Commack of the Past: Commack Plaza (Macy's Plaza), Part 1

How well do you remember the long-gone stores in Commack?

Because I have nothing better to do than pine for the Way Things Used To Be, I'll use this post (and, perhaps, future posts) to reminisce about the Commack that no longer exists.

(And feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about certain details. My memory is not always very reliable. Plus I’m old.)

To stay somewhat organized, I’ll try to keep my posts focused on specific areas. Today I’ll talk about Commack Plaza, the shopping center anchored by a (which is why it's now called Macy's Plaza) just past Commack Corners as Vets Highway begins as a fork off Jericho Turnpike.

Commack What?
The curious thing about Commack Plaza is that no one I know has ever called it “Commack Plaza.” It’s not as catchy or descriptive as “Mayfair” or “Commack Corners,” and I’ve usually heard people refer to it as “That shopping center with /Macy’s//etc.”

The Plaza was the destination if my brother and I and our neighborhood friends wanted to take a bike trip that was long but not too long. We grew up in the small isolated neighborhood off Commack Road (across the street from the current CVS) that you could enter only via Genessee Drive or Rensselaer Drive. We were able to cut through local streets to emerge behind the current (the first leg of our journey), then through the Fairfield Apartments to pop out in the rear parking lot between Commack Corners and the Plaza.

Interestingly, we rarely spent any time at Commack Corners; we only went to the places in the Plaza.

A Department Store by Any Other Name
My memory is already starting to act like those old tube-and-antenna TVs you have to bash with the meat of your fist in order to watch first-run episodes of Sanford and Son. If I’m not mistaken, and if I’m allowed to speak biblically, Korvettes begat Gertz which begat Stern’s which begat Macy’s.

According to a Facebook page devoted to Korvettes devotees (I was surprised that these people were still alive), Korvettes was previously S. Klein, but S. Klein was before my time. Before S. Klein, I think it was Caveman World or Cro-Magnon Express.

Korvettes was a store you were forcibly dragged to for new school clothes every late August, before and made clothes-shopping reasonably tolerable. Want to know what it was like to shop at Korvettes? Think Sears, but worse. The one saving grace about Korvettes: that’s where I got my Garanimals.

My brother and I would ride our bikes to Gertz and/or Sterns when we were in our early teens to buy our parents birthday and anniversary gifts, because we assumed that you were supposed to buy these kinds of gifts from the housewares section at a fancy-schmancy department store…until my exasperated father finally said, “We have enough highball glasses!”

I believe it was when Macy’s moved in that the department store bought out then eliminated the building to its right, which contained a supermarket and some kind of place that sold plants. Does anyone remember the name of that plant-place?

More to Come
I’m already hitting the 500-word limit, so I’ll stop here for now. In my next post about the Plaza, I’ll discuss some of the smaller stores. Until then, I’ll be wondering why my father always referred to the Pergament, the home-improvement store that used to be in the space now occupied by Michael’s, as “perga-MONT.”

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Loren Boiarsky May 13, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Every so often my mother reminds me of my teenage self who apparently couldn't hold her place in line at Korvettes when she dashed off to pick up "one more thing." Such a stressful moment! I'm trying to remember the name of the nursery...it's on the tip of my tongue, but I just can't seem to get it. I think it started with an "A". In the meantime - remember this commercial? http://youtu.be/c9_9qEDQwSc
Anthony Zumpano May 13, 2011 at 03:14 PM
"ANOTHER Korvettes at Korvettes?" Classic!
anne d May 13, 2011 at 04:50 PM
I believe it was Arcadian Gardens
Anthony Zumpano May 13, 2011 at 05:04 PM
That's right! I knew it had "Gardens" in the name, but the first part was something that sounded very exotic to me when I was young.
Kyle May 13, 2011 at 06:36 PM
I used to buy all of my records at Korvettes. After we shopped for clothes, my parents would let us stop into the record department. That was the only thing that kept Korvettes from being a complete "oh, no, please don't make us go there again" kind of store.
Marisa Fedele May 13, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Oh good, I'm glad I'm not crazy! I was walking toward the entrance doors of Macy's recently and suddenly had a flash of my eight-year-old self using the soda can crushing machine with my dad at a supermarket next to Macy's. Then I decided my memory had failed me because there's clearly nothing next to Macy's. I think it was either a Waldbaum's or a Grand Union (remember those?).
Anthony Zumpano May 13, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Many many years ago, the Meat Farms on Commack Road was a Grand Union. (Then, I think, it became Meat Farms, then Associated, then maybe something else, then Meat Farms again.) It had that cool old-school lit-up-sign lettering like the old Fabric Bonanza (also RIP). Everyone who knows Grand Union seems to have called it "Grand Onion" at least once in their lives. I believe the one in the Plaza was a Waldbaum's; it was between the department store and the Arcadian Gardens. That particular supermarket was where I first tried Ben & Jerry's ice cream: Chunky Monkey. I was with friends (one of whom had a car) and though I lacked a spoon I actually tried the ice cream in the car running my top teeth over it, the way you'd scrape the meat off an artichoke leaf, before we swung by my house to drop it off. But that doesn't mean you're NOT crazy.
George W May 15, 2011 at 01:12 PM
If you want to go way back to around 1960 - there was a movie theater diagonally across from the current Macy's, where the Chinese restaurant and other stores are now. I was in the Boy Scouts, and we used to camp out at Hoyt Farm on New Highway. (We were from "the city", as in Queens). Across the street from Hoyt Fram was all woods, and we watched the homes being built. On Sunday, we would go to church at the movie theater.
Anthony Zumpano May 15, 2011 at 08:11 PM
That theater was before my time, but I do recall the old RKO Theater on Vets Highway!
Bob Dealy May 16, 2011 at 11:48 AM
George, The movie theatre you're referring to was in the Mayfair shopping center where the Chinese Buffet is (across from Gimbel's, now the shoe store). The RKO was next to the Candlelight and the Drive in was about where Target is today. Anthony, before is was Korvettes that space opened as S.Klein "on the square" department store and the space where the garden store occupied was enclosed and part of the original structure. My best memory of Korvette's when it opened was it had a great record department. Then a place called Jimmy's Music World opened next store and there was a price war on records. Vinyl albums for $2.99 or $3.99! It has always been a "plaza" but we called it by the anchor store name, or a store that's by Macy's, Stern's, Gertz...
Anthony Zumpano May 16, 2011 at 01:08 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Bob! I remember the movie theater in Mayfair; that's where we'd see all the Disney movies when they were reissued. In fact, I don't ever remember seeing any first-run movies at that theater; we always went to the RKO otherwise. I remember it was a big deal because there was a movie theater where they showed two! two! TWO! movies. Then I saw in the movie listings in Newsday that there was someplace in Nassau called the Loews Quad. "FOUR movies in one theater?" I thought. Then when the Commack Multiplex opened around 1982 my head exploded.
George W May 19, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Thanks, Bob. I had the image in my mind, but slightly dislocated. I remember buying a new muffler for my car in Korvette's Automotive Department.
Loren Boiarsky May 20, 2011 at 03:13 PM
The Mayfair movie theater! Was there many times for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! Ahh...good times.
Michael Zumpano August 02, 2011 at 03:00 PM
I remember those rides with my brother Anthony. Nice job here Ant. Does anyone recall the name of the candy store down a bit from Record World/music den? Lots of time spent at the arcade games at the record store. That was before Chuckie Cheese move into town.
Anthony Zumpano August 02, 2011 at 08:16 PM
If you read part 2 of this blog at http://commack.patch.com/blog_posts/commack-of-the-past-commack-plaza-macys-plaza-part-2 you'll have the answer!
Robert Sulzer January 22, 2012 at 09:03 PM
By the way I grew up in commack. I moved there in 1958. FYI , s. Klein begat korvetts. Fairfield village was the site of the certified cement factory. Meat farms was audlane lumber. I lived on niagara lane till 2009. Commack has alot of history. It was the place to be. Oh and never forget Buddy burgers.
DianeD June 18, 2012 at 10:00 PM
And Park and Shop across Jericho Tpke from Marion Carll school. Where I got my first Barbie Doll in around 1962 or '63. and traded it in for the next iteration of Barbie. Anthony, if you don't remember S. Klein, then you are not old. I remember going to church in the Mayfair movie theater because Christ the King had not yet been built. It was built with the school when I was going into 1st grade (1963?) and I was in the first first-grade class there.


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