CherryVale Mall in Rockford, IL: Challenges and Triumphs

Opening and Early Years

CherryVale Mall opened on October 1, 1973. Richard E. Jacobs Group developed the mall. The initial anchor stores were Sears and Marshall Field’s. Sears opened on September 26, 1973, and Marshall Field’s followed on October 1, 1973.

Located at the intersection of US 20, Interstate 90, and Interstate 39, the mall borders Rockford and Cherry Valley. CherryVale Mall was the first fully enclosed shopping center in Rockford, making it a landmark in retail development.

The original mall included 23 stores. Some of the initial tenants were Lane Bryant, Casual Corner, Chess King, Kroch’s & Brentano’s Booksellers, and Disc Records. H.C. Prange joined as the third anchor store in 1974, enhancing the mall’s retail offerings.

The mall’s strategic location near major highways made it easy for shoppers to access it. CherryVale Mall quickly became a central retail destination in northern Illinois, offering a wide variety of shopping and entertainment options.

If you’re looking for things to do in Rockford, Illinois, visiting CherryVale Mall remains a popular choice.

Expansion and Development (1970s-1980s)

CherryVale Mall saw steady growth and change during its early years. In 1974, H.C. Prange joined as the third anchor store.

The mall also opened its first theater complex in 1975, located next to the Sears parking lot. Another theater opened in 1983, adding more entertainment options for visitors.

Many businesses began to develop around the mall. An automobile dealership, a gas station, a bank, a jewelry shop, a bowling alley, a toy store, and even a water park started popping up.

This growth reflected the mall’s rising popularity and its impact on the surrounding area.

The mall underwent a major renovation in the late 1980s. The closure of the Prange Way store in 1989 led to the creation of a new food court.

The food court featured Sbarro and Quencher’s Smoothies, among other eateries. A new main entrance on the north side also enhanced the mall’s accessibility.

The addition of new stores and the expansion of the surrounding area turned CherryVale Mall into a bustling retail hub.

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These developments set the stage for the mall’s continued evolution and its role as a central shopping destination in the region.

Renovations and Changes (1990s-2000s)

The 1990s brought further changes to CherryVale Mall. In 1992, Younkers replaced H.C. Prange, maintaining the department store presence.

However, by the end of 1996, Younkers had closed, and Bergner’s had taken its place. This period saw a lot of store turnover and adjustments to meet shoppers’ needs.

Both of the mall’s movie theaters closed the freestanding theater closing in 1999 and the lower-level theater closing in 2000.

The lower-level theater space soon transformed into retail shops, though the freestanding theater remained vacant for almost 15 years.

In 2001, CBL & Associates Properties acquired the mall. Shortly after, Rockford and Cherry Valley expanded the streets around the mall, improving access and prompting more commercial development.

New businesses, including a grocery store, several restaurants, and a convenience store, opened nearby.

CBL oversaw a major renovation in 2004. This included removing the inclined moving walkways and adding a glass elevator in the center court.

They also introduced JCPenney as a fourth anchor store, expanding the mall’s retail space to 806,900 square feet.

The food court received new tables, chairs, lighting, and floor tiles, creating a fresh look. This renovation helped modernize the mall and attract more visitors.

Marshall Field’s, one of the original anchor stores, rebranded to Macy’s in September 2006. This change followed the acquisition of Marshall Field’s by Macy’s, which brought a fresh new look and merchandise to the store.

In 2007, CBL expanded CherryVale Mall further by adding a “lifestyle” component aimed at attracting middle to upper-class shoppers.

This 75,000 sq ft addition included Barnes & Noble as a new anchor, replacing the long-closed Kroch’s and Brentano’s bookstore.

This expansion enhanced the mall’s appeal, drawing in book lovers and those looking for a more upscale shopping experience.

CherryVale Mall
CherryVale Mall David Nord, Cherry Valley, IL [email protected] at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Recent Developments and Challenges (2010s-2020s)

In 2015, CherryVale Mall joined the Tesla Supercharger network, adding six Superchargers in the lower-level parking lot.

This move catered to the growing number of electric vehicle owners, offering them a convenient place to recharge while shopping.

The late 2010s and early 2020s brought both challenges and new developments to CherryVale Mall. In April 2018, Bergner’s announced its closure as its parent company, The Bon-Ton Stores, went out of business.

Bergner’s closed on August 29, 2018, and Choice Furniture soon took over the lower level. However, by 2020, Choice Furniture also closed, and Galleria Furniture replaced it in 2022, which also closed in 2023.

In December 2018, Sears announced it would close as part of a nationwide plan to shutter 80 stores. The store closed in March 2019.

In May 2019, Nickels And Dimes Inc. announced that Tilt Studio and a new concept, Tilted 10, would replace Sears.

These two-story arcade and entertainment venues opened in the summer of 2020, bringing a new dynamic to the mall.

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 posed significant challenges for CherryVale Mall.

To ensure safety, the mall implemented CDC guidelines, including recommending masks and face coverings for all staff, retailers, vendors, and visitors.

These measures aimed to keep the mall safe and operational during uncertain times.

Despite these challenges, CherryVale Mall continues to adapt and evolve. New stores and entertainment options help keep it relevant and appealing to a broad range of shoppers.

The mall remains a central hub for retail and social activities in the Rockford area, constantly changing to meet the needs of its community.

CherryVale Mall
Cherryvale Mall” by Retail Thriller is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Notable Incidents in CherryVale Mall

CherryVale Mall has experienced a few notable incidents over the years. One of the most alarming occurred in December 2006.

Derrick Shareef, a member of the Nation of Islam, planned to detonate hand grenades throughout the mall during the busy Christmas shopping season.

Fortunately, law enforcement foiled his plot before he could carry it out. In 2008, he received a 35-year prison sentence.

In another incident, in December 2023, a man was found dead in a parked car at the mall. Cherry Valley Police are investigating the circumstances, but this event added to the mall’s history of occurrences.

While these incidents are troubling, they also underscore the importance of safety and vigilance in public spaces. The mall continues to work closely with local law enforcement to ensure a safe environment for all visitors.

Current Status and Future Prospects

As of now, CherryVale Mall hosts 110 stores spread over 850,000 sq ft. The anchor stores include JCPenney, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, Tilt Studio/Tilted 10. These stores draw a diverse crowd of shoppers, helping to keep the mall vibrant.

In recent years, the mall has focused on adapting to changing retail trends. For instance, it has embraced new technologies like the Tesla Supercharger network, which was added in 2015. This shows the mall’s commitment to staying current and meeting the needs of today’s shoppers.

The addition of entertainment options like Tilt Studio and Tilted 10 in the former Sears space has also been a positive move.

These venues offer more than just shopping; they provide a place for families and friends to gather and have fun.

Looking ahead, CherryVale Mall will need to continue evolving. The retail landscape is always changing, and malls must adapt to survive.

With a mix of retail, dining, and entertainment, CherryVale Mall seems well-positioned to remain a central hub in the Rockford area for years to come.

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