From an old piano factory to a one-of-a-kind shopping experience
While visiting the Blackhawk Waterways region of northwest Illinois (Carroll, Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside Counties), a shopping mecca straight out of the 70s must be put on your itinerary.
Conover Square Mall is a historic shopping center in Oregon, Illinois, just one block west of the gorgeous Rock River--the northeast corner of 3rd and Franklin St. It is situated in a complex of buildings once home to the Conover Piano and Organ Company, founded in the late 19th century.
You might need bread crumbs…
The sprawling old piano factory appears and feels like it has been transported back in time. The only thing missing is a disco ball. Finding your way back to your car is half the fun. It's a maze of hallways and various shops. The building currently houses approximately 20 businesses. Three of these are non-profit organizations.
Lou Vanderwyst, owner and building manager, bought the Conover building in 2003 with a group of owners. Vanderwyst is a midwest guy from Wisconsin, while his wife, Carol, hails from Indiana. He lived in Rockford for years, where he worked for an aerospace company for over two decades. He and Carol now live in rural Leaf River.
Conover Square Mall contact information & hours
Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 12 to 5 p.m. Note: Several businesses have their own hours and are open later than what is shown above.
A sampling of some of the mall’s offerings
Several businesses are popular visitor destinations. These are just a few places you need to visit. We strongly recommend contacting the individual shops for current hours as they may change without notice.
This antique and vintage shop is located on the upper level of Conover Square. Seriously, they have everything, from furniture to an Alpaca Goat Head from Spain. Hence the image.
Hours: Closed Monday-Tuesday, Wed-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday: 12 - 4 p.m.
Facebook | 815-732-2772
If your home or business needs a vintage sign or a mid-century lamp (and everything else in between), be sure to stop here.
According to their Facebook page, their hours are 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day but Sunday.
Cin's Treasures Ceramics & Art Studio
Paint your own ceramics at this busy shop. Have an artistic itch that needs to be scratched? Cin's Treasures Ceramics & Art Studio provides a place to paint ceramics, enjoy paint parties, or host a birthday party! The shop is located on the first level in the center hall.
Hours | Thursday: 3 – 9 p.m., Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., First & Third Sundays: Noon – 4 p.m.
This Mexican restaurant is located near one of the entrances of Conover. Enchiladas and Tacos al Pastor are fan favorites.
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.nClosed on Sunday.
The Noble Cakery
One of the newest businesses in the mall, this bakery offers one-of-a-kind wedding cakes and unique desserts for all occasions.
Hours of operation vary. Contact the bakery for current hours.
Blackhawk Model Railroad Club
The club's HO scale layout is housed on the second floor and features a variety of realistic scenery and structures, as well as a diverse collection of model trains and rolling stock. Visitors to the mall can view the layout during weekend hours of Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1-4 p.m.
Phone | 815-905-2762
The building has a past.
The Schiller Piano Company, historically the largest industry in Ogle County at the time, was founded around 1890. When established, the company was located at the northwest corner of Oregon's Second and Washington Streets–much more extensive than it is today. The company grew quickly; by the turn of the century, it was one of the largest piano manufacturers in the country. However, the business changed hands several times and started a series of declines and revivals until the mid-1970s.
Brought to life in the 70s from the brink of destruction
“The piano factory closed for the first time in 1971 and shipped production to Tennessee. The company brought back production of baby grand pianos sometime around 1972 for a year or two,” said Vanderwyst. “The factory finally closed around 1974. At that time, the city was talking about tearing it down.”
We’re glad that didn’t happen. Dean Dye, a local developer, purchased the remaining building in 1975 for his furniture-making business and developed it into a mall-type business. In 1978, the Conover Square Mall officially opened, featuring a variety of shops, restaurants, and offices.
Since 2003, Vanderwyst has been making changes and improvements as owner and manager. “We have expanded into over 10,000 square feet of additional space and remodeled many shop spaces. The repair of the south outside wall was the largest project,” he remarked. “We updated the lighting to more energy-efficient bulbs and are working on the heating and cooling systems.” For the immediate future, one new business will be opening its doors in the next few months, which according to Vanderwyst, will be a great fit for Conover.
Today, the mall is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, and it continues to play an important role in the community as a center for commerce and culture.