I talked about the rotation of department stores at the shopping center once known (but rarely referred to) as Commack Plaza.
Today I'll talk about the stores I used to frequent in that area when my main mode of transport was one of my Ross Apollo bikes.
(I wrote "bikes" instead of "bike" because one time when my brother and I went to that shopping center, he chained our bikes to a pole, but instead of threading the chain through both bike frames, he wrapped it around the bike seat, which a thief simply lifted up and over the seat in order to boost it. That was a long walk home, and my dad, to his credit, bought me a replacement.)
As I explained last time around, I grew up in the Rensselaer Drive/Genesee Drive area, and we usually biked to what's now the shopping center to buy gum or candy. If we were in the mood, we'd continue our journey to the Plaza.
The Only Song I'd Have Bought Would Have Been "Pac-Man Fever"
The main place we'd go was a record store located right in the corner of the shopping center called Music Warehouse, later called Music Den. The main appeal was not the music, which was sold on these crude thin vinyl plates called "record albums," but the mini-arcade in the back.
The game lineup changed from time to time, but I remember a Battlezone, a Donkey Kong (I think), and a crazy pinball machine called Xenon that featured a sultry female voice. The game had a special slot that gave you five credits for a Susan B. Anthony dollar; I took advantage of this extra-credit discount once but got bored with the machine before I could finish.
Defend Yourself With A Throwing Star Or A Whoopie Cushion
Next to the music store was (for a brief but memorable time) the site of a novelty store called the Fun & Gift Shop. The store sold magic tricks, high-quality masks, and practical jokes, which was, for a boy who subscribed to the Johnson Smith catalog, a paradise. As a sign of How Things Used To Be, the store also sold real ninja throwing stars and Rambo-worthy knives.
The guy who usually worked there didn't mind that we hung around the store without buying anything, and one time he sent my brother and me to the bagel shop (which might have been called even back then) to pick up his order in exchange for free Chinese finger traps.
Prescription: Hershey Bar
In the location to the left, which is currently a Harmon store, there was a Pathmark-branded drug store, which probably sold the same exact stuff you can buy there now. That was a good place to buy candy bars or gum. My main memory of this place was when we were waiting on line with my Dad for either Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back at the old RKO (which was next to the ) and he let my brother and me walk over to the drug store to get a soda or some sort of treat.
And, Uh...More Chocolate
The final store we liked to check out was Barricini, which was one or two stores to the left of Pathmark and sold chocolates by the pound. We'd usually buy chocolate bark and, for some reason, rum cordials. (Maybe it was because we liked that the name of the candy contained the word "rum.")
I don't know when we finally stopped going to these stores. I remember walking to Music Den (as it was called by that point) sometime in 11th grade.
Today those stores are gone, but (and I can't believe I'm writing this) I'll always have the memories of some local music store, a dull drug store, a nondescript chocolate store, and the place where I bought my first whoopie cushion.