May 3, 2017 – West Bend, WI – On a cloudy Tuesday afternoon neighbors tuned in to Washington County Insider on Facebook to witness the dismantling of the famed bridge to nowhere.
The bridge extended from Main Street in downtown West Bend across the Milwaukee River and in 1982 it led to the West Bend Outlet Mall. It was the place to be in the ’80s and neighbors have fond memories.
Below is an article I wrote in February 2006: Remembering the Outlet Mall by Judy Steffes
Last week we gave an update on what was happening around the old Outlet Mall in West Bend. City Engineer Judy Neu said Veterans Avenue will be narrowed this summer and the road will be raised about four feet to bring it above the flood plain.
Discussing the Outlet Mall, led to questions about ‘what stores used to be IN the mall?’
“Maus Jewelers started out in there,” said Judy Neu. “I think the Shoe Rack was in there, along with a little restaurant and there was also a place to buy kitchen utensils,” said Neu recalling a West Bend Company Outlet which she thought was also in the mall.
Prior to the Outlet Mall Neu said there was an old bar and a bunch of little buildings tucked up along the river. “There used to be an old milk house in there and I’m finding it as I dig,” Neu said about all the old foundations from the buildings and the water mains and storm sewers from days gone by.
Local historian Joe Huber also remembered the Outlet Mall. “Going down the east side of the hall there was a Quality Candy, and a restaurant, and then Regal Ware had an outlet, and then Minnesota Woolens, and then there was a pot and pan and kitchen gadget store that had everything,” said Huber. “On the north end of the west side was The Paper Tree, the West Bend Company had an outlet, and then for a while there was an outfit that sold grandfather clocks.”
Former mall owner Steve Picus also recalled a house wares outlet and a party store and a couple of other things.
“There was a Manhattan clothing store which was more of a men’s store and there was a restaurant on the north end and the cookie lady was in there too for a while,” said Picus who believed The Cookie Lady was the name of the shop.
“When Field’s Furniture took over the mall the sausage place was there, the house wares outlet was there and the Paper Factory were the only three left in the building, almost until the bitter end.”
In its heyday, Picus said there were about 20 stores in that building and you could walk from one shop to the other. “The whole center of the furniture store was the center isle of the Outlet Mall and there were stores on both sides,” said Picus painting a picture of the interior of the mall.
Former Alderman Tom O’Meara remembered the Outlet Mall as a HUGE attraction that pulled in people from across the state.
“It was busier then hell, there were buses all the time,” said O’Meara about the shoppers that came in from Green Bay, Minneapolis, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Dubuque, and Chicago.
“It was really major, major stores. There was no big anchor tenant, just a series of small shops,” said O’Meara remembering an old ice cream parlor. “What finally killed the Outlet Mall in West Bend is when an even bigger mall opened in Racine.”
Checking with the Washington County Historical Society we came up with this list of stores that once made up the West Bend Outlet Mall: The Cookie Jar, Dinner ware Incorporated Factory Outlet, House ware Outlet Store, Maus Jewelry Imports, Newport Sportswear, Paper Factory, The Sock Market, General Shoe Factory, Knit Pikker Factory Outlet, Little Red Shoehouse, Uncle Wonderful’s Ice Cream Parlor, The Card Shop Inc., Cheese Outlet and Sandwich Shop, Decor Drapery Outlet, Mitchell Handbags and Active Sportswear, Mountain Camper, Svoboda Industries Inc, Oshkosh B’gosh, Bass Shoe Outlet, Van Heusen Factory Outlet, Genuine Article, Regal Outlet, and Rainbow Fashions.
Did we miss any? Feel free to chime in with your memories.