This parcel, now home to Burlington
Coat Factory and MicroCenter, was part of Collins second
addition to St. Louis Park, platted in 1892 as part of
Walker’s original plat of the Village. Today it consists of
blocks 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8. It lay vacant for many years,
often used as a ball field.
One of the first uses came in 1946 when Quonset huts were
moved in for Veterans Housing. That same year, Lots 1 and 2
of block 6 were sold to the Village by Albert and Rosa Mae
In 1956 Percy Ross requested a permit to build an auction
house at 36th and Highway 100, but the plan never
materialized. Ross often requested permission to hold
auctions of heavy equipment on the site.
In the 1950s and ‘60s the land was often used for
carnivals held by the VFW, etc. In June 1952 the Village
leased it to "Happy Acres" Kiddie Rides. In
1959, the 11th Annual VFW Jamboree was held on May 22-27.
In 1956 the land was conveyed to the State/county.
The Veteran’s housing structures had been removed by 1960,
when the City purchased the 10-acre site from Hennepin
County. The City Planning Department proposed that it be
used for a Civic Center, featuring an open fountain
surrounded by public buildings such as the City Hall,
Library, and a Municipal Auditorium.
The first Topps Discount City was opened on October 15,
1956, in Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1962 Interstate Department Stores of New York offered
the City $440,000 for the property. The City determined that
the profit could be used to fund a City Hall at another
location. (As planned, the current City Hall was built at
Carpenter Park, completed and occupied by city staff on
October 18, 1963.) Area residents and the adjacent
Aldersgate Methodist Church protested the sale, fearing that
the store would interfere with the Church and take business
away from Miracle Mile. However, Interstate said it had two
other offers for property in St. Louis Park (rumors were
that they were from Ernie Jacobson for the dump site or
Charles Friedheim for his concrete works), so the City went
ahead with the sale in August 1961 with the proviso that a
1.5-acre buffer be provided between the store and the
church. [The first such discount store to open in the Twin
Cities was a GEM store, which opened in Bloomington in
In the fall of 1963 Interstate opened a Topps Discount City
store at the site, which had by then reverted to ballfields
and skating rinks.
The company owned and operated 61 downtown stores and
discount houses throughout the country. An April 1963 ad
used the slogans “Profits in Pennies” and “America’s
Discount Leader.” The donut shop made donuts in-house. A National Food Supermarket opened next to
Topps in the spring of 1964, but closed on July 24, 1965. Topps itself went bankrupt
- an ad said "We Lost Our Lease - Going Out of Business
Sale." Last day to shop: August 29, 1965. Some remember there was
a problem with rats at the store, perhaps because of the
dump nearby. There is quite an
web site devoted to Topps.
Part of an ad from the Minneapolis
Tribune, November 10, 1963
On November 15, 1965, a Shoppers' City store opened at the
site. Shoppers' City was a local chain started in 1959, and
as early as 1963 had stores in Minneapolis
(63rd Ave. No. and Hwy.152 (Osseo Rd.); St. Paul (between Larpenteur and No. St. Paul Rd.) and Duluth. [A
1966 ad says Brooklyn Center, Maplewood, SLP, and Duluth.]
Mel Roth was listed as the owner (Shoppers' City Four) and Frank Anslow
was the first store manager. A teaser billboard announcing
the store started with just the bird's eye, then the S, then
eventually the name of the store.
The store featured a department store, grocery store,
bakery, barber shop, beauty salon, optical shop, auto repair,
gas station, dry cleaning, shoe repair, tire store, garden
store, a furniture and
appliance department on the mezannine, (at one time run by
the Furniture Barn), and a pet shop. The pet shop was (in)
famous for having at least one baby chimp for sale.
Al Hartman thinks the price was around $1,500. "A girl
who worked there would carry it around the store on Saturday
or Sunday mornings and probably during the rest of the week.
It must have sold as it was not there too long. He could
still be around, hopefully in a better place. I say he
because gender was apparent at times." The poor monkey
wasn't too happy; one small shopper remembered: "The
monkey threw poop and peed on people. I got showered as a
kid, was supposed to be in toy dept wandered into the pet
store and got peed on." Another got her hair pulled.
upon a time it was illegal for stores to open on Sunday.
On July 1, 1967, the law changed, allowing stores to open
but banning a list of certain products. Rumors flew
that Shoppers' City was planning to test the law by selling
the proscribed items. On the first Sunday in July the
store opened but complied with the law. Speculation ran wild, wondering whether Red
Owl, National, and Penny’s would follow suit. Seymour
Rothstein, Executive Vice President of Shoppers’ City,
stated that most of their Sunday customers at their Brooklyn
Center store were rural shoppers. The Chamber of Commerce
was absolutely against stores opening on Sundays. The folks at Aldersgate
Church next door
objected to the store being open on Sunday, saying it would
interfere with churchgoers. This so-called “blue law” would
eventually be phased out.
In March 1967 the store was bought out by the Zayre chain, based
in Framingham, Massachusetts. The word Zayre was derived
from the Jewish phrase "Zehr gut," or "very good." This meant renovation of
existing stores and the building of new stores. Inspection
records of the St. Louis Park store show some major problems
with the building. On May 7, 1971, the electrical inspector
found the electrical maintenance within this building
“absolutely appalling.” “We have been fooling around with
the same violations for the last 12 months.” His letter
cited 38 separate violations. One particular sore point were
the bathrooms, which were right inside the door. The City
insisted that they be moved within the store so they could
be better supervised. In 1972, architects were hired to
remodel, but with enough parking an issue, it took til the
next year for the City Council to approve the plan. The
store struggled along until the end of 1979. (The Zayre
Corp. was later bought by Ames in 1988 and thereafter went
bankrupt amid accusations of fraudulent business practices.)
Next, Kmart took over the store in January 1980, and opened
for business on May 17, 1981. They rented the building
from Peninsula Industries in California. There was a fire at
the building on March 14, 1982, and the store closed on
December 31, 1983. One document indicates that Kmart had to
dig up the abandoned gas tanks left by Shoppers' City. Kmart
was created in 1899 as Kresge's or The S.S. Kresge Company.
In 1962 it was renamed Kmart.
Red Owl Country Store
From May 18, 1981 to 1985, Red Owl ran a Country Store in
the south end of the building. The store was on the edge
of the new concept of no-frills marketing, where customers
bag their own groceries, and – at least at first – filled
their own egg cartons. Mead Stone was the manager in 1981.
Burlington Coat Factory
Burlington Coat Factory took over the store in 1984, still
renting from Peninsula Industries.
Almstead's New Market
In March 1990, Jim Almsted coverted the south end of the
building to Almstead’s New Market. It was still
there in 1998.
MicroCenter was founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1979 by two
former Radio Shack employees. It now occupies the south end
of the building.