The modern concept of a shopping center, where several stores are included in one building, didn't come to Madison until 1949. True, there had always been neighborhood shopping areas with grocery stores, restaurants and other small businesses but the "strip mall" didn't materialize until the Madison East Shopping Center was built in the 2700 block of East Washington Avenue in 1949 and the Shorewood Shopping Center, in the 3200 block of University Avenue, in 1950. The east side shopping center was built by a Cleveland, Ohio firm and didn't become locally owned until 1976. The Shorewood Hills shopping center was built by J. J. Fitzpatrick and his son Lawrence on land where their wholesale lumber company had been located. It was the site of the first Rennebohm drug store outside the downtown area and featured island display counters selling items other than drugs.
Nine years later, in 1959, the next wave of shopping centers were built: the Brookwood Shopping Center, 1300 South Midvale Boulevard, the Lake Edge Shopping Center, 4100 Monona Drive, and the Klinke Shopping Center, 4500 Monona Drive. The site of Lake Edge originally housed a Kroger's grocery store which opened in 1947 and Maurice Klinke expanded his 1937 chicken hatchery building which he had converted to a dry cleaning establishment.
The first of the big shopping centers, Westgate, 600 South Whitney Way, opened in 1960 with 30 stores and parking for 1,000 cars. Two years later Hilldale Shopping Center, 700 North Midvale Blvd., opened and was double the size of Westgate with parking for 2,100 cars. The 1960s saw an explosion of smaller shopping centers. Carl L. Payne didn't build his C&P Shopping Center, 108 Cottage Grove Road, until 1962 but he had run a grocery store on that corner starting in 1941. It was the first in Madison to feature a self-service meat counter. Northgate Shopping Center, 1113 North Sherman Avenue was built on land owned by the Roth family in 1962; Midvale Plaza, 500 South Midvale Blvd., opened in 1962; Fiore Shopping Center, 1800 East Washington Avenue, in 1963; Meadowood Shopping Center, 5700 Raymond Road, also in 1963; Sherman Plaza, 2800 North Sherman Avenue, in 1964; Park Plaza, 2300 South Park Street, in 1966; Lakewood Plaza, 600 North Sherman Avenue, in 1968; and Nakoma Plaza, 4500 Nakoma Road, in 1969.
Then the really big shopping malls were built. West Towne Mall, located on 100 acres of land off Gammon Road, was Madison's first enclosed shopping mall when it opened in 1970. It had 744,000 square feet of rentable space and parking for 5,000 cars. East Towne Mall, located on 84 acres just west of Interstate 90, opened in 1971 with 940,000 square feet of rentable space and parking for 6,000 cars.
Based on a Wisconsin State Journal article by Thomas Still, published Jan 23, 1977.