What is it that has etched the Edmondson Village Shopping Center in our collective memories? Could it have just been the presence of three soda fountains - at the old Arundel, the Tommy Tucker or the Whelan's?
A fire damaged a section of the 1947 Edmondson Village Shopping Center this week, but don't count this retailing veteran out. The center has weathered enormous change.
I often think back to when taxicabs had speakers and a dispatcher's voice barked over this squawk box, "Need 'em on the Hill." This meant there were impatient patrons waiting at the Village for rides home. The center (built on high ground, hence the "Hill") was created for the car, but No. 14 streetcars served its front door. Its following came from Irvington, Ten Hills, Hunting Ridge, Academy Heights and Forest Park.
In its early days, the center offered the trademark names of old Baltimore: Samuel Kirk silver, Hochschild Kohn department store, Hess Shoes (with some live monkeys in a glass enclosure), Provident and Equitable Trust banks. The place even had an Enoch Pratt Free Library branch.
But let's not slight the second team - the Dugout Restaurant (at night, a hangout for 1950s-era "drapes," and an early source of submarine sandwiches), a bowling alley, Singer sewing franchise, Edmondson Village Theater, Whelan's drugs (one of the soda fountain trio), Food Fair, Village Gift Shop, Joseph Herman clothing, Wyman shoes, Petite Shop, Arthur's linens, Music Mart, Clayton shop, Marlene shop, Fisher's hardware, Arundel ice cream (great sherbet and affordable prices), Selis shore repair, Rice's bakery and the S. & N. Katz jewelers.
Tommy Tucker was a local five-and-dime chain, with outlets on Pennsylvania Avenue and on Light Street in South Baltimore. The Edmondson Village Tommy's fountain counter offered a hamburger and a Coke for a quarter.
Afternoons on WBAL radio, disc jockey and announcer Jay Grayson would recite the praises of Mischanton's restaurant, also in the center. He made it sound like something in Paris and not the 4500 block of Edmondson Ave.
The center got a head start with the post-World War II baby boom. Accordingly, it had a Crib 'n Cradle shop, Whittington's jewelers and, even though oil and natural gas were the home heating fuels of choice, there were still offices of Kemp and United coal companies. There was also a branch of the Adolph School of Beauty.
There were also medical offices: Dr. E.A. Slavinsky, a dentist; physicians Francis Grumbine, C. Vernon Williamson, Frederick Stichel. There was also a barber, R.T. Mullinix; and photography businesses, Aaron Hoffspiegel and Ron's photography. Across the street was the big Hecht Co. store. It had a Hot Shoppes restaurant.
So what beat down the Village? Try competition - Westview and Ingleside.
There was no competition present on those Thanksgiving evenings when you finished your dinner, drove to the Village and went "Ahhh" when those thousands of clear-white Christmas lights flashed on. Edmondson Village ruled.