One of the cliches about New Jersey people like to throw around is that the state is nothing but highways and strip malls. It certainly would be hard to argue with that – the Armpit of America is home to more than its fair share of both. But there is one strip mall in particular that stands above the rest – hell, I’d even say it’s magical.
I’m talking about the Strathmore Shopping Center, also known as the Aberdeen Townsquare Shopping Center, located off of Route 34 in Aberdeen. And I’m not playing favorites just because I grew up in that town – I have yet to see any strip mall anywhere that can match what this place can offer. What also makes it special is how The Strathmore Shopping Center (or just “the stores” as well called it in my youth) meant different things to me at different parts of my life. From running errands with my parents as a little kid, to gaining the freedom to ride my bike there when I got older, to hanging out there as a teen, to stopping there today pretty much whenever I’m in town, this seemingly generic strip mall has been a constant throughout my life.
What’s also amazing it how so many of the stores from my childhood are still there: the local bowling alley, the bagel shop, the candy store. Sure, there are some places that didn’t make it, like the kosher deli cleverly named Chubby Bubbe’s, the mom and pop video store that was run out of business when Blockbuster moved in across the street (which got its comeuppance 20 years later), or the shoe store for people with wide feet (unfortunate, since I now realize that I have wide feet). But for every store that closes down, a new one takes its place. (more…)