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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

KENNEDY MALL. The second of the major shopping centers in Dubuque and the first enclosed climate-controlled mall in Iowa, Kennedy Mall formally opened on April 15, 1970. (1)

In 1964, MONTGOMERY WARD announced that it would move its store located in the downtown area of Dubuque to the west end of the city. In February 1966, rezoning of the land on which the mall was built was approved. William M. Cafaro and Associates (now Cafaro Company) of Youngstown, Ohio developed the site. When the store was opened in 1969, the 133,000-square foot store was the largest of the firm's branches in Iowa. (2)

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

In the fall of 1968, Younkers was opened. This was followed by Montgomery Ward in the spring of 1969, and Roshek's followed in the fall of 1970. The mall was formally opened on April 15, 1970, with F. W. Woolworth Company operating as a junior anchor. At the time, Kennedy Mall had sixty stores, which made it Iowa's largest enclosed mall. Of concern to the downtown area was the fact that eight businesses had or would soon relocate to the Mall. (3)

Photo circa 2011

In 2009, Younkers was the only remaining original anchor store to still operate a store at the Mall. Roshek's closed its mall store in 1982, and Montgomery Ward followed in May 1983. J.C. Penney moved from its downtown location into the space that had been previously occupied by Wards. Armstrong Department Stores of Cedar Rapids, Iowa moved into the space previously occupied by Roshek's.

In the late 1980s, Armstrong's ceased operations even though the Dubuque store was profitable. At that point, Sears decided to move their store from the south end of Dubuque to Kennedy Mall. They took over the southern half of the Armstrong's store. Younker's eventually decided to expand, and moved their men's and houseware departments into the northern half of the building. In 2010, Sears, Borders, J.C. Penney, and Younkers made up the anchor stores to Kennedy Mall.

There are about 15 tenants in total who have been at Kennedy Mall since the mall opened. Bishop's Buffet was one of these original tenants. Even though Bishop's Buffet changed hands several times over the years, the restaurant remained open. Another one of the mall's original tenants; Musicland; closed by February 2006.

Originally, there was a General Cinema movie theater with a single 795-seat auditorium located within the mall, near Roshek's. In 1972 it was remodeled into a two-screen theater with about 300 seats in each auditorium. In the 1980s General Cinema built a new six-screen theater named Kennedy Mall Cinema 6 in the parking lot west of the mall to replace the theater inside the mall. The theater later changed hands. The theater was purchased by Carmike Cinemas Inc. After a new Star Cinema was built in Dubuque in 2005, the existing theater changed its format showing second run movies at a reduced rate instead of new films. In May 2007, Carmike Cinemas decided not to renew its lease, and closed the Kennedy Mall Cinema 6.

Part of the northeast corner of the mall was torn down and rebuilt to accommodate a new Borders book store. This new store took over most of what had been the food court area and the mall's Sam Goody store.

Best Buy obtained part of the south east parking lot, which was originally overflow parking, and built their own store at that location.

In April 2007, the Cafaro Company announced that it was moving forward with plans to renovate Kennedy Mall. The project was be completed in two phases with work beginning in 2007. Changes to the mall included the replacement of floors, entrances, landscaping, and parking lots. Also, skylights would be installed, and the east front of the mall was be re-configured to allow more stores to face Wacker Drive. The first phase was estimated to cost an estimated $2.9 million.

As part of the plan, the mall's center water fountain was removed to make room for retail space. The fountain had not be active in years. Many of the 37-year old mall's parking lots, sidewalks, light posts, signage, landscaping, and exterior walls were in disrepair. Redesigning included placing islands throughout the parking lot to direct traffic and allow for plantings of shrubs and trees. A new children's play area, sponsored by FINLEY HOSPITAL (THE), was opened by late June 2008.

Renovation and additions continued with the opening of Dick's Sporting Goods, Texas Road House restaurant, and PHOENIX THEATRES. This was countered by the closing of SEARS (2014); Gap, GapKids, and babyGap outlets (2016) and YOUNKERS (2018). Space was recaptured with Planet Fitness (2015), Vertical Jump Park (2016), and Francesca's (2017). (4)

2019 began with the announcement that Zales, a jewelry store chain, and a long-time participant at the Mall would be closing along with Yankee Candle. It soon became clear that other major development would be cancelled or placed on hold as the PANDEMIC swept the nation.

In November 2020 only an estimated 100 people were wandering through the Mall looking for Black Friday bargains. A long line of potential customers stood outside Bath & Body Works as store staff ushered in only a restricted number of people to maintain social distancing. Doorbuster deals and other promotions were dropped to limit crowd sizes to keep people safe. Store owners responded by offering longer sales or convincing shippers to order items online to be picked up in stores. Several stores also participated in Kennedy Mall's "Mall-To-Go" curbside pickup. (5)

The former women's department of Younkers became a vaccination center in 2021.) Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

In the spring of 2021 the spacious former women's department of Younkers at the northern end of the Mall was used for Covid-19 vaccinations by sixty volunteers and many stores within the Mall were empty.

Brochure showing the original stores in Kennedy Mall. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Diane Harris
Christmas books sponsored by merchants.



1. Advertisement, Telegraph-Herald, April 13, 1970, p. 10

2. "Snip, and Ward is in Business," Telegraph-Herald, May 8, 1969, p. 1

3. Miller, Jim, "1070 Looks Like Year of Shopping Centers," Telegraph-Herald, January 4, 1970, p. 10

4. Montgomery, Jeff, "Longtime Mall Tenants Closing," Telegraph Herald, January 16, 2019, p. 1

5. Reese, Kayli, "Pandemic Thins Black Friday Crowds in Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, November 28, 2020, p. 1