Northwest Herald

Oliver: News of Spring Hill Mall’s demise brings flood of shopping memories

Those of us who grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s know a thing or two about malls.

After all, we Gen Xers practically grew up in them.

For me, the first mall that I can remember was Crystal Point Mall that used to be along Route 14 in Crystal Lake. The main draw then was an arcade called The Machine. My younger brother and I used to look forward to the times Mom would drop us off and let us go. We usually could turn our good report cards into a few free tokens for a game or two. I used to like a game called Qix, as well as Frogger and Pac-Man.

Every now and then, I’d be able to get together with some of my friends and we’d hang out in the mall, doing a little shopping, finding something to eat and just having a good time.

For the real mall experience, though, one had to travel a little farther out.

When I needed an eighth-grade graduation dress, my mother and I teamed up with my best friend and her mom to go to the still somewhat new Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee.

Far bigger than my beloved Crystal Point Mall, Spring Hill was pretty amazing for a 13-year-old. So many more options. I think my dress, a short-sleeve beige floral number with wedge-heeled sandals, ultimately came from a store called Deb’s, which at the time was a popular spot for girls that age.

That wasn’t the last time I’d go to Spring Hill. I’d have to say that over the years, I went there hundreds of times.

Although my mother used to think it was too far to drive to go shopping, that never stopped me when I was old enough to drive myself. I became pretty adept at it. In fact, I had multiple routes that I could take depending on where I was coming from or what the traffic was like.

Coincidentally, the parking lot at the mall was the place where I picked up the keys to my very first apartment after I graduated from Northwestern. The apartment was in Woodstock, right off the Square, but since my landlord lived near Spring Hill, she wanted me to pick up the keys in the mall’s parking lot. It did make it easy to pick up a few things at the same time.

When Tony and I were married in 1995, we created our wedding registry at the Marshall Field’s store at Spring Hill. A couple of years before that, our first unofficial lunch date was at the Olive Garden that was in one of the mall’s outlots.

Over the years, Tony and I often would go even farther afield on our shopping expeditions.

We found that the Marshall Field’s store, and then Macy’s, at Hawthorn in Vernon Hills had the best selection of men’s ties. That, more than anything, was the draw to go there at least a couple of times a year.

If we wanted to make a day of shopping, we often would go to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg and then hit the other stores in the area. After all, there’s an Ikea store nearby.

We even went as far as Oakbrook Center Mall if we were also going to our favorite furniture store, Room & Board.

When outlet shopping became a thing, we’d go to Gurnee Mills and then Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora. When “lifestyle centers” started supplanting indoor malls, we made trips to Deer Park Town Center and Algonquin Commons.

Of course, if we needed something fast, Spring Hill Mall remained our go-to for many years.

These days, Tony and I don’t really go shopping anymore. With his Alzheimer’s disease, Tony doesn’t do so well in crowds, and the stress of trying to shop and keep track of him is too much for me.

Still, I have a heavy heart at the news that Spring Hill Mall will close March 22. Though, honestly, its best days were long behind it.

Many of the area’s malls and lifestyle centers are trying to find new ways to draw shoppers. Many, like Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, are turning to luxury housing and more of a mixed-use development.

Shopping habits have been changing, and no doubt the pandemic changed them even more.

Spring Hill Mall, though, will always hold a special place in my heart.

Just like Crystal Point Mall before it.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.