Friday, November 1, 2013

Northern Lights Shoppers City opening

Most Ambridge area kids, and maybe even most adults, had no idea that November 1, 1956, would change our lives forever. On November 1, 1956, Northern Lights Shoppers City, billed as the biggest shopping center in Pennsylvania, opened. 

Northern Lights Shoppers City Grand Opening ad,
Beaver Valley Times,
 October 31, 1956

While the huge, weeks' long, grand opening celebration wouldn't be held until June 1957, when more stores would open, the first stores in Northern Lights opened for business on November 1, 1956:

A & P
Allen Shoes

Fintex Clothes (men's)
Freedom National Bank
Jackson's Shoes
Jane Lee Shop (women's and children's clothes)
J.C. Penney
Kinney's Shoes
Kirby Shoes

Murphy's Meats
Northern Lights Laundromat
Northern Lounge
Robinson's (women's and children's clothes)
Schaughency's Home and Auto Supplies
Standard Sportswear
Stone Hardware
Sun Drug

The Farm and Garden Patch (poultry and produce)
W.T. Grant

A total of 65 stores were planned, all open to 9 PM every night, with free parking for 4,000 cars--and you didn't need to parallel park. Plus there was room to expand to add more stores later.

At the time, Merchant Street in Ambridge was a bustling, busy place, with a variety of stores, both chains like Penney's and Sears, and numerous small businesses. The streets in the business area were so crowded, it was often hard to find a place to park, either on Merchant or Maplewood Avenue, both with metered spaces.

Ambridge had groceries and meat markets, pharmacies, clothing and shoe stores, hardware, appliance, and furniture stores, and you could walk to them. Even if you had a car, why would anyone drive five miles to Baden to shop?

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