As Youngstown grew in the post-World War II years and automobile ownership grew as well, shopping opportunities began to move out from the downtown with the development of shopping plazas. Unlike some of the mom and pop stores where you either walked to them or could park on the street nearby, these were set back from the roads, usually a main thoroughfare, with acres of parking in front of the stores.
The plaza nearest where I grew up was the Mahoning Plaza. I remember when the big anchor store in the plaza was J.C. Penney’s, and there was a Mahoning Bank branch, a Murphy’s, and my favorite, the Western Auto store, where I bought accessories and replacement tires and inner tubes for my bikes. I believe there may also have been a drug store, possibly a Gray Drugs. As I started earning money, I used to buy my school clothes at J.C. Penney since I thought my fashion sense was better than my mom’s. Looking at old pictures, not sure that was so. I’ll admit it–I was a bit of a dork!
This was one of a number of plazas that sprang up around the city. On the far south side, you had the Boardman Plaza, which stretched for what seemed like a half mile along Rt. 224. Further out on Mahoning Avenue was the Austintown Plaza as well as the smaller Wedgewood Plaza off of Raccoon Road. The east side had the McGuffey Plaza, one of the first plazas developed by the Cafaro Corporation, and the Lincoln Knolls Plaza. On the northside, there was the Liberty Plaza. There were other, smaller plazas scattered around town as well.
I dated a girl for a while who lived in Liberty Township and we could walk to the Liberty Plaza from her house. We’d shop at some of the stores and take in a movie at the Liberty Theater. I remember seeing the Beatles “Let It Be”, which would have been in the spring of 1970, when it was released. Sadly, it marked the end of the Beatles as a group. And not too long after, our relationship ended as well, and with it regular trips to the Liberty Plaza. Later on, I remember buying lots of vinyl from a record store (Peaches? Oasis? I can’t remember) in Boardman Plaza, where my mother-in-law liked to shop when we were in town. But it was around this time that Southern Park Mall and Eastwood Mall became the places to hang out and so I spent lots less time at plazas.
Almost all of these plazas have undergone fairly drastic changes. A huge Walmart sits where Liberty Plaza once did. I understand McGuffey Plaza (later Mall) is no more. Both Boardman and the Mahoning Plazas are still alive, but with much different mixes of stores than they once had. Youngstown’s changing economy, shopping malls, standalone big box stores, and more upscale shopping developments (like the Shoppes at Boardman Park) worked together to change the landscape of shopping plazas in Youngstown, even as they began to cut into the downtown stores of an earlier era.
What were your memories of shopping plazas in the Youngstown area growing up?