As he sat eating pretzels with his daughter Rhiannon in the Apache Mall's sunny Food Court this week, Randy Pooler remembered traveling from Charles City, Iowa, with his father to visit the mall soon after its grand opening in 1969.
Now 50 years later, he lives in Rochester and visits the mall about once a week to shop Barnes & Noble and get a snack. He's a big fan of the cheese fries from Charleys Philly Steaks.
"It's a good place to go to get out of the house," he said. "We do our walking here when the weather is crappy."
On a typical weekday, locals like the Poolers walk the corridors along with shoppers, like Nancy Hamilton, who traveled from La Crosse, Wis., to shop.
"I love coming here to shop. I've probably been coming there for 20 years," said Hamilton. "We lost our mall in La Crosse. It's nice that the (Apache) mall is doing well."
The Apache Mall of today with its phone charging stations, dance studio and "pop-up" storefronts is different from the mall that opened its doors on Oct. 16, 1969, though the core focus of attracting people to its array of stores and restaurants is still the same.
"Since its opening in 1969, Apache Mall has been, and still remains a staple in the community. We continue to evolve to bring in new uses that people now want from their regional shopping center. We are most proud of the connection we foster with our community and how we are a tradition in their families," stated Kim Bradley, who manages the mall for Brookfield Properties.
Pete Chafos, owner of the 102-year-old Boston Shoe Repair, has watched that evolution since he moved his business into Apache Mall in 1970.
"I think it has helped Rochester a lot. It has brought in a lot of people from out of town over the years," he said.
While times have been tough for many traditional mall tenants, like Sears and Herbergers, Chafos says that vacant spots still fill up pretty quickly and the addition of Scheels brings in a steady stream of shoppers.
The history doesn't mean much to Brooklyn Wheeler and Nick Scott enjoying dinner in the Food Court, after an afternoon of shopping for a homecoming dress for Wheeler.
Parents bring them there about once a week to shop and hang out.
"We just like it," said Wheeler.