When it comes to retail in Toledo, the Franklin Park Mall churns on like a juggernaut. Southwyck and The Andersons are memories now, and the Westgate Village Shopping Center is a shadow of its former self. It’s still there, but in name only.
Westgate, on the southwest corner of West Central Ave. and Secor Road, opened with great fanfare (translation: Westgate retailers bought a lot of ads in The Blade) on May 16, 1957. Community Traction Co. buses gave free rides out to the new shopping center. WSPD-TV did two hours of remote broadcasts, and WTOL radio was on the air as well. Vaughn Monroe arrived by helicopter.
Among the retailers there on day one, and there for a long time after, were Gross Photo, Hobby Center, Athletic Supply, Lane Drug, S.S. Kresge, Fanny Farmer, and Ries Records,
It’s obvious Westgate drove a lot of retail growth north along Secor Road. If you look at this picture, with Westgate center left, you’ll notice Secor Road is mostly lined with trees.
There was this little item in The Blade from October 4, 1961:
Lasalle’s opened their freestanding store along Secor Road, north of Central, in 1962. Across from McDonald’s, Uncle John’s Pancake House (still there, and the pancakes are still great) opened in 1963, and Showcase Cinemas (demolished) opened up the street in 1964. Eventually, by the time I was old enough to notice such things (1968 or so?), there was a Gulf gas station on the northwest corner of Central and Secor and, west of that, a Howard Johnson’s restaurant.
On May 9, 1968, a three-alarm fire in the center of the complex started at Grinnell’s (I believe I went to this fire with my father, who worked for a local television station at the time, and as long as we stayed back, it was fine). It damaged nine other business – Albert’s Ladies Wear, Marilyn Dress Shop, Ries Home Entertainment Center, Gross Photo Mart, Doubleday Book Shop, Nobil Shoe Store, Sprenger’s, Lisa Stevens and Petrie’s. The fire, as fires usually do in Toledo, attracted quite a crowd. “Meanwhile, a crowd of hundreds of shoppers in the area when the fire broke out was swelled by an estimated 1,000 more spectators who created a huge traffic jam at Secor Road and West Central Avenue and on nearby streets. Motorists abandoned cars in the middle of the street, hampering the approach of additional fire equipment,” the Blade wrote.
Speaking of Grinnell’s, the Detroit-based piano manufacturer was one of the largest music retailers in the Toledo area until it liquidated due to bankruptcy in 1981. It had a location downtown from 1946 to 1970 at Jefferson and St. Clair, and had locations at the Southwyck and Woodville malls and Great Eastern Shopping Center in addition to the Westgate location, which eventually reopened after the fire.
In 1979, a major remodeling took place. Westgate was pretty much Westgate right up until the time it began to fade and renovation proposals began floating around in the early 2000s. Demolition of the old Westgate started in May of 2006, and Costco arrived the following year.
Recent news reports suggest Costco sparked something of a resurgence along Secor Road. And even after Sears closed in 2017 and Elder-Beerman closed in 2018, the Westgate area still attracts a lot of attention according to this July, 2019 report from WNWO. Even the plaza at 3310 Secor Road, across the street from the old Lasalle’s/Macy’s/Elder Beerman is up for grabs. It was a Farmer Jack’s for a long time (yet another Detroit-based retail institution that is gone), but do you remember when it was a Topps? No?
Hey, wasn’t The Disco Kid in that plaza?
Very good job digging that up.
I am interested in getting more information on Lisa Stevens of Westgate. I have a leather jacket that has her name on it. Is there anyone that can help me with this?
In that plaza at 3310 W. Central Road there was also a strip of adult establishments and a nightclub for teenagers in the 80s. What was its name? I believe a girl was abducted from there and murdered. Big story in the early to mid 80s.
The nightclub was Fat Daryls
The Jolly trolley and the open closet where the two bars in that plaza. The murder girl was Dawn Backus murdered by the Cook brothers one of them is completely free now, that’s completely wrong
I went to Gesu with Dawn, although I was 2 years behind her so I only knew her the way you know other kids and families at your school. She had been at an arcade in the plaza that night. I want to say it was called Fat Albert’s? or the Red Baron? although I’m pretty sure the Red Baron was at the Mall. Dawn was last seen walking home, headed east on Bancroft. I never knew they caught the men responsible. I guess I’m glad and I’m not. I could never in my life bring myself to read anything about the crime or the trial. It was monumentally horrifying to 5th grade me back when it happened, and as wonderful of a community as Gesu was and is, this wasn’t an era when anybody thought to bring in grief counselors for us kids.
Just remembered this morning, the arcade that was in the plaza at 3310 Secor was “Fat Darrell’s”.
Also, responding to a couple other comments in this story and thread — Yes, the Jolly Trolly (a drag bar), the Open Closet (gay bar) and an adult book store all used to be in the same plaza, which was jokingly known, at least to us Old Orchard kids, as the “Strip of Sin”. And I’m pretty sure the space that had been old The Disco Kid (mentioned in the article) was the same space that became Fat Darrell’s, and it’s definitely the same space that was turned into a big gay dance club in the early 90s which only lasted maybe a year before it flamed out. Funny thing was that the disco (whose name I can’t remember, it was such a blip) was essentially behind the Farmer Jacks, which was oddly familiar to members of the gay community, because one of Detroit’s biggest gay dance clubs (Backstreet) was also in a strip mall and also behind a Farmer Jack’s on Joy Road up there.
Jolly trolly was not a (drag bar).
I went to Gesu and Dawn was in my class. In fact, she sat next to me in Ms. Neusbaum’s classroom. She was a great girl with a sense of humor. Losing her in that way affected me for life. I can still remember her Mom weeping uncontrollably at the memorial Mass. We classmates have had a small scholarship fund for Gesu in Dawn’s name since we found each other on FB.
I did some quick research, her name was Dawn Rene Backes (apparently pronounced Backus). To my horror one of her killers has been released from prison (2018) and apparently lives near a school at Collingwood & Central. Sickening. (https://www.13abc.com/content/news/Convicted-Toledo-serial-killer-can-live-close-to-school-506571381.html)
To KP, if you have never read about the murder, don’t. I’m sorry that you lived through that.
anyone with a daughter that heard the facts of Dawns murder would never let their lil girl out of their sight.
The public information is but a small bit of an iceberg. Those two guys are lucky the police got to them before the public mob found them. The police would never have found the bodies.
The fact that the country and really, the world, doesn’t know more about the Cook brothers, is because of the racial element. They specifically targeted White victims…and that doesn’t fit in with the media narrative.
Fanny Farmer, fruit slices and chocolate lollipops with Russian nesting doll wrapping. Thackary’s Books, Barry’s Bagels…good times indeed.
I was all of 5 when the Batmobile showed up in 1989, coinciding with Batman the Movie opening at Showcase down the road a piece (for you PaPa)
I went to St Francis, so that area was our hangout , now all of Secor-Central is booming with good eats – just don’t mind the inevitable traffic jams … ‘Slave To The Traffic Light’…to quote my band, Phish
Peace, Love, Dream