The Valley Fair Mall was once called the Dirt Mall. That nickname was a straight reference to the movie, Mallrats. It was positioned on the corner of Calumet Street and Memorial Drive on the far south side of Appleton. The construction started back in 1953, and it did finally open on August 11th of 1954. It was before the Southdale Mall, and some people cite that as the first enclosed mall, by a couple of years, but that contention is still hotly debated in the dead mall community. With the style of this decor, it got a facelift way back in the late 1970s, and then some of the building was taken off, but it was just pretty much maintenance after that. There are some old photos in archives of the site that show an airy, bright, and exposed brick and glass strip mall structure that had a kind of contemporary, mid-century modern feel. The central concourse had a big kidney bean shape light that was on the ceiling, and it was up there until the mall shut down. The original look probably would have a kind of appeal today, more so than the dirty, dark, dingy, 1970s update.
The original mall just had a single anchor store, and it was a grocery store. There were some other original stores like Hamilton Bakery, House of Beauty, 3 Sisters, Walgreens, and W.G. Grant. There was a local camera shop and a local ice cream shop. There was a sort of junior’s clothing store, bookstore, nail salon, and ice cream shop that really stood out. There was a Braun’s, homemade craft store, and Darthmouth store.. There was a GNC, staffing service, and Ford Pharmacy. At different points, there were some mall staples like Hallmart, Thom McAn, and Radioshack. There were a couple of restaurants too like Pedro’s and the Golden Griddle. Toward the end of the mall, there was even a shop called The Fire, and it put pottery for sale. There was also a Karate America, Pet Supplies Plus, and an insurance agency.
For its first three decades, Valley Fair was a single mall in the grater Fox Valley area. There was a smaller Northland Mall, a strip mal and enclosed mall on the other side of town.
The Valley Fair Mall did have an advantage over the better-located, newer Fox River mall. It had the best movie theater in town. The Fox River Mall had a movie theater, but it wasn’t as nice as the one at Valley fair Mall.
There was a big investment in the mall, and it should have been kind of a boon to the mall, but it wasn’t. The mall just couldn’t capitalize on it. The mall had to do its ten year decor updates too. It could have done a lot at this point, but it just shut down. It was sad to watch it go the way of the dinosaur.
There’s only an old Kohl’s building and a movie theatre there now. It’s so sad.