occupancy being about 70%. the Gamut wood close and Randalls wood take that spot but wood not have a mall entrance and that killed that end of the mall. it just went down hill from there. Then Randalls closed just as a wal-mart super center opened mall dies and closes . now it is being de malled and converted into a strip mall with dollar stores and junk like that but one store remains from the beginning and does well that is shopko thr retailers are now moving farther west or by Regency Mall so time will tell how this story ends i hope thay can find stores for the strip and clean it up a bit it is a good neighborhood and dose not need this type of blight.


Matt said...

John, THANK YOU for doing what I never got the chance to do....getting pictures of this mall just before it was sealed off from public view.

I've been to several 'sMalls' like this in my lifetime. The two I remember most were in West Bend WI (one of them anchored by, of all names, ShopKo). The vibrant interior imagery from the early 1980s immediately took me back to those young years of my life.

But enough about me....if I'm not mistaken, Westgate was always a hybrid of an enclosed mall / strip center (albeit, also enclosed). The way you put it, it sounds like the strip center portion was always reletively dead, the fully enclosed mall surviving slightly longer.

Didn't help that Regency opened within earshot and not too long after Westgate. I'd say the mall was already doomed circa 1981! Overlapping stores too, no doubt. The obligatory Radio Shack & Hallmark outlets, a Payless....those were all original to Regency as well. Too much overlap for that area.

I got in here in 2006, months before the mall was locked up and ShopKo drywalled over their end entry. Plain obvious why they sealed it. The ceiling tiling is literally falling apart and when I was in there, it was downright creepy...moreso than the just-as-dead Lakeshore Mall in Manitowoc WI (Which I profiled for Labelscar). The combination of the eerie blue-green hue of the main corridor, that ...smell...I can't describe it....the buzz from the lighting.

I'm no fan of de-malling, and I personally feel with the right tenants occupying it, a hybrid enclosed / strip would work in this time-strapped lifestyle we life in nowadays. Problem is, malls like this have pretty much been replaced by Walmart superstores.....which is the 'modern' version of a mall of this ilk.

You're right about ShopKo, which this store is one of the top 5 performers in the entire chain.

Pat R. said...

Wow! Great post!

Ross said...

Thanks for getting this one! I remember visiting one of my friends from college who worked at the theatres in 2000, and I had no idea this was an enclosed mall. It's too bad it's going away.

BK said...

I remember this mall fairly well. I grew up on the northside of Racine in the 80's, but I remember having music lessons at the piano/keyboard store in westgate and we always seemed to go across town to shop at Randall's for our groceries rather than the piggly wiggly and kohl's closer to home. Even back in the late 80's I remember thinking this mall was odd and creepily half empty. Thanks for the memories.

freetoad said...

this blog is awesome.I hope there is one at least this good about every lost mall in the USA. This is an important piece of our history that will be lost all to easily.

lostinthe80s04 said...

I remember going to the Old Country Buffet with my family every Sunday in the early 90s.

Jeremy Andrews said...

Westgate Mall was a place I grew up going to in the 1990s. I'm 24 now and I saw that mall from it's final days as a filled mall until the very end.

We always went there to go to the Old Country Buffet, and we discovered other parts of the mall during that time. This was around 1994 or 1995.

Almost all of the stores were independent stores at the time. Among the stores there during my time were:

County Market
a Travel Agency
A Tanning place,
One Price Clothing (or the $7 store),
Attitude (Now known as "Attitude's" at Regency Mall)
a Fishing/sporting gear store
Military recruiting,
A Carpet store,
A Photo service
A sewing/craft store
A gift shop (sold various tiffany lamps and such)
The Book Rack (Used Books)
A Picture Frame store (Later became Check Into Cash)
Hallmark (Later became Radio Shack, again)
The Racine DMV
Jennifer's Cookies
Big Lots Furnature
and of course ShopKo

In 2000, after a number of the stores closed (Specifically Attitude) they used space near between the strip area (where Old Country Buffet is) and the Mall (where ShopKo is) for the 2000 Census Counting.

It slowly went downhill after everybody left.

I was really sad to see it go down the way it did. It was a major part of my childhood.

rjs1222 said...

I remember this mall well, I was a Navy Recruiter in the early 90's and our office was in there. Used to walk to ShopKo and all around the mall. I remember a sporting goods/fishing store and all the ederly walking around in the AM.

Heidi Geldean said...

I remember when it first opened. Yes, it was doomed from the start because of Regency. I remember Fashionation, The Gamut (coolest store ever, the Hallmark store, Radio Shack,West Wind books, Jalensky's Sporting Goods was there for a long time. An ice cream store was right at the middle of the mall. I have forgotten its name. Sweet Sensations? Scene II was a clothing store. Numerous dollar stores and other retailers came and went. It was always kind of a sad place.

Roland K said...

My father opened a store there in 87-ish next to the Halmark store called Computer Paradise and Video. He took a stab at renting videos and computer games, which was unusual at the time. For a while he was one of a few Commodore Authorized repair centers in the area. It didn't last too long. They split the store at first and sublet the front to the used book store who I believe eventually took over the whole thing.

From what I remember, by the time the DMV moved, it was pretty much done. The recruiters I think were still there and not much else. I did spend a lot of time there in the late 80's with my parents store so thank you for the pictures. Brings back some good memories.

Jacob Ayotte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacob Ayotte said...

Roland, I think I remember that store. I was about 10 and bought a copy of Zak McKraken and the Alien MindBenders for the C64 from a store going out of business, but I don't remember its name. Easily my most vivid memory of Westgate and I was dragged in there often. If your dad is still around, tell him thanks. My brothers, my friends, and I had a lot of fun with that game.

Unknown said...

I remember having my family pictures taken at Olan Mills, and riding on the little kiddie rides throughout the mall.