Souvenirs from Chino Town Square Shopping Center | Souvenirs from Chino

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Kerry Cisneroz


1987 brought an exciting new mall to the city of Chino, built on the south side of Philadelphia Street between Central Avenue and Benson. Chino Town Square was the largest shopping center in Chino and offered plenty of dining options, a luxury movie theater, and great stores for shopping.

This was a big deal when Mervyn’s opened in Chino Town Square on March 6, 1987. Mervyn’s was the first department store to come to Chino and was a favorite place for birthday and birthday gifts. Xmas. Mervyn’s sold clothing for all members of the family, shoes, kitchen utensils, toys and a few small electronics. I remember going out with bags full of items for my family around Christmas time. Due to an economic recession, Mervyn’s filed for bankruptcy and began closing its stores. After 21 years in business, Chino Mervyn’s closed in November 2008 and the building is now used by Burlington Coat Factory and Planet Fitness.

The PACE Membership Warehouse was the first warehouse store to come to Chino and was located in Chino Town Square near Burger King. The 100,000 square foot store opened in 1987 and offered a new way to shop … in bulk! PACE employed over 200 people and generated $ 40 million in annual sales. In 1994, Kmart, owner of PACE, sold its member stores to Walmart, and PACE became the Sam’s Club. The Chino store eventually closed and moved to the new location, on Pipeline and Grand avenues.

B. Dalton Bookseller, Chino’s first major bookstore chain opened in the newly built Chino Town Square in 1988. The bookstore was located in the middle of the mall and had a huge selection of over 5 000 books and magazines. They had special guests at their inauguration, including author Dean Koontz, and offered free pencils and balloons. The bookstore closed in 1998, after Barnes & Noble acquired it and eventually liquidated the stores.

Marie Callender’s restaurant was just one of the many restaurants located in Chino Town Square. Originally opened as Stox Restaurant in 1987, the restaurant became Marie Callender’s in 1994. Dessert pies, cornbread, and fresh and hot chicken pies were favorites of many in Chino. I was told that the high rent caused the restaurant to close in 2016, and that the building is vacant today. Other restaurants located in the mall included the ever popular Sesame Inn, Graziano’s Pizza, Katie McGuire’s Pie Shop, Burger King, and Foster’s Freeze.

AMC Theater opened in Chino Town Square in 1988. AMC was the first modern theater to come to Chino, since the old Chino Theater opened on Central Avenue in 1947 and closed in 1959. The new theater had 10 screens, two of which were extra-large and curved. In 1989, I worked at the concession stand (as they called it), or the snack bar, as most others called it. Our uniforms were black pants, a white button-down shirt, a black waistcoat, and a black bow tie. It was a class theater. Employees had to take customer service and food preparation classes, and secret shoppers would come and test us while we worked. I worked in a crate and had to take orders, grab popcorn, pump butter, fill soda, and serve candy and hot dogs, all with a smile. After closing, we would be there until after midnight cleaning and sweeping every grain of popcorn off the floor, and we couldn’t leave until we had a manager inspected it. As soon as we were done, we were allowed to go out and watch movies – sometimes seeing the last movie before everyone else. I remember watching the movie Dick Tracy and feeling really special that I got to see it earlier than most. If we brought our own mug we could fill it with soda, then any employees who were awake enough would stay until 3 a.m. to watch a movie. It was the most fun job I have had. The theater eventually closed when a new theater opened in Chino on Grand Avenue, which offered seating in the stadium.

After the movies, dessert was often served at the hugely popular Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt. Frozen yogurt was a new concept in the 1980s, and choosing a delicious flavor and topping was the perfect end to a night in Chino. Chino Town Square is still in business today, but all of the original businesses except Target and Burger King are now gone. There are new businesses in most buildings, and they just might create memories for a whole new group of Chinoans.

Share your memories and comments by email to [email protected] Kerry Cisneroz, a longtime resident of Chino Valley, enjoys sharing community memories, images and nostalgia, which can be found in her Facebook group, “Chino Memories – Yesterday & Today”.


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