Friday November 21st, 1980 marked the Grand Opening of the New Town Mall. With the West end of Sioux Falls having only two shopping malls, there was a desperate need for more indoor shopping space.
This proud sign once marked the parking lot of the New Town Mall and told all who would listen "Here there be shopping". The wooden materials used for the sign said rumpus room, while the horizontal orientation said Hey, I'm gonna mix it up.
Shriver's was one of the anchor stores when the New Town opened in 1980. It had finally moved from a shriveling downtown and into the Western Mall in 1979. This location was an additional location, but unfortunately neither the Western Mall or the New Town Mall did too well in the 80s. Shriver's would not survive the decade. Shriver's had been a dependable icon in the downtown economy since 1914, and it's sad to see that it didn't prosper in the malls. They closed the doors for good in 1986.
This is the beautiful center court that served as the hub of the NTM. I recall bumming around in the New Town Mall in the late 80s. It didn't look much different. Still just as much wall as you see here. This shot looks South. At the far end of the hall is an exit, and obscured by the trees is the entrance to the New Town 6 Theaters on the left. Peanut Shack seems like good mall fodder, but would have done better in a busy mall. I think its sister enterprise Radio Shack has fared better.
Here is Hubbards Kupboard which found its home on the East side of the center court. Hubbards once had its home downtown in a couple of locations. At one time it was on the corner of 9th and Phillips in the Minnehaha Building after the top four floors were removed. More on that later.
That's a skylight, by the way, that shines down through that wooden cylinder in the center of the court. Google Earth shows the skylight may still be there, shining down on Kohl's. A Kohl's sales person said she hadn't seen a skylight but failed to feign any interest in the issue.
Here's the view farther to the north near the Target entrance. If you follow the hall directly to Neil Graff's Athletic Attic and take a right, you'll see Target. We've got Wayne and Mary's Nutrition Center to the right. They had four locations at the time, one of them in the Western Mall. The area pictured is one of the few places that still resembles a mall today. If you were to turn 90º to the right, you'd see Jo-Ann Fabrics. You can no longer access Target from the mall. You can't actually access anything but Jo-Ann and Applebee's from the interior of the mall these days. The atrophied interior of the mall serves as an overly large waiting room for Applebee's and a walkway to a still vibrant fabric store.
Cashing in on the wild fame of the Mr. Bill Show on SNL, Mr. Bill'z bar took the mall by storm, serving ice cream, carmel corn, hot dogs and the like out of two windows in a pine-paneled wall. They were also progressive enough to be among the first to replace the 's' at the end of a word with a 'z'. You see it all the time now with words such as 'skillz', and 'spillz' or perhaps 'hillz'. I don't know, it's something the kids do and I think Snoop Dog may be involved.
Coupon may no longer be honored.
Fusfield's fashions & Shoes. They occupy the space currently housing Jo-Ann Fabrics. I understand fashions and shoes were their trade. They still had a downtown store at the time. Maybe they weren't quite ready to trust this mall idea.
Animal House specialized in the stuffed animals, animal sculptures, tee-shirts, and even sketches of animals. Toward the back of the store was a sub-store called The Prospector. The Prospector was called a showcase of gold and silver jewelry and keepsakes. Odd combination if you ask me. The animals and jewelry, I mean, not the gold and silver.
Here's the New Town Mall today. They call it the Empire East now. I believe that happened in the '90s. Jo-Ann was closed when I was there. The benches you see are for the throngs of shoppers who arrive early on new fabric day (I'm guessing).
Here's the view looking West toward Applebee's. The people waiting for a table at Applebee's in the mall is common, and this was taken on a Tuesday. The Friday crowds are much more plentiful. Maybe they would be interested in some stuffed animals or new earrings?
I think the Empire East Mall may well last for years into the future, but to call it a mall is perhaps inaccurate. There are only two stores accessible from the mall interior. There must be some good reason to cut off the anchor stores from each other. It'd be nice, especially in the dead of winter, to be able to go from Target to Bed Bath & Beyond or Kohl's. Why not stop by Applebee's after a hearty shopping expedition? Well, because we'd have to brave the cold anyway, lets just go somewhere else. The purpose for the retailers in a mall environment is to share collateral shopping traffic, and that's not happening here.
Click here to enjoy a fun, interactive map of the New Town/Empire East!
Page Updated: 01/07/2008
Most of the pictures for this feature were taken from the grand opening supplement to the Argus Leader.
This was provided by Greetings friend Mark.
Historical information was culled from the ever helpful: