While the Garden Market may not seem big by today’s standards, it was “huge” when first proposed to village residents in 1957. Not only did it promise new and larger stores than were available in the downtown area, there was also the promise of new jobs, more property taxes for the village and schools, and added sales tax revenue. Click on second photo above.
But, according to Western Springs Historical Society records, there were negative aspects to the proposal, as well. For example, the center would bring more competition to existing downtown merchants. It would be located next door to the Lyons Township High School south campus and would be directly across the street from many Ridge Acres’ residences. Also, many residents were concerned about it attracting undesirables, possible storm water runoff, and increased auto traffic. As a result, some 800 residents signed a petition opposing the center.
After numerous meetings with homeowners, revisions to the original plan suggested by Ridge Acres residents, a formal zoning board review, and an open public hearing, the Village Board finally approved the project, which broke ground on July 18, 1958. The final design was to reflect Williamsburg architecture.
The first stores, an A&P Food Market and a Kroger’s, opened for business on July 8, 1959, with the other stores following later in July and August. Some 60,000 entries were submitted for the center’s grand opening prizes, which were awarded in early September. They included a $500 mink stole plus other “exciting” gifts such as a Bell & Howell movie camera, a leaf sweeper, a Schwinn bicycle, an electric fry pan, and gift certificates. Click on third photo above.
In addition to the two food markets, other initial tenants included Scotts Variety Store, the Shoe Corral, the Parker Shop (greeting cards & gifts), Pick’s Photo service, Walgreen’s, Garden Market Barber Shop, O’Day’s Fantazia beauty shop, Launder-Eze laundromat, Two Sisters women’s apparel, Breen’s Cleaners, Charles Fingerhut bakery, Nortell’s Mens Wear shop, and Vaughan’s Garden Center. Click on fourth photo above.
Over time, the large entrance signs shown in the first photo (above) were removed and, in 1987, the entire center was modernized and expanded to accommodate a larger Dominick’s. Sadly, of the original tenant names, only Walgreen’s and the barber shop remain. However, the 53-year-old center still provides village residents with a great variety of shopping opportunities.