(Look Back is an occasional series with content and images from the Atlantic County Historical Society.)
Before one's shopping centered around the malls such as the Shore Mall (now Harbor Square) and Hamilton Mall or the many regional shopping centers, and more recently, Amazon and the internet, many people spent their time shopping on the many avenues and highways in the Atlantic County area.
In Atlantic City, Atlantic Avenue was the hub for many stores selling all kinds of merchandise. The largest full service department store was M.E. Blatt, where shoppers could find everything from candy to furniture. During the Christmas season its entire top floor was turned into Santa's workshop, complete with decorations and trinkets. Also at Blatts was the scout uniform department. That store was one of the first to recognize that all children were not the same size, and actually carried a "chubby" department.
Hombergers was known to carry top-of-the-line womens clothing while Norman's and Petrie's provided more moderately priced merchandise . The Lerners chain store provided a lower-end line of clothing. Men were not being ignored and could be well-dressed at Schultz's or by Sam Slotoroff, Lieberman's and Parlin's. In addition to clothing, there were probably more shoe stores than any other category, where you were able to buy all types of footwear.
And who could forget the chain stores where one could buy not only five-and-dime stuff but underwear, parakeets and canaries. In that category were Woolworth's, Newberry's, and Silvers. At Woolworth's, the big lunch counter attraction was the Pick-a-Balloon, where one would pop a balloon overhead, and a price ticket would fall out. That was the price of the banana split. If you were in need of a chocolate fix, you would be satisfied at Loft's candy store.
The other large store on Atlantic Avenue was Kensington's for carpet and furniture. Though no longer on Atlantic Avenue, it is still serving customers on Tilton Road
After World War II, Milton and Shirley Gordon recognized the need for a high-end children's shop and opened one in 1947. Eventually a large men's wear section was added. With the success of the retail store, they along with their partners Murray and Ruth Raphael developed a side alley with boutiques and cafes and called it Gordon's Alley.
In the Inlet section of Atlantic City, a trolley barn was converted into a large one-floor discount store known as Garwood Mills, where you could find all kinds of merchandise at discount prices. Since the clothes were never known to be top quality, the store became known as "Garbage Mills" by the locals who shopped there nonetheless!
On the Boardwalk you could find many fine shops for both men and women. For the men were Charles Klein and McAvoy and for the women, Needlecraft and the California Slack Shop. Between almost every street was a jewelry store and/or an auction gallery where you could shop and also be entertained.
On the White Horse Pike in Hammonton was the Ideal Clothing store which was housed in a pre-World World War II Quonset hut and was one of the first retailers in the area to offer merchandise at discount prices.
Looking back, you did not just go out to buy merchandise. If it was your day off from working, you would spend Saturday afternoon seeing and greeting people you knew and of course, shopping.
Founded in 1913, the Atlantic County Historical Society has been preserving historical materials in its library and museum since. Every week, Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it opens its doors to share these collections with anyone who is interested. The society building is at 907 Shore Road in Somers Point. More information is available at www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org and on Facebook, or by calling 609-927-5218.