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 has sparked something of a resurgence along Secor Road. 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?