Five Points Shopping Center was ahead of its time.
In an era before malls, the West Exchange Street plaza provided one-stop shopping.
A five-pointed sign, outlined in blinking lights, greeted customers 60 years ago. Boat-sized automobiles jammed the parking lot and bargain-hunting consumers thronged the stores at the grand-opening celebration Nov. 15, 1962.
“Akron’s only shopping center COMPLETE under ONE roof.”
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Acme Foods, Scott’s 5 and 10, Peoples Drugs, Western Auto and Al’s Discount Shoes offered a wide variety of products at special low prices. Low partitions, not walls, separated the businesses.
“By merely crossing aisles, customers will be able to walk from one store to another in the 60,000-square-foot main floor,” the Beacon Journal explained.
Akron neighbors opposed plaza
The development at 636 W. Exchange St. was not without controversy.
The City Corp., led by President Max B. Wyant, built the $1.7 million plaza (about $16 million today) on a 9-acre tract after a protracted legal battle.
Five Points neighbors had expressed concerns about increased traffic volume and reduced property values. They worried about urban blight, loud noise, safety issues and drainage problems.
Hundreds gathered for an April 1961 meeting as Akron City Council debated whether to rezone the property from single-family residential to commercial.
The crowd booed or cheered, depending on the point of view of the speaker.
City Corp. attorney Robert Shuff said the shopping center would provide a boost for business in a “deteriorating area.”
“Let’s bring traffic back to town, not to shopping centers on the outskirts,” he told the council. “Five Points has gone downhill because there’s no place to park.”
Robert Culbertson, an attorney for First Evangelical, said the development was “not needed at all.”
“Who can say we don’t have too many shopping centers now?” he said.
Edmund Burroughs, lawyer for a group of neighbors, said drivers would find it “almost impossible to get in and out” of the plaza.
City Corp. Vice President Fred Konstand countered: “Would we invest $1 million if we thought the housewife couldn’t get in and out? If this were a detriment, I’d be the first to say so.”
Raymond Apple, vice president of the F.W. Albrecht Grocery Co., said Acme was on board with the plan.
“We’re hot for this location,” he said.
Ultimately, the City Council voted 8-4 to rezone the property, a decision that withstood court challenges.
Neighbors watched with sadness as loggers cut down acres of old-growth trees and wreckers demolished a 25-room, 19th century brick mansion that had once belonged to B.F. Goodrich secretary Richard P. Marvin Jr.
Like it or not, retail was coming.
Customers line up at Five Points
Employees stocked shelves at the five new stores at Five Points. Customers waited in line as the shopping center opened Nov. 15, 1962.
Mayor Edward O. Erickson attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, riding on the back of an open convertible through a 16-foot “air curtain” that shut out the weather without the use of doors.
Early bird shoppers won free gifts and children received free balloons. Customers registered for $1,500 in prizes.
“Five independent stores share a single room — an acre-and-a-quarter in size — in Akron’s newest shopping center,” the Beacon Journal reported. “Developers of the $1,700,000 Five Points Center say this is a feature unique in the U.S.”
Traveling from store to store, shoppers could purchase at random:
● A Butterfield tom turkey for 35 cents a pound at Acme. (“Broad breasted, tender, carefully cleaned and quick frozen at the peak of goodness.”)
● Seamless nylons for 38 cents at Scotts. (“Clear as polished glass.”)
● All-leather shoes imported from England for $8.97 at Al’s. (“The most comfortable pair of shoes a man could own!”)
● A Realtone sportsman 6-transistor radio for $9.88 at Peoples. (“Earphone jack for private listening.”)
● A Truetone suitcase-style 19-inch portable TV for $128.88 at Western Auto. (“18,000 volts of picture power!”)
Would all of that even fit in one cart?
The plaza was an instant success, attracting customers from far and wide, but even bigger things were ahead.
In 1965, Acme announced it was establishing Click, “a new series of stores” that would combine a supermarket with a department store.
Acme President Fred I. Albrecht, grandson of the company’s founder, said the move followed a detailed study of merchandising trends.
“We feel it is the best composite of all the retail methods now in use,” he said. “The operating policy of the company is to pass along to the consumer the obvious inherent efficiencies of a retail store operated according to the design of the Click program.”
The first store was built in Stow. Next up was Five Points.
Ground broken for Click store
After the City Council rezoned the Maude D. Memmer estate at 700 W. Exchange St. as commercial property, wreckers tore down the 21-room mansion built in 1881. There was little protest this time.
Ground was broken Jan. 11, 1966, on the $1.7 million, 65,000-square-foot Click. An enclosed arcade would connect the new building with the shopping center. The existing Acme store would become a Click’s department and the parking lot would expand from 500 to 750 spaces.
A red-and-white, oval-shaped Click sign greeted shoppers.
Mayor John S. Ballard presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 3, 1966, as thousands of customers flocked to the store on the first day. Employees passed out Click toy clickers (remember those?) to children and released helium balloons carrying $100 gift certificates for the community to find.
The gleaming store had 14 checkout counters, but workers hastily set up three more registers to handle the crush of shoppers.
The store offered groceries, clothes, shoes, hardware, automotive supplies, housewares, electrical and plumbing supplies, paint, jewelry, toys, records, health and beauty aids, garden equipment, sporting goods and a snack shop.
“Click has everything!” the chain advertised.
Long before superstores such as Target, Walmart, Costco and Meijer entered the Greater Akron market, customers flocked to Click.
Smaller businesses operated on Five Points Shopping Center’s upper level facing South Portage Path, including City Laundry & Dry Cleaning, Mr. Edward’s Hair Styles, Five Points Barber Shop, Honadle’s Candy, Vassar Dress Shop, Carmin Gift Shop, Five Points Plaza TV, Volk’s Tile City, Portage Double Quick Inc., National Electronics Training Center and a variety of professional offices.
WSLR (1350-AM), a country station with popular disc jockey Jaybird Drennan, moved its studio to the building in 1974 and remained for nearly a decade.
While smaller stores opened and closed at Five Points, Click remained the anchor for more than 25 years. Business was declining, though. In early 1991, the store decided to reduce from 42,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet.
Like it or not, retail was leaving.
Acme rebrands store chain
In 1992, the F.W. Albrecht Grocery Co. announced it would rename its 10 Click locations as Acme SuperCenter stores.
“Acme better conveys the quality of our grocery reputation to our customers,” President Steve Albrecht explained. “The name SuperCenter has become the name for stores on the leading edge of retailing that offer general merchandise as well as food.”
Five years later, the chain rebranded as Acme Fresh Markets.
The Five Points store wasn’t around for the change. In late 1992, Acme converted the West Exchange location into a Super Y-Mart.
“The demographics of the area have changed, population has declined and that neighborhood can’t support a full-line grocery store anymore,” Albrecht told the Beacon Journal.
In late 1993, Revco bought Y-Mart. In 1998, CVS bought Revco and shut down the Five Points store. Family Dollar, which arrived in 1994, moved out after a few years.
Commercial real estate company Albrecht Inc. reinvented the plaza by leasing space to groups such as the YWCA and Summit DD.
The U.S. Postal Service has operated a station at the center for more than 30 years. Other current occupants include Akron Summit Community Action, Head Start, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and BuffTutor.
A large section remains unoccupied, though. Albrecht Inc. advertises the availability of 41,080 square feet.
Five Points Shopping Center is waiting for something new to click.
Mark J. Price can be reached at [email protected].
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