From Bob P.
Maple Hill Mall opened in 1971 with three anchor stores: Wurzburg's, Montgomery Ward, and Steketee's. Behind the Wurzburg's and detached from the mall, was a combination Turn Style/Jewel Foods. Across the street was another mall, which opened in 1969, called West Main Mall.
In the 1980s, Turn Style was replaced by Meijer Square, a failed Meijer concept that featured only a discount department store with no groceries. When Wurzburg's closed, the former Wurzburg's was gutted and expanded, allowing for more mall space and an entrance to the Meijer store. The south half of the old Wurzburg's became Gilmore's. Jewel moved across the street to West Main Mall, and Meijer expanded into the old Jewel space, before a new Meijer was built down the road in the mid 1990s. The former Meijer was mostly torn down for Target, although the easternmost portion was gutted for another mall entry and a few additional store spaces that apparently were never tenanted.
In 1981, a newer mall called Crossroads Mall opened across town in the suburb of Portage. This newer mall featured Hudson's (later Marshall Field's, now Macy's), JCPenney, and Sears as anchors (Mervyn's, which is now Burlington Coat Factory, was added later). Despite being a larger, two-story complex, Crossroads proved to be no threat at first, and the two malls shared several stores. In a 1993 phonebook, I've found many overlapping stores at both malls, including Zales, Waldenbooks, Hot Sam Pretzels, Dollar Tree, Sbarro's and Waldenbooks. West Main Mall, however, was long dead by the 1990s.
Over time, Maple Hill Mall began to decline, especially after Gilmore's closed in the mid-1990s. Some chains like Dollar Tree and Braun's Fashions hung on for a long time, and some local stores did open. Nonetheless, by 2000, the mall's west half was almost entirely vacant, with the only major addition being an OfficeMax in the former Gilmore's.
Around 2000, according to Storetrax, some renovations were planned. The Storetrax site shows an artist's conception illustrating a Texas Roadhouse in the mall's east wing, and the lease plan shows Old Navy and Dunham's in the Target wing, with a space simply labeled "Bookstore" in the middle. The size of this bookstore space suggests that Barnes & Noble or Borders may have been slated to open in the mall in 2000. It is unknown why these plans fell through - perhaps the closure of Wards was a factor. Marshalls took a big chunk of the east wing in 2000 as well.
Surprisingly, the few holdouts in the early 2000s still kept their stores maintained. Hot Sam had the most recent logo, with "Hot Sam Pretzel Bakery" in a circle; GNC had the pastel colors and motivational quotes on the walls; and Foot Locker had a shiny black storefront. Eventually, some of the more common stores (including Pearle Vision, Hallmark and Payless Shoe Source) moved to a strip mall nearby, leaving the mall even emptier.
Montgomery Ward's bankruptcy in 2000 spelled the closure of their Maple Hill store, and Grand Rapids-based Steketee's closed its Maple Hill location around the same time. The number of tenants plummeted as these two anchors left, and by 2004 fewer than ten tenants remained, counting the remaining anchor Target and junior anchors Marshalls and OfficeMax. Hobby Lobby opened in half of the former Montgomery Ward in early 2004, then Value City Furniture opened in the other half shortly afterward. After the Wards space was filled, demolition began on the mall.