David Kruger's Commentary

Posted April 29, 2006 (user submitted)

The University Mall opened in Brookings, SD in 1979, with anchors Kmart on the north end, Bostwicks in the center, and JCPenney on the south end. Although Brookings already had an older mall (Brookings Mall) across the street, the University Mall gave this town of 16,000 a modern place to shop. With Brookings' hot summers and cold winters, it also became a popular social hangout for residents and college students. The Hardee's restaurant in the Kmart court was consistently busy.

University Mall had several "sister malls" by the same developer that opened around the same time, including malls in Huron and Pierre, SD, Jamestown, ND, and Glenwood Springs, CO. All of these "bricks and mortar" malls featured a small prototype JCPenney store (33,000 sf) on one end and a Kmart store (29,000 - 40,000 sf) on the opposite end. Bostwick's appeared in about half of them, and nearly every mall chain shop (Hal's, Musicland, Waldenbooks, Vanity, Maurices, Radio Shack) lined the 25 or so spaces between the anchors. These identical shopping centers also typically only had parking on the front side of the mall.

The University Mall did extremely well throughout its first 10 years. Even the closing of the Bostwick's chain had little negative impact. However, as the 1990's arrived, several things began to take their toll on the University Mall. Both of Brookings' malls had been poorly located on South 22nd Avenue, a street with no immediate access to I-29, and one which quickly became a gravel farm road just a mile or so south of JCPenney. Despite the 50 mile drive to Sioux Falls, Brookings residents increasingly began shopping at the regional Empire Mall, which probably hurt University Mall's specialty shops more, since many were duplicated at the Empire. When Wal*Mart came to Brookings in 1990, they chose an East 6th Street location 2-3 miles north of the Mall, near the SDSU campus and right off I-29. At the same time, Kmart needed to expand and remodel, but were unable to do so in their Mall location. Kmart announced they were pulling out of the University Mall in 1992 for a new 6th Street location next to Wal*Mart. Hardee's and the specialty chain shops such as Waldenbooks and Musicland increasingly began to pull out due to slumping sales. Initially, some were replaced by local shops, but inevitably they became dark empty spaces.

Kmart's exodus on the Mall's north end was salved by the arrival of Running's, a farm and ranch store that drew considerable rural business. However, Runnings did not favor having an interior mall entrance, and traffic was so poor on the Mall's north end that the mall entrance by the former Hardee's was shuttered. Even access from the south JCPenney wing was cut off about 3 shops beyond the Penney's internal entrance, leaving the mall grossly imbalanced with about 8 stores total, including anchors. On my visit in 2004, management had literally gutted most of the internal area from floor to ceiling between JCPenney and Runnings.

In 2004, Wal*Mart opened a new Supercenter on East 6th, immediately next to the store they vacated. Clearly, Wal*Mart made the East 6th street area the retail epicenter for Brookings. Runnings decided to pull out of the University Mall to fill the old Wal*Mart location, leaving JCPenney and a handful of specialty shops as the only remaining tenants in University Mall.

JCPenney remains the Mall's most visible tenant, but their location is extremely poor, requiring Brookings residents to drive at least 2-3 miles south of East 6th on what is essentially a dead-end street, past the Brookings Mall, and past the overwhelmingly dead portion of the University Mall to the Mall's south end. Meanwhile, the Brookings Mall, which had been decimated by the University Mall in the early 1980's, has been redeveloped essentially into a strip mall with a large HY-VEE grocery store, arguably the only real "draw" to this blighted retail area. Rumors have persisted that JCPenney will inevitably leave the University Mall, either for the now-closed Kmart on East 6th, or possibly leave the city of Brookings altogether. Either way, the University Mall is doomed.

Translate Site

User comments (new!!)

(Please be respectful of other users, thanks! For a permanent essay post, please use this link.)

 Check out's Dead Malls Media archive!

Click here for books from Amazon about Retail and Malls!

Have information on this mall's history, current conditions, future plans, personal memories, corrections or general comments?

Please let us know using the contact form!

Thank you to all those who have contributed to! makes no guarantee of the completeness or accuracy of any information provided herein. You, the reader, assume the risk of verifying any materials used or relied on. is not liable for and does not necessarily endorse viewpoints expressed by the authors of content presented. Information is presented as a historical account and may not reflect present-day status. All submissions become property of and are posted at will. By using in any manner you understand and agree with these policies.

<--- Back to dead mall stories
<--- Back to main page
Deadmalls Search

©2000-2024 unless otherwise noted, All Rights Reserved.