Tuesday, May 08, 2007

San Antonio Shopping Center

Mountain View, California - 1982

Vintage early '80s view of San Antonio Shopping Center (aka San Antonio Center), an outdoor strip mall located in Mountain View, California (here's an aerial). Above Image and the following history both via MVPA:
"San Antonio Center has gone through many incarnations. It started in the 1950s as a stand alone Sears Department Store surrounded by bean fields. It grew over the years and became Downtown Mountain View's first major competition. By the 1970s the center had expanded into the pedestrian mall viewed here in this picture. During Christmas time this fountain was covered up and became a place to meet Santa Claus.

At its height in the early 1980s, the mall connected Sears, JC Penny's (which had moved from Mayfield Mall) and Meryvn's. It was also home to the Menu Tree restaurant, a strange two story international restaurant remembered for its use of dozens of cuckoo clocks for decoration.

The mall fell on hard times in the early 1990s and grand plans for its expansion fell through. Most of the mall was demolished to make way for Wal Mart and a parking lot, although a remainder of the mall can still be found behind Sears."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember going there as a tween. I want to say there was a Rhodes department store there at one time. The Co-Op grocery store was either at this shopping center, or near it.

Tue May 08, 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Yup, Rhodes opened in 1965, their only west-bay store. It became Liberty House in the mid 1970's and then closed in 1984 when parent company Amfac closed all their northern CA stores (except San Mateo).

Penney's operated there for a decade or so before moving to Sunnyvale Town Center (now also closed). The former Rhodes/Liberty House/Penney's building has since been demolished.

Tue May 08, 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous didi said...

The cukoo clocks gave way to cukoo Walmart.

Sun May 13, 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Carras said...

Hmmm.and this is NOT "San Antonia"..TEXAS!!

Very neat! That fountain plaza always reminds me of Newport Beach's Fashion Island. [Which REMINDS me..can you dig up 1960s-70s photos of said Newport Beach center BEFORE its 1987 revising into its current form?:))

Gladly appreciate those Lakewood Mall pics.

Steve-a native of Southern Calif.

Mon Dec 10, 12:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have fond memories flying model rockets in the parking lot in the mid 80's. There was a store Starbase Central (on the north east side of the mall) that had everything SCI-FI. They would have special events that included our rocket club, BayNAR (now gone too). James Doohan, Scotty from Star Trek was there signing autographs, and my Klingon Cruser model rocket.
Additionally, San Antonio Hobby Shop was one of the best Hobby Shops in the area. Sadly it is only a fraction of it's former self.

Fri May 02, 08:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, true. The hobby shop was a great one.

I remember the Menu Tree food court, complete with cuckoo clock and fake aviaries upstairs. A friend and I tried to rescue the Menu Tree birds. Paper mache' with dew-drop amber eyes (sigh). We managed to get a few from upstairs, but the others sadly were lost :(

Thu Feb 26, 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have such happy memories of the old San Antonio Center. The Menu Tree was such a unique restaurant. I have fond memories of dining there with my family when I was a growing up in the 70's and 80's. All of the food there was excellent, and their bakery was just about the best. I remember two very sweet older ladies who worked behind the counter at the bakery, Alma and Elsie. Bless their soul's. I also remember Jay Hurlbert, owner of The Menu Tree. Jay had one heck of great operation going. To this day I think of the memorable times I had with my family there. It seems like it was only yesterday, not almost 30 years ago! The San Antonio Hobby Shop was the best in Northern California. The hobby shop was at it's finest hour when it was located in it's second location where Grodin's Mens' Wear formerly was. I loved that hobby shop and purchased many plastic model car kits there in the late 70's and early 80's. I also remember Accent Art, Rhodes and Liberty House, Red Wind Shoe Store, Norney's, Kinney Shoe's, Children's Bootery, a german deli, a furniture store, a christian book store and a few (can't remember the names) clothing stores. As a very young child I remember a pet store called Chopagiles or something that sounded like that. The name of the pet store was later changed to Creatures and was moved next door to The Menu Tree on the fountain side. Then there was a music store called Hal's next door to a jewelry store. This is going back to the early 70's! In the late 70's or early 80's GNC moved in next to Sears, an AT&T Phone store, Earthworks and Shirtworks arrived. Also remember a photography store near GNC. There was a rather well know store next to Norney's called Globetrotter's. I believe it opened in the mid 70's. It was a unique variety store of imported and domestic goods. I remember seeing, for the first time, when I was about eight or nine years old, that famous swimsuit poster of Farrah Fawcett displayed in one of the windows at the Globtrotter's. Can't believe that was over 30 years ago! The memories, the memories... Nowadays I find it truly depressing to shop at The San Antonio Center. What's there anymore? Walmart and a few hole in the wall eateries and fitness places and hair/nail salons. Blaaaaahhhhh!!!

Mon Jul 13, 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even at age 47, the San Antonio Shopping Center has left an indelible mark in the memory of my youth. Our family lived less than a block away on Gabriel Avenue and the San Antonio Shopping Center was an integral part of our lives. The school bus to take us to Portola Elementary in Los Altos would pass by it each morning along California Avenue on the way to the southern-most neighborhood of Palo Alto and then cross El Camino Real through Los Altos picking up more kids along the way.

I remember Thrifty's just east of Sears where they had an ice cream counter with a variety of flavors, including my favorite, bubble gum ice cream. Woolworth was right next door where I remember looking for cheap gifts for my mom's birthday or parents' anniversary. I even remember all the colorful sewing threads they had available. There were other stores in this small strip on the eastern side of the mall including a Martinizing dry cleaners.

I remember the smell of popcorn the instant you walked into Sears. They had a candy and popcorn kiosk near the south entrance, the variety of chocolate candies seemed endless! We would always end up here as it was close to the tool section and the men's and boy's clothing where my father would shop.

I seem to remember a Gallenkamp shoe store near the Sears southern entrance. The Menu Tree was the original food court. I remember coming here with my parents and younger sister for milk and pie or doughnuts after Mass on Sundays.

Later when I was of working age in the late 70's, my first jobs were at Norney's and Earthworks and then later and Kinney's Shoes. My brother's first real job was at Mervyn's during this time period. I remember shopping here with my dad for back-to-school sales during my Jr. High and High school days.

The Hobby Shop was everything a young boy could want. I wanted to try everyting. I remember a model ship I worked on for the longest time, it seemed.

I remember bicycling to and from school, along a more direct route, along Showers Drive, and seeing various carnivals and even a circus in the parking area where the Wall Mart is now. I even remember seeing elephants one time!

I also seem to remember a Best catalog store within the shopping center where Mervyn's used to be, I believe. I remember purchasing some men's jewelry and a valet there.

And let's not forget the Continental Market across the street on California Avenue along with the 7-eleven where we'd pay a few coins for candy and Slurpies, and the Union 76 station where we'd bike to to fill our tires with air. There was also the Bazaar store on the other side of Showers Drive which later became Gemco and now is something else.

To me, the San Antonio Shopping Center was more than a place to shop every now and then, it was my neighborhood, an integral part of my youth. I shall remember this era fondly even unto old age.

Fri Dec 04, 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Ben Campbell said...

My brother Tim and I were the owners of Star Base Central earth zone, in the San Antonio Shopping Center, Mt. Veiw, CA. What a ride, those Star Trek and Star Wars celebrities who made appearances for $$$ was fun. We had our 15 minutes of local fame.

Mon Mar 07, 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Wow! I remember those fountains. My aunt worked at the B. Dalton book store here at the mall. My friends and I used to ride our bikes here as kids and visit San Antonio Hobbies. Back in the 1970's, the hobby shop used the upstairs to house their massive lead-figures department. At the time, people were into playing battle-type games involving lead figures (everything from Napoleon to Star Wars.) I also remember visiting Starbase Central. That store was fun, but I remember it being a bit expensive. Oh! Another fun store at this mall was Tex's Toys. I bought many Dungeons & Dragons books here, as well as those original Tomy light cycle toys back in 1981 when Tron came out. Good times!

Sun Apr 03, 02:14:00 AM  
OpenID Dnl said...

I still have my Chewy/Peter Mayhew autograph from Starbase Central, and great memories of browsing the D&D stuff while my mom was shopping at Norney's. Starbase Central, The Hobby Shop, Time Zone, the toy department at Mervyn's, and Mercury Savings' huge fish tank are all huge parts of my psyche :D

Fri Dec 02, 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jayd said...

Reading all this stuff on San Antonio brings back so many memories shopping and working there. I grew up in the late 60's and 70's in the area, I even worked at "DownHome Arts & Crafts" right near the Sears. I also worked at the Arby's that was next to the Old Mill. I got my first credit card from Mervyn's when I was 18, felt pretty special...haha. I can remember Rhodes and Liberty House! And over by the Thrifty's was a bead shop "Beadazzled"?? And later a store called Piccadilly, which was inexpensive clothing (kind of a Forever21) for it's day. Loved getting a triple scoop of ice cream from Thrifty's for what 20 or 25c, but my fondest memories are of going to lunch or dinner at the Menu Tree. Something to eat for everyone. And later in the early 80's when I was pregnant I was obsessed with their bakery's coffeecake...haha. But all those stores people mentioned: Norney's, Gallenkamps, Co-op, the hobby shop, Grodins, and I think there was a teen clothing store called "Foxmoors"? Well thanx for the fond memories...sorry it's gone downhill...guess it can't compete with all the big malls. I guess even Mayfield Mall is gone too. My dad was one of the Architect's who designed the mall, and I have one of the metal butterflies had was in the huge sculpture from the ceiling. They gave it to him as a gift. Wow...glad I had a place to share with others.

Sat Dec 03, 08:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, and what a wonderland the old San Antonio Center was. My nostalgia centers so strongly on that shopping center. From my earliest years in the early 70's to my teenage years in the early to mid 80's was when I remembered the San Antonio Center a delight.

My favorite places to visit were The Menu Tree, oh my gosh was that a great place to eat! San Antonio Hobby Shop (its second location with the long, curved staircase inside)was THE greatest hobby shop in the state; Norney's, having such a unique selection of quality goods and the second story was opened up during Christmas time and beautifully decorated; Sears, and their unforgetable concession stand that served wonderful popcorn, candy and sodas. What a lovely store it was.

I have other happy memories of being a very young boy shopping with my Mom at Rhodes and later Liberty House. I always made a beeline (with my Mom of course) to the toy department upstairs and I remember the big grandfather clocks in the furniture department that faced you when you reached the top landing on the escalator.

I remember Wollworth's, though my Mom didn't shop their too often. I remember the booths and tables in the cafertia at Woolworth's. It was a plesant store. And of course Thrifty and their knockout ice cream!

Other fond memories as a kid come to The Old Mill. What a beautiful and serene setting. When my brother's and I would see a movie there we'd sometimes stroll through the mall sfterwards, and I remember as an 11 year old kid walking part way into one of Old Mill's disco night clubs Fargos. I pushed the door open and it was very loud in there and alot of people on the disco floor twirling away. That's the closest to a 70's disco I ever got as a kid. Such a shame when The Old Mill shut down and turned into some sort of european "open air" market. Later being raised and stuffing the property with condos.

Mervyn's and Best were stores I spent many times in as well. I miss those places much.

I can't forget Tex's Toys. I loved that store. From the model kits to diecast models and the model trains.

The crushing blow was when Sears was torn down. I was so depressed to see that. That was the last remaining structure of the original San Antonio Center.Gone:(

Now the grand plans are to turn the property into some sort of "scaled down" Santana Row. Lots of condos above businesses.

But the memories shall remain in our minds, hearts and photos of the way this unique shopping center offered something for everyone.

Mon Jul 09, 04:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember when they built that fountain, there was a smaller round one with tiles before, would of been the late 60s and i would of been 7 or 8 but remember it distinctly, I think some other upgrades were happening at the same time, but the fountain really sticks out in my mind. They used to have a sort of Western themed carnival too, remember my brother's turtle won the turtle race, his turtle was named 79 because he cost .79 cents, I got a free goldfish too that I kept for years after. All this makes me think of the Chicago song "Old Days" "Good times I remember, Fun Days filled with Simple Pleasures."

Sun Oct 27, 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow this sure is a time warp! Doesn't really seem like it's been over 4 decades when my buddies and I used to "haunt" the SA Center. I practically lived at Hal's music shop. Hal was a cool guy and he didn't mind people sampling his instruments. Got my first Fender precision bass and Marshall bass amp there back in '72. I worked at Shell pumping gas over on California Ave for a few years in and out of highschool. My parents said if I wanted a bass and amp I'd have to get a job and buy it myself. i think I pissed off every one of my neighbors when I jammed on my bass! Sure wish I had that bass today. It'd be worth some serious cash. Oh well.....

Wed Jan 28, 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Julie Thompson said...

I'm from San Jose, but spent a lot of my childhood/teen years at the San Antonio Mall....Rhodes (Liberty House) King Norman Toy store, Norney's! (which was like a Hallmark store on steriods)! My fav was eating at the Menu Tree...every hour, all the birds would chime in and it was so magical! Reminded me of Disney's Tiki Room and my beloved Nut Tree in Vacaville (I miss that wonderful place too)! The Old Mill was awesome. I had a boyfriend that played in a popular rock band that played many times at Jumping Frog Saloon (later Bullfarber's) and Fargo's...So sad, it's all gone!

Sun Mar 15, 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger bicycle1943 said...

I remember Norney's had a reputation with our family: We thought it was the best example of the worst customer service of any store, ever! The women behind the counter (in the late 70s) were notoriously rude. I was just a kid and my mom had bought some toy for me that was broken out of the box. They refused to refund or exchange it, saying "No refunds!" and causing a great stink. Seriously, for ever after any time someone in the family talked about a poor customer service experience, the rest of us would say, "Yeah but at least they're not as bad as Norney's!"

The Menu Tree in the 70s was a fantastic restaurant. My grandparents would take me to munch there and I remember the hamburgers were amazing. I lived that center piece with the animatronic birds. It reminded me a bit of the Nut Tree over in Vacaville, when it had that trippy dining room.

The San Antonio Hobby Shop in their location with the stairs in the middle was a kids dream store. In the late 70s those military strategy games with the lead figures were really popular. Not just Dungeons and Dragons, but WWII and Napoleonic wargames as well. My mind was blown the first time I ascended those stairs and found that room up there where they keept all of the lead figures. Many were painted. I remember the displays on all four walls were incredible. It was like a museum. All the "big kids" (and adults) were leaning over the counters having deep conversations with employees over strategy and game rules. I had no idea what they were talking about as a 7 year old boy, but it was still super cool. I was bummed when they closed the upstairs in the early 80s.

San Antonio Hobbies was the place to go for Car Wars and Steve Jackson games. They also had the best model rocket selection ever. Our whole scout troop would go over there and buy Estes rockets. Wow, I remember getting the Astrocam-110 for Christmas once. That was the camera-rocket that took 110 film. Great memories of that hobby shop.

My mom was a huge fan of Liberty House. We went there all the time in the 70s. She was into sewing and they had great fabric there.

The Starbase Central store was really cool. I think they had a few ancient video games (70s Atari) that you could play. They had a great selection of models and Star Trek reproduction props. As a kid, I never bought much in that store. With respect to the owners, (hey, you guys had a great shop) I thought everything there was too expensive. The people behind the counter had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Like, if you couldn't afford it that was your problem. It was no surprise to me when they went out of business. Great concept, but they priced themselves out of the market, I think, and didn't do much to endear themselves to customers, in my opinion.

My aunt used to work at the B. Dalton book store at San Antonio. I bought my first science fiction novels there. Apparently when books didn't sell, the bookstore employees were told to rip the covers off the books and mail them back to the publisher for a refund. The books were supposed to be thrown away, but my aunt would "rescue" them for me and bring them home. That's how I got all my Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. I still have a box full of two dozen with the covers ripped off. I can't bear to throw them away!

My favorite destination at San Antonio Shopping Center had to be Tex's Toys. We rode our bikes there every weekend in the 80s and bought Dungeons & Dragons stuff. I still have the Tomy Tron light cycle toys I bought there with my allowance money. That was a great store in the 80s. They had everything a kid could want.

Sun Dec 06, 08:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mama worked at Norney's for many years, until her retirement in the mid-1980s. We lived in Sacramento but visited her and the store at least once a month. Lots of good stores in the area -- of course, my two children loved visiting Grandma and "her" toy store.

Mon May 02, 10:57:00 PM  

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