Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Northern Lights: Grand Opening

Northern Lights,
Grand Opening ad,
Beaver Valley Times, June 12, 1957

Although Baden's Northern Lights Shoppers City, as the shopping center was then formally called, opened its first stores on November 1, 1956, the formal "Official" Grand Opening Celebration with even more stores began on June 12, 1957.

Northern Lights,
Grand Opening ad,
Beaver Valley Times, June 12, 1957

It's hard to imagine now, given the current conditions at Northern Lights with its empty stores, a road to Walmart going through where the centerpiece store, Penney's, once stood, and a largely empty parking lot cratered with potholes, but when it opened, Northern Lights was a really big deal. At the time, Northern Lights was Pennsylvania's largest shopping center, which says a great deal about the economic buying power of the population of the Beaver County area in 1957.

Northern Lights,
Grand Opening events ad,
Beaver Valley Times, June 15, 1957

Some Northern Lights stores boasted of their special qualities:
  • A&P had doors that opened electrically! Imagine!
  • Kroger was the largest in the then-52 store chain.
  • Rochester Motor Sales, which sold large appliances, had the largest display of appliances in Beaver County.
  • Star Super Market had the largest frozen food section in Beaver Valley.
  • Turk Brothers Music Center claimed it had "thousands of miles of music on wax and tape" on its shelves.
  • W.T. Grant's luncheonette had a two-level conveyor belt, the first of its type in Beaver County, which zipped food to customers three minutes after they placed their orders.

The parking lot had parking for 5,000 cars, and there were days when it was hard to find a parking space. 

At the time of the grand opening, Northern Lights claimed to have more than 50 stores--with room for more as the area's population kept growing. I didn't find a list of all 50 stores, but here's a list of the businesses with ads, photos, or articles about them in the Beaver Valley Times' June 12 grand opening advertising supplement from which all photos below came.

  • A&P 
  • Allen Shoes
  • Bachelor's Furniture 
  • Best Jewelers 
  • Camera and Card Shop
  • Capital Loans
  • Cheryl's Memory Shop
  • Dr. Arthur N. Hutter, optometrist
  • Fanny Farmer Candy
  • Fintex Clothes (men's) 
  • Flash Cleaners 
  • Freedom National Bank 
  • Isaly's
  • Jackson's Shoes
  • Jane Lee Shop (women's and children's clothes)
  • J.C. Penney 
  • Kathy Cotton Shop (women's clothes)
  • Kinney's Shoes
  • Kirby Shoes
  • Kresge's 
  • Kroger 
  • Lauar's Ladies Wear 
  • Murphy's Meat Market 
  • Noah's Ark (toys)
  • Northern Lights Beauty Salon
  • Northern Lights Laundromat
  • Northern Lounge
  • Richman Brothers (men's)
  • Robinson's (women's and children's clothes)
  • Rochester Motor Sales (appliances)
  • Schaughency's Home and Auto Supply 
  • Schoemer's Bakery 
  • Spiegel's Catalog Center
  • Standard Sportswear
  • Star Super Market 
  • Steiner's for Draperies 
  • Stone's Hardware 
  • Sun Drugs 
  • The Farm (poultry and produce)
  • Thom McAn Shoes
  • Thrift Drugs
  • Turk Brothers Music Center
  • Western Auto 
  • William Maratto Shoe Repair
  • Woodward's Style Shop (women's accessories)
  • W.T. Grant 
  • Youth Shop 


  1. I remember Steelers nights in the 70's There were normally 6 Steelers at various stores. We would get the signs photos(compliment s of the Beaver County Times and take them to school the next day.

  2. Awesome! Love the history. I remember in the 70's, driving through and circling around to drive through over and over to see who was around. The place to be!

  3. i remember when it first opened , it was the place to be , my aunt and uncle lived in Conway use to go there all the time and at Christmas with all the store window decorated up took hours to see them all

  4. I have a picture of my mother Christmas shopping the Opening Year. I would love to share it with you and also, share your blog with my relatives. My grandmother, aunt, and cousins lived most of their lives in Ambridge. I have many fond memories visiting in the 1970s-1990s and pictures!

    This is a wonderful blog that you have created. I truly appreciate it. There's so much I did not really know. My memories consisted a lot of family time. A memory that just popped in my head is my grandmother teaching me to play the organ, while I sucked on butterscotch, peppermint, root beer barrels, and hot cinnamon candies out of her candy dish ... and us playing Atari (Pacman) after. Oh, she loved to beat me! ☺️

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. The Youth Shop was a children's clothing store.

      Maybe you're thinking of Gene's Hobby Shop, which was not listed among the first stores to open at Northern Lights. I don't know when Gene's Hobby Shop opened at Northern Lights, but it was there in the 1960s.

  6. My father owned the Farm store. I remember well the grand opening, I was in the dj stand in the parking lot doing the voices of Donald Duck and several others I did as a child. Great memories, great times.