Miracle Mart – 2101 Centre Ave

Miracle Mart - Reading

Miracle Mart was a 50,000 square foot department store on Route 61/Centre Ave in North Reading. There is very little information online about Miracle Mart or its origins, besides that there was a more well-documented and unrelated Canadian department store chain by the same name. Looking at aerial photos of the area leads me to believe this location in Reading, Pennsylvania was opened in 1959.

October 1958 Aerial

The aerial photograph above was from October 1958, and it appears the building in the location of Miracle Mart is much smaller and shaped differently than the aerial below from July 1971. Perhaps it was under construction or it is another building entirely. Also cropped in the above photograph is Reading Municipal Stadium, which sits diagonally across Route 61 from the department store.

July 1971 Aerial

The newspaper ads below are from the November 1959 Reading Eagle. So its fairly safe to assume the store was built and opened at some point in the year between the aerial and ad.

1959 Reading Eagle Ad

Miracle Mart was just another face in the sea of discount stores that exploded into popularity in the mid-century. The market became over-saturated and like many others, Miracle Mart was eventually consumed by a bigger fish. In 1973 Miracle Mart was bought out by King’s Discount Department store, which operated over 100 other stores across the country at the time.

July 1973 Ad from Reading Eagle

Aside: These ads from 1973 have King’s listed at the junction of Routes 61 & 422, but surely they meant route 61 and route 12/Warren St Bypass? I’m not sure why the bypass there would have ever been considered 422. Even before the Schuylkill bypass 422 business ran East – West through Reading on Penn Street. If you know what’s up with this, feel free to drop it in the comments.

August 1973 Ad from Reading Eagle

Completing the circle of retail life; King’s Department Store filed for bankruptcy in 1982 after it reached a pinnacle of 190 stores nationwide and went defunct by 1984. Eventually this location was converted into office space.

2101 Centre Ave

Currently, the building is occupied by Berks County Intermediate Unit.

Another Company located in this office park is Fromm Electric. I found this Retro signage from Google street view in 2015. It looks like they recently updated the sign and covered their old logo up. Bit of a shame, the cursive “Fromm” is in a lovely mid-century style.

Fromm Electric Retro Sign

Kmart – 45 Years in Berks

Kmart has been a staple nationwide big box store since the 60s. The company, originally called S. S. Kresge Corporation, dates back to 1899. It wasn’t until 1974 when it broke into the Berks County market, opening a store at the 94,500-square-foot Cumru Township location in Shillington Plaza.

According to the Reading Eagle, it featured an auto service center, a garden shop and a self-service snack bar. It shared space with a newly built Weis Market that eventually moved to a bigger site in Spring Township in 2011.

Blue Light Special

Kmart had a retail cultural phenomenon… as you may remember wandering around waiting to see what the next blue light special would be. The Blue Light Special was a sale promotion within the store for a short period within store hours only. It was advertised using a rotating blue light, in the same style a police car used, and was announced over the store public address system with the phrase “attention Kmart shoppers”, a phrase which became a pop culture reference. 

Expansion in Berks

Two more stores opened within the mid-1970s. One took over the space of a former W.T. Grant Store on Fifth Street Highway, Muhlenberg Township, in 1976. And another was opened in Exeter Township on the site of the former Mount Penn Drive-In Theater in 1977.

Fifth Street Highway Muhlenberg location after closing

At its peak in 1994, Kmart operated 2,323 discount stores and Super Kmart Center locations in the United States.

The Exeter store, which had then made another move to Shelbourne Square shopping center in 1993, was the first to go when the former Kmart Corp. filed for their first bankruptcy in 2002. Shortly after in 2004 Kmart and Sears merged. Both were struggling companies and decided to jointly sell off many of the Sears product lines, including Craftsman tools, to make ends meet.

Things were quiet for the remaining two locations in Berks for over a decade. The Fifth street Highway location was eventually closed in the summer of 2016. It was one of 68 other Kmarts to close nationwide in another attempt to cut off the profitless limbs of the failing company.

The first location in Berks would also be it’s last. The Shillington Plaza Kmart is finally on the chopping block and is set to start liquidating mid-September. It will be fully closed by the end of 2019. I took this video below in July before the news, but we all knew it was only a matter of time. You can see there was virtually no one in the store shopping.

So now we have yet another vacant big box store shell wasting space and potential community tax income. Kmart enjoyed a 45 year run in Berks, and now quietly joins the ranks of Two Guys, Pomeroy’s and other retail relics of the past.

Sources: Reading Eagle Wikipedia

Kaleidoscope at the Berkshire Mall – 1970s

The Kaleidoscope was a store in the Berkshire Mall in the 70s. It sold jewelry, black lights and other psychedelic things. You could also get your ears pierced there. Do you remember this store?

circa 1973

Bon-Ton / Pomeroy’s at the Berkshire Mall

Everyone has heard that Bon-Ton had declared bankruptcy and was subsequently closing all of it’s stores back in April. Liquidation began immediately, and finally after 4 months of sales the location at the Berkshire Mall is closing for the final time today, August 28th 2018 at 5:00 pm.

Bon-Ton occupied the center anchor at the Berkshire Mall since 1987, when it bought out the local department store, Pomeroy’s. The change was gradual, and the store only started touting just the Bon-Ton name in 1990, three years after the purchase. Pomeroy’s had been in the space since 1976. The mall opened in 1970, and for the first 6 years it housed a Philadelphia store called Lit Brothers. So, the majority of the mall’s life it has been the Bon-Ton. This will be the first time the space will be vacant for any amount of time, though Mall Management is looking for a tenant.

Pomeroy's Grand opening Berkshire Mall 1976
Pomeroy’s Grand opening Berkshire Mall 1976

Pomeroy’s / Bon-Ton has employed many Berks Countian’s over the years. My own Mother worked at Pomeroy’s in the late 70s/early 80s in the Junior Sportswear department during high school and college. Many are sad to see the memories go.

Pomeroy's fire May 1990
Pomeroy’s fire May 1990

Pomeroy's is now The Bon-Ton 1990
Pomeroy’s is now The Bon-Ton August 1990

Malls in general are not doing well these days. Many department stores, like Bon-Ton, are going out of business, and do not draw the crowds they once did in the Mall’s heydays of decades past. One would only need to look a few miles north to the Fairgrounds Square Mall to see the fate that awaits most malls. However Berkshire still seems to do a good business, and has minimal vacancies…though one mall couldn’t keep a giant like Bon-Ton alive, a new tenant should jump at the opportunity to join an active mall like the Berkshire.

 

Two Guys Department Store – Shillington

Two Guys Shillington
Pictured: Dr. Marcelo Manubay

These photos below were sent in by Ron Shurr, a faithful correspondent of Berks Nostalgia. Take a look inside the Two Guys Department Store that was located on 724 in Shillington, where Ollies and the Trading Post now are, directly across from the old Dempsey’s American Restaurant that was recently torn down to make way for a Sheetz. Ron’s recollection of his short time working in the Camera department  is as follows:

“Here are some pictures of Two Guys inside the store once located in Shillington, PA.  I don’t remember the exact dates they were taken, but it was in the very early nineteen sixties.  The pix are primarily of the Appliance, TV and Camera departments with most of the individuals being employed there.  At that time, the Two Guys store was a few blocks from the Shillington Restaurant and Market, next to the Crest House and across the street from a Tiny Tim fast food establishment, near the intersection of Hwy. 724.  They would be open seven days a week, which was a problem at that time considering the Blue Laws.  Working there, I remember  law  enforcement, coming by the store on Sunday afternoons to forcefully close the store.  Wow, how times have changed!

One thing that I remembered having worked for Pomeroy’s department store, before working at Two Guys, was the Appliance and TV manager.  Jack Bush was the manager, who left a buyer management position at Pomeroy’s, in downtown Reading.  Other department managers came from different Two Guys locations, a few from as close as Allentown while others were from the New Jersey area.

I remember helping to set up the Lighting Fixture department with a New Jersey Corporate Owner-partner, Manny Brecker.  Together we wired and hung fixtures.  The department was located between the Camera and Appliance departments.  I don’t remember when they officially closed, but I was only there a short time before accepting a Camera store management position in Carlisle, PA.”

Two Guys Shillington
A then-new stereo set
Two Guys Shillington
Left To Right: JACK DUNN SALESMAN, JACK BUSH DEPT MGR APPLIANCES FORMERLY WITH POMEROYS AND UNKNOWN SALESMAN
Two Guys Shillington
Unknown Sales Associate
Two Guys Shillington
JACK DUNN PRESSING DISPLAY TWO GUYS APPL AND TV SALES
Two Guys Shillington
JACK DUNN AND ANOTHER ASSOCIATE TV DEPT

Two Guys was a discount store founded in 1946 by New Jersey brothers Sidney and Herbert Hubschman. This location in Shillington opened sometime in the 1950s. The entire company went defunct by 1982, so I am guessing this store location shuttered sometime shortly before then.

Post Two Guys, the building was subdivided into several different stores, with Pathmark taking the left (entrance on the side) and Rickel’s taking the right. After Rickel’s closed the store was divided further into Ollie’s and A.C. Moore. Pathmark was sold to Giant in 1997 and relocated in 2005; A.C. Moore relocated in 2004.  –Source

The Ollies is still there, along with a Trading Post store, however, the side-entry Grocery store section has been vacant since Giant left in 2005.

Two Guys Shillington
Today