I look back with fondness to the three-block street on Bloomfield Avenue where we did a lot of our shopping when I was a child, in Verona, New Jersey. (Full disclosure, this photo is more recent and not the exact spot, but does represent the look I remember.) My mother drove us there and parallel parked our 1957 Plymouth station wagon (to this day I don’t know how a 5’1″ person handled that car) where she could find a space.
United Cigar, run by the Cohen family, was packed with cigars and cigarettes, all types of magazine, and oh, the candy!
Our first stop often was the general store, the name of which I can’t exactly remember. I’m recalling something like “Hanes.” (Jersey folks, any recollections of the name?) This store sold many items, including basic clothing and underwear, which we often bought. We then would go to a small shop called United Cigar, run by the Cohen family. It was packed with, of course, cigars and cigarettes, but also all types of magazine.
And oh, the candy! We weren’t allowed treats very often, but occasionally I got bubble gum cigars, Necco wafers, wax lips, pixie sticks, and those strange wax bottles full of sugar syrup. The Cohen’s daughter, Enid, gave me piano lessons when I was 10, and, given my utter lack of musical talent, I still feel sorry for her. Such a small world wouldn’t exist today.
By the time I was in 9th grade, the Bonds ice cream shop opened across the street from United Cigar. Their unique marketing trick was a concoction called an Awful Awful. I don’t know exactly what was in it, but if you drank three you got the next one free. The glass didn’t look that big, so, despite my major milk allergy, I convinced my mother to try it. The Awful Awful was the richest drink I’ve ever had, and we managed to get through just half the glass between the two of us!
Also at about this time, farther to the west of Verona, something new came into existence–the Willowbrook Mall. It was one of the first malls in the nation, and I wasn’t particularly fond of it. None of my classmates wanted to hang out there, thank goodness. I haven’t been back to Bloomfield Avenue since the 1970s, so I don’t know its fate, but I hope the little shops there still exist.
Online shopping is amazingly convenient, and I do it. However, I still try to shop locally when possible, especially in the last quarter of the year, when malls become really annoying because of the Christmas (and recently Hanukah) season. For the last 10 or 15 years, I have headed to the town of Los Altos, which has downtown-style streets, and manage to get unique and delightful gifts. It brings me back to the fun times of Bloomfield Avenue.
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.