A SIDE TRIP FROM
Yesterland
Disney’s Doorway to Dreams
at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois
Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012


You’re at Woodfield Mall in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. This indoor megamall, one of America’s largest, is a destination for shoppers from all over Chicagoland and even for tourists.

Some stores here might remind you of a vacation to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. There’s a Rainforest Café, a Disney Store, and a LEGO Store (with a LEGOLAND Discovery Center nearby at the Streets of Woodfield). Back in the early 1990s, there was even a Mickey’s Kitchen—one of only two locations for Disney’s short-lived attempt to enter the fast food business away from its parks.

On the second floor near Nordstrom, Disney’s Doorway to Dreams sells something you don’t expect to find at a mall—Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points.

The only other mall in America with a Doorway to Dreams store is Roosevelt Field in Garden City, New York. Coincidently, the store is also on the second floor near Nordstrom in that megamall.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

Upper level of Woodfield Mall, next to Nordstrom

There are more than 300 stores at Woodfield Mall. In addition to the big stores—Macy’s, Sears, JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, and Nordstrom—just about every national chain that caters to upscale customers is represented here. The world’s fifth Apple Store is always packed. There are 31 places to eat or drink, even a Texas de Brazil churrascaria. Need a laugh? There’s an Improv Comedy Club.

After your day at Woodfield Mall, head back to your car with new shoes from Nordstrom, a new shirt or blouse from The Gap, a windbreaker from Eddie Bauer, and copies of signed paperwork for 250 DVC points from Disney’s Doorway to Dreams.


Good bye to Disney’s Doorway to Dreams.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, February 2008

Entrance to Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall in 2008

The grand opening of Disney’s Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall was August 4, 2007, following three DVC member preview days. The 6,300-square-foot store was big—so big that a full-size mockup of a two-bedroom DVC villa took up less than 20% of the total space.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Roosevelt Field, Garden City, New York

Photo courtesy of Disney Vacation Club, 2009

Entrance to Doorway to Dreams at Roosevelt Field in 2009

A second Disney’s Doorway to Dreams had its grand opening on October 17, 2009, after a soft opening the previous month. The 6,900-square-foot store was located at Roosevelt Field on New York’s Long Island.


Where would the next store be? Perhaps at King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania? How about at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota? Like the first two locations, these malls also draw shoppers and tourists from far beyond their local area.

There would be no additional Disney’s Doorway to Dreams stores. And, in 2012, the news came that both existing stores would close permanently.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

Entrance to video room

DVC emailed “News from Disney Doorway to Dreams” to Chicago-area members on August 23, 2012:

As part of our cherished community of Members in Chicagoland, your Disney Vacation Club family would like to share with you the news that our Disney Doorway to Dreams store in Schaumburg will close on Sept. 14, 2012.

The decision not to renew the store’s lease was part of our regular course of evaluating and adjusting our offerings.

Members continue to be welcome at Disney Vacation Club Preview Centers in Florida, California, Hawai‘i and Japan. Those Members who currently have a Chicago-based Vacation Club Guide will receive more information soon.

All of us at Disney Vacation Club thank you for being part of our Member family, and we look forward to welcoming you “home” again soon.

A separate announcement confirmed that the New York store would also close. Its final day would be November 3, 2012.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, February 2008

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village model

The star attraction at Doorway to Dreams was the full-scale model DVC villa. The complete two-bedroom, three-bathroom villa looked just like the real thing—with exactly the same furniture, carpeting, walls, art, window treatments, lamps, bedding, plumbing fixtures, tile work, dishes, towels, toiletries, televisions, washer-dryer, and so on. Guests could open closets, sit on the furniture, and fantasize about vacationing in such gorgeous accommodations. DVC Guides would show guests how a one-bedroom villa and studio villa could be used separately or combined into a spacious two-bedroom villa.

When Doorway to Dreams first opened at Woodfield Mall, the model was based on Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. A photo mural even simulated the view of giraffes zebras on the resort’s Sunset Savanna.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort model

At the end of 2008, the model was transformed into a villa at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Once again, the details matched the real resort. The big difference was that the rooms at Doorway to Dreams were traditional rectangles, while the real villas have angled walls due the curved building.

When Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa at Ko Olina Hawai‘i, opened in 2011, Cast Members at Doorway to Dreams heard that the model would be transformed once again. But that never happened.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

Brochure rack

Doorway to Dreams wasn’t just a DVC showroom. It was a chance for mall visitors to “step into Disney” and be reminded of Disney’s parks, resorts, and cruise ships. Recent guests could admire scale models of Aulani and the Disney Dream cruise ship. Nobody will ever know how many Disney vacations began with mall visitors happening upon Doorway to Dreams. Ultimately, the mission of the store was to sell DVC memberships and add-ons. Sales can be measured easily. Goodwill and “mindshare” are impossible to measure accurately.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

Promotional buttons

Some Chicago-area DVC Members liked to visit the store regularly as a quick Disney fix between Disney trips. There could be a reward for visiting, such as a button, pin, Christmas ornament, or set of current Disney guidemaps. Pin traders were welcomed with a large array of pins available for trades.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams event at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Improv Comedy Club, Schaumburg, Illinois, February 2008

Improv Comedy Club entrance on a snowy February day

Disney’s Doorway to Dreams was a big store, but sometimes it wasn’t big enough. DVC would rent the mall’s Improv Comedy Club for events. Typically, an event would be repeated several times daily over a three-day period, with some sessions for prospective buyers and some for existing DVC Members. Attendees might be inclined to buy or add DVC points if the event was fun and the incentives were compelling.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams event at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Improv Comedy Club, Schaumburg, Illinois, February 2008

Posters suggesting alternatives to winter in Chicago

For example, in February 2008, Doorway to Dreams hosted an event about Kidani Village and its Sanaa restaurant, more than a year before these additions to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge opened.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams event at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Improv Comedy Club, Schaumburg, Illinois, February 2008

Deevy See, “self-proclaimed First Lady of Disney Vacation Club”

It wasn’t just a sales pitch. Guests were treated to wine, entertaining presentations, food, characters, and swag.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams event at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Improv Comedy Club, Schaumburg, Illinois, February 2008

Dieter Hannig, Vice President of the Food and Beverage, Walt Disney World

Dieter Hannig, who developed all of Walt Disney World’s new table service restaurants beginning with the California Grill, presented a detailed preview of Sanaa. The cuisine would fuse African and Indian flavors. Unlike the existing restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Sanaa would provide a view of the savanna. And the interior would be filled with African art. (Hannig is no longer with Disney. He accepted a buy-out package in 2009, around the time that Sanaa opened.)

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Improv Comedy Club, Schaumburg, Illinois, February 2008

Food from the future Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village

Disney spared no expense. To feed attendees, it would not be sufficient to use local caterers. To build excitement for Sanaa, Disney flew a team of chefs from Orlando to Chicago, including Brian Piasecki, executive chef of Jiko - The Cooking Place. (Piasecki moved to the California Grill in 2009.)

Delicious food!

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

Decision rooms

Of course, the purpose of Doorway to Dreams was to get people to buy DVC points. The timeshare industry has a reputation for high-pressure sales tactics, including deceit and intimidation. But not Disney. Disney calls it Vacation Ownership (not timeshare) and it’s sold by DVC Guides (not salespeople).

Doorway to Dreams had four “decision rooms,” named after the four major parks at Walt Disney World, for guests who were genuinely interested in going over numbers and possibly signing paperwork.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

A closer look at a decision room

For families with children, the parents could talk with a DVC Guide while their young children played in a supervised play room. Very young children would stay with their parents, while children who were old enough could head into the mall.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

Children’s play room

Did you notice that Woodfield Mall and Roosevelt Field both have field in their names?

At Woodfield, field refers to Marshall Field I (1834-1906), founder of the legendary Chicago-based department store (now folded into Macy’s), and Wood refers to General Robert E. Wood (1879-1969), the brilliant merchant under whose leadership Sears grew from a mail-order house into the world’s largest retailer (a crown that Sears failed to keep).

At Roosevelt Field, field refers to an airfield that saw military and civilian use before being shut down in 1951. Without changing the name, the first of many retail phases opened on the former airfield in 1955. Roosevelt does not refer to Theodore Roosevelt or Franklin Roosevelt, but to Theodore Roosevelt’s son, United States Army Air Service pilot Quentin Roosevelt, who died at age 20 serving in World War I.

Disney's Doorway to Dreams at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss at Disney’s Doorway to Dreams, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 2012

Goofy at Doorway to Dreams

The elimination of Doorway to Dreams should not be interpreted as an indication that Disney Vacation Club is in trouble. It was just a business decision based on the cost of running the stores. When asked about the closing of the Woodfield Mall store, a Disney spokesperson replied, “As our business grows and evolves, we regularly evaluate our initiatives and make adjustments as needed. We have made the decision to close our Disney Doorway to Dreams location in Chicago this fall to focus on other business initiatives.”

What about the Cast Members? Some will accept new positions from Disney, even if that means moving out-of-state. Others will stay in the Chicago area, even if there are no Disney opportunities there.

Goofy, who has been frozen in a running position at the Woodfield Mall store since it opened, has accepted a new position. He’s going to Florida where he’ll draw attention to a DVC kiosk at Downtown Disney.

 

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Updated August 15, 2014.