Ah, the bustling commerce, and traffic, in the triangle that sits neatly at the intersection of Hempstead Turnpike, Front Street, and East Meadow Avenue. We love it; we hate it; we have shopped there for decades. One of my earliest childhood memories is watching an animated movie in the theater nestled in a corner of the shopping center, the current site of a gym. I can recall going to the bank with my passbook, a now-extinct piece of savings history, and depositing rolls of coins. Who can forget the one-hour photo booth in the middle of the parking lot or the neat little police booth nearby?
Prior to becoming back-to-back shopping centers, the "triangle" was an elaborate agricultural operation. In 1927, Otto Muller Florist began operating on the land. One of his workers, Kurt Weiss, subsequently married his daughter Lena in 1934. Together, Weiss and Muller worked the land, purchased additional plots nearby, and expanded the business to an impressive 23 acres. In 1960, the business became known as Kurt Weiss Florist and a home was built at the corner of Front Street and East Meadow Avenue. After Kurt's son Russell took over the business and moved it to Center Moriches, the property converted to the current shopping plazas. All the old buildings were demolished in April 1968. The Weiss family retained the northern part of the property facing Hempstead Turnpike, which was sold for $25.6 million in 2007.
In 1970, when the northern property at 1900 Hempstead Turnpike was developed, property records show 24 businesses (from east to west): AMP Savings Bank, Shir Center, Shoe Town, Paul Stewart, sport wear, men's shop, record shop, theater, professional suites, dress store, corset shop, hair dresser, barber, hosiery, bakery, pizza, VAC, fabric, stationary, Allied Radio, repair, travel agency, scalp shop, and Magnavox. Some of the same types of businesses are there today, even in the same locations! A later business, Penrod's, was the first major dance club on Long Island during the height of the disco craze. Penrod's later became Zachary's Nightclub.
Perhaps you tried out the echo chamber leading to the shopping center facing Front Street, continuing into the little interior mall with PathMark, a homage to awkward silvery-dome 1980s architecture. When the property was remodeled at the beginning of that decade, East Meadow residents could also visit Channel Hardware, Satellite Stores, and the American Savings Bank. This property was recently redeveloped by Stew Leonard's.
Of course, any discussion of the "triangle" would not be complete without mentioning the property that would become Home Depot (and is now patiently awaiting its next tenant). While Kurt Weiss was still growing flowers, 2000 Hempstead Turnpike (owned by Ann Yeni) was developed into Modell's. The building was erected in 1956, remodeled in 1963, and then enlarged in 1970 when the adjacent property was developed. Modell's, now primarily a sporting goods chain, has been a fixture in East Meadow for decades. It was much larger in bygone years and included a supermarket and discount retail business. Finally, many hungry East Meadowites fondly remember eating at White Castle, next to Modell's. They can now dine and relax at Garden Social, the newest business in the shopping center.
© Scott Eckers
Dr. Scott Eckers is the author of East Meadow in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. He serves on the East Meadow Board of Education. Scott is also an entertainer and recording artist.