The History of MeadowBrook Village Mall

From Fox Farm to 1800s Themed Mall to The Village

Today, the northeast corner of Adams Road and Walton Boulevard is the home of the Village of Rochester Hills, an outdoor shopping destination. Longtime residents of the area will recall that the predecessor of the Village of Rochester Hills was MeadowBrook Village Mall, an enclosed shopping center that occupied the location for about a quarter century. 

Front of the mall facade showing many cars in the parking lot

MeadowBrook Village Mall

Detroit Silver Fox Farms

However, long before either of the shopping centers was built, the corner of Walton and Adams was the home of an unusual farming operation catering to the tastes of the wealthy. Fox farming, or the raising in captivity of foxes for their pelts, came to Michigan from Canada’s Prince Edward Island in 1915. The end of World War I and the economic fervor of the Roaring Twenties brought tremendous growth to this industry. Fox furs were wildly popular as a fashion statement, and by the mid-1920s, Michigan boasted dozens of fox farms. 

Old stone building

Detroit Silver Fox Farm office on Dodge (now Adams) Road (Courtesy of Rochester Hills Public Library)

Silver foxes were especially prized for their unique color, and were the choice stock of most of the Michigan fox farms. Fred W. Craft of Detroit and Arthur J. Anderson of Lake Orion formed the Detroit Silver Fox Farms in 1922, with offices in Detroit. The partners bought a 39-acre parcel at the corner of Walton and Adams to house their farm. The property was ideally suited to their purpose; for many decades, it had been maintained in 10-acre farm woodlots for the surrounding property owners. The heavily wooded land provided a cool and shaded environment for the breeding stock, which had to be protected from overexposure to sunlight. 

Among those sheltering trees, Detroit Silver Fox Farms built 100 pens fenced with woven wire, a caretaker’s lodge, watchtowers, and an icehouse. A full-time, on-site caretaker and watchtowers were needed because the 83 pairs of breeding foxes in the pens were valued at upwards of $2,000 each. The fox farm became a regional tourist attraction, as the company welcomed visitors whenever new pups were not being born. 

Foxs in a wooded area

Fox Farm Scene (Courtesy of Rochester Hills Public Library)

Apparently, Detroit Silver Fox Farms had great initial success with its “Pontiac Strain” furs, but it expanded too quickly. The company added a second fox farm near Charlevoix in 1925, and by the following year, it was in financial trouble. Only four years after establishing the fox farm near Rochester, its owners found themselves in receivership. Local contractors, among them Dillman & Upton, remained unpaid for materials sold to the company for construction of the buildings and pens. By 1927, Detroit Silver Fox Farms was bankrupt and the Avon Township farm had been abandoned. The property once again became a quiet woodlot. 

Main Entrance to MeadowBrook Village Mall

Entrance to MeadowBrook Village Mall (Photo courtesy of Robert B. Aikens and Associates)

Meadowbrook Village Mall

The next big change for the land came in 1973, when Avon Township approved a plan for a 155,000-square-foot enclosed shopping mall on the site. Unlike Winchester Mall, which had just opened its first phase at the corner of Avon and Rochester roads during the previous year, the Walton and Adams development would be a “theme” mall. 

Brick floor and inside view of the mall

Inside the MeadowBrook Village Mall (Photo courtesy of Robert B. Aikens and Associates)

The mall’s developers envisioned a “1800s village” theme, and named the proposed center MeadowBrook Village Mall. The plan for interior decor included cobblestone walkways, flickering gas streetlight effects, a cider mill, a San Francisco cable car, a showboat puppet theater and storefronts with a vintage look. The space was planned to accommodate about 53 tenants, but by design, no traditional anchor stores. The largest retailers in the mall were Frank’s Nursery and Crafts and Osmun’s Men’s Wear. About 30,000 square feet of the space was designed as a common area, in order to reinforce the “village” theme. 

Wood structure cider miil business inside the mall

Amy Applewhite’s Cider Mill

The first phase of MeadowBrook Village Mall opened to shoppers in April 1975. Among the tenants were K.D. Butler, Casual Corner, Sibley’s, Carnaby Shoes, Steve’s Sports Connection, The Country Peddler, Applewhite’s Cider Stop (later the Coffee Beanery), Meadowbrook Corner Drugs, and Oceania Inn. The “streets” of the mall regularly featured live entertainment, and the Village Players offered a puppet show for children on the showboat stage every month. 

Water wheel of the cider mill spins inside the mall

Coffee Beanery inside Meadowbrook Village Mall (Courtesy of The Oakland Press)

John and Shirlee Anderson opened the 82-seat Merrie Melodie Theater at MeadowBrook Village Mall in March 1978. The theater showed film classics, both silent and talkie, and evoked a 1920s atmosphere inside the auditorium. Before each screening, John Anderson entertained audiences with an overture played on a custom-made Rodgers organ.  

One of the inside corner stores of the old mall

Meadowbrook Village Mall interior (Courtesy of The Oakland Press)

A woman walks along the brick and wood boardwalk inside the mall

Meadowbrook Village Mall (Courtesy of The Oakland Press)

The Village of Rochester Hills

Aerial View from 1974

1974 Mall Site (Photo courtesy of the City of Rochester Hills)

Twenty-five years later, mall owners Robert B. Aikens & Associates began looking toward a new iteration of MeadowBrook Village Mall. The era of the enclosed mall was ending, and the owners planned a new development that involved an emerging concept called “de-malling.” The plan to demolish portions of the old structure and rebuild it as an outdoor lifestyle center was approved in April 2000. The work was done in phases so as not to displace those tenants who planned to stay with the new concept. Two large tenants, a Farmer Jack supermarket (later Whole Foods) on the old Frank’s Nursery site, and a Parisian department store (later Carson’s) on the north end, were announced. 

Under the new name, the Village of Rochester Hills, the first phase of the re-imagined shopping district opened to customers in September 2002. Its streetscape features a gazebo, pocket parks, a fountain, a clock tower and 375,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Now and Then and Coming Soon (By Michael Dwyer)

2014 Mall Site (Photo courtesy of the City of Rochester Hills)

Did you know that only a small portion of the original MeadowBrook Village Mall remains? Kruse & Muer is the only store still in the exact same location. This small section of the Village (building C) is home to Kruse & Muer, The Sleep Number Store, Taylor & Colt, P.F. Chang’s, and coming soon, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. The corner where P.F. Chang’s is now used to be Max & Erma’s, which was also in the old mall, as well as the new one. But do you remember what was on the corner before the two restaurants? Both Avon Drugs and Meadowbrook Corner Drugs had that corner at one time. Next to the drug store was Oceania Inn – they moved across the street before the new mall was built, and they are still in operation today.

Haig’s Shoes also stayed on through the transition, however they were located in a mobile trailer during construction and are located in one of the newer buildings at the Village now.

The old mall had bookstores, including B. Dalton Bookseller, and opening this month (March 27) will be a new Barnes & Noble Bookstore. This location would have been roughly near the San Francisco cable car along the west side (near the center) of the old mall. There are currently 22 stores at the Village whose footprint would have been located inside the MeadowBrook Village Mall.

The Village of Rochester Hills continues to evolve, bringing in new tenants when stores close. Michelle Shafir, Senior Retail Leasing Specialist for the Village, told Rochester Media that they are currently looking at several options for the large northern two-level part of the mall that used to be occupied by Carson’s. While a record store or puppet show theater would be wonderful, it’s bound to be something more trendy and modern.

MeadowBrook Village Mall Tenant List

Which Ones Do you Remember?

Afterthoughts

Aladdin’s Castle

Alcove

Andre’s Salon

Applewhite’s Cider Stop

Arden’s

August Max Woman

Avon Drugs

B. Dalton Bookseller

Bombay Company

Book Couzens Travel

Brass & Glass

Bresler’s 33 Flavors Ice Cream Shop

Bull Shirt Company

Callendar’s Buster Brown Shoes

Camelot Music

Caren Charles

Caribbean Spice Co.

Carnaby Shoes

Casual Corner

Claire’s Boutique

Coffee Beanery

Competitive Edge Sports

Connolly’s Jewelers

Country Peddler

Dolly’s Faboutique

Donna Sacs

Eagle’s Nest

Ember’s Deli

Fash ‘n Shirt

Foot Locker

Frank’s Nursery & Crafts

French Gourmet

Games and More

General Nutrition Center

Golf Stuff

Gramercy Park Jewelry

Great Stuff

Hadley Arden

Haig’s Shoes

Harlow’s

Here and Now

Heslop’s Yankee Peddler

Hickory Farms

Instant Images

Jennifer’s Coffee

Jimmy’s Coney Island

Just About Time

Just Kids Outfitters

K.D. Butler

Kay-Bee Toys

Keepsakes by Sarah

Kessler’s Kravings

Kinney Shoes

Kitchen Stuff

Kruse & Muer

Lotions & Potions

Love Shop

Mario’s Hairstyles

Max & Erma’s

Mayfair Flowers

Meadowbrook Corner Drugs

Meadowbrook Optical

Merle Norman Cosmetics

Merrie Melodie Theater

Morrow’s Nut House

Mother & Daughter Crafts

Motherhood Maternity

Moto Photo

Mrs. Fields Cookies

Muggables

Oceania Inn

Odyssey Gallery

Olde Detroit Confectioners

Osmuns Mens’ Wear

Oz

Palm Springs Softubs

Parvenue

Pet Stop

Petite Sophisticate

Pickwick Shop

Pomeroy Fish Market

R. Nouveau Jewelers

RB Shop

Record Town

Scoops & More

Sibley’s

Steve’s Sports Connection

SuperTronix

Suzan Dee

Tanner’s Loft

Towne and Tweed

Travel 2000

TRM Communications

Troy Photographic

Ups & Downs

Village Toy Store

Waldenbooks

Waltman’s Bakery

Whiting’s Fashion Accessories

Willow Tree

Winkelman’s

Winston’s Deli

World Bazaar

World Camera

World of Riches & Rubies

York Country Designs

Youth Center

 

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Comments

  1. Donald Worrell says:

    Thank you for yet another fascinating, impeccably researched
    local historical article by Ms. Larsen! It was truly a pleasure to read.

  2. Sandi Miller says:

    Great read and brought back lots of memories. Thanks, Sandi Miller

  3. M. Ferry says:

    Great article!! Can’t see all the pictures using mobile version.

    • If you rotate your phone horizontally, it’ll widen the screen to see the entire story with photos. If it doesn’t do it, you can go to Display in settings and set it so screen can be be rotated. Hope this helps.

  4. Mary Jo Bagosy says:

    Thank you for the history. Such a pleasure to read about part of our history as well. We moved to Rochester Hills in the 70’s. Lived just a mile north of the mall. Our three children and our daughter in law all worked at the Embers Deli during high school and college. Thank you so much for the history.

  5. Carrie Rudzki says:

    I wish we could have the old Meadowbrook Mall back. 😊

  6. Thank you for the wonderful jump back to my childhood memories. What about the Floatable boatables down paint creek river.

    • Deborah J. Larsen says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Leslie. As for the Floatable Boatable, I’ll add that to the list for future stories, so stay tuned.

  7. Shannon Heskett says:

    Yes!! So fun to read and remember. I’m in my 40s now and was in my childhood and youth walking around Meadowbrook Mall. I love the Village but that indoor mall with the old time cobblestone and cider mill wheel… Aladdin’s Castle. The best.

    • I loved all that too Shannon. While researching the article, the mall representatives told us that the uneven surface – the bricks and wood boardwalk – was a major complaint. Which I can understand now as an adult, but it was cool as a kid.

  8. Shiva Polavarapu says:

    Thank you for bringing back history. I remember & recall few stores in Meadow Brook Village Mall.

  9. Jen Mitkal (Baenziger) says:

    I grew up at meadowbrook mall and really enjoyed reading this and remembering the time i spent there. I had no idea, as a kid, why the halls were cobbled and the lighting was so different. As an adult now, i appreciate how cool this mall was back then.

  10. Mark Bozek says:

    What a great article. So many great places in the mall. My favorite was Bresler’s 33 Flavors ice cream. I wonder if anyone else remembers Bresler’s.

  11. Alexander Hart says:

    So the property was not being used for anything from 1927 to 1973?

  12. lyn sieffert says:

    This is supremely interesting. Is there a way to get a print-outed?t or is it copyrighted ?

  13. Michelle Carpenter says:

    Great memories. I shopped there frequently. The Coffee Beanery was my indtroduction to buying whole beans. I went often to buy a bag of just roasted French Roast beans and had them freshly ground. I was sad to see them close. Now, of course, it’s Starbucks beans from the store in the Village. My kids enjoyed the puppet shows. Franks Nursery was so convenient and a great place to wander and plan for a summer garden. Petite Sophisticate was a godsend for this 4’11” woman, hard to find petites much these days and they are not sized the same. The World Bazaar was fun to wander in, always unique items from all over. I miss the mall experience especially in rainy or snowy weather or in the heat of the summer. So much under one roof was so nice to just stroll and window shop. #BringbackMallshopping

  14. Debbie Hallett says:

    Thank you for sharing this history of the Meadow
    Village Mall. I always liked shopping there. I use to take my children to the puppet show in the mall also. The mall was quaint and like an old hometown. Oceania still my favorite Chinese restaurant of all time.

  15. Thank you for this article! I loved that mall’s look and feel so much. Happy memories taking my oldest daughter to the puppet shows, getting coffee and her shopping in the toy store. CHRISTmas was magical here. Left a happy mark on my day. Thank you!

    • Deborah J. Larsen says:

      So glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll keep reading. I write a local history story once a month.

  16. Stefan Evan says:

    Thanks for the nice article. I spent lots of time in the mall as a kid. The waterwheel and puppet shows on the boat were my favorites. I remember the Chinese New Year celebrations in front of Oceania Inn.

  17. Jason Patterson says:

    This is fantastic, thanks for sharing! I’ve tried to describe the waterwheel and mill in the middle of the mall to people in the past, but people just don’t get it without seeing it. Thank you for putting this together.

    By the way, there was an ice cream shop that was in there called The Big Olaf, they made fresh waffle cones and charged $1. Towards the end they raised their price to $1.25. It was over by where the movie theatre used to be, I didn’t see it on your list.

    • Deborah J. Larsen says:

      Thanks for adding that business to the tenant list. Our list was compiled from newspaper advertising, so there are undoubtedly a few omissions.

    • Shawn Darrin says:

      I remember that place, it was in that corridor in the back to the left of the Cider shop, it was the first shop on the left in that corridor across from the deli

  18. Jason Patterson says:

    So many great memories. Thank you again for taking the time to research and write this article. I saw The Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D with my dad there in the late 1970s.

    Any pictures of the paddle wheel boat where they used to host puppet shows for kids?

    • Deborah J. Larsen says:

      It was a bit of a challenge to find interior photos of the old mall for this story. No photos of the showboat puppet theater surfaced through our efforts, unfortunately.

  19. Pamela Palmer says:

    Hi Michael, I was so surprised by this article! My father was a co-owner and the chef at Pomeroy’s Fish Market, one of three restaurant that he had at this time. The menu included many fresh fish offerings and my dad would make Boston Clam Chowder and New England Clam Chowder from scratch I still make the former. One of my sister’s and I worked as waitresses here and we would walk this fun mall on a regular basis. Thank-you for this throw back in time Deborah!

  20. Janine Krasicky Sadaj says:

    Great story! Amazing to read the history of what was here before we were. I remember the Franks Nursery and still have the Christmas tree I purchased from them long ago when I worked at FANUC Robotics before I had moved to this area.

  21. Thank you for this article. It brings back a lot of memories. I found this website while searching for Aladdin’s Castle. 🙂

  22. Haha, yes! I spent many a quarter on the Simpsons game they had right at the entrance. 🙂

  23. Jonathon Ottolini says:

    Thanks Deborah and Michael!

    This article brought back a lot of memories. I grew up at that mall like many of the above commenters. The article actually has spurred an unorthodox request. When I was no more than 5 years old, my earliest memory with my Mother was going on lunch dates to Embers Deli. I am getting married this summer and am looking for a sentimental gift to say thank you for all she’s done. Do either of you by chance have any photos of Embers Deli from the mall or know of a contact number of the old owners family or a historical record where I might be able to find an old photo or a piece of memorabilia? I think it would really hit the right chord and mean a lot to my Mom. Thank you for your efforts and response in advance!

    Sincerely,

    Jon

    • Hello Jon –

      The owners of Ember’s was Scott and Alice Lefler. You can find Alice on Facebook. FYI. I wish I could find pictures of the Deli too.

      -J

  24. Wow, I was telling my European wife about this mall. My wife is new to the area and I told her how wonderful that mall was and just about everything around Rochester.

    I remember Jacobson’s at Livernois and Walton as well as Mitzelfeld’s downtown Rochester. The new Village of RH is OK, but I loved the mall. I used to get my haircut there at the barber shop and also buy shoes at Foot Locker.

    Unfortunately, so much is changing in RH with the housing prices going out of control, no NBD, no Kmart and just too many demographic changes due to non-stop immigration from third-world countries.

    Rochester is certainly a far cry from what is used to be. I love it here, but am considering moving out to a greener pasture (if one can be found).

  25. Sarah Munson Sibert says:

    Thank you for the great jump back in memory lane. My sister Gay was Happy the Clown for many years there. I wonder how many people remember her. One year I helped out dressed as an Elf at Christmas time. It was a great place to shop,eat, see puppets. Interesting I never knew about the Silver fox information.

  26. Ron Crowell says:

    I remember the early 80’s when I was a rookie on the Avon Twp Fire Department. On Fire Prevention Week every October we would set up a large display inside the Meadowbrook Mall. As a rookie I was responsible for wearing a “Smokey The Bear” outfit around the mall and pass out plastic fire helmets to children.

  27. Jim Beiermeister says:

    My fondest memory of Meadowbrook Mall was the carousel.

  28. Louise W Lorenz says:

    I managed the Alcove store in the late 70’s. I can remember Santa assisted us in catching a shoplifter during the Christmas season. He probably put them on the naughty list too!

  29. That time I wasted like 5 bucks on Final Blow and Altered Beast at Aladdin’s Castle when I already had them at home on the Genesis

  30. That time I spent like five bucks on Final Blow and Altered Beast at Aladdin’s Castle when I already had them both at home on the Genesis

Leave a Reply to Mark Bozek Cancel reply

*