The Way It Was


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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE BERKLEY HISTORICAL MUSEUM

1959There was a time when a Cunningham’s drug store and a Kresge five-and-dime store, as well as an independent hardware store, food market, and neighborhood movie theater were common sights in any business district in Detroit or its suburbs. Many people didn’t even have to drive to shop locally. Typical is this image of Berkley’s shopping strip on 12 Mile Road, which even included a Plymouth car dealership. But malls soon changed Americans’ shopping habits, and many businesses such as these relocated or shuttered. As James Tong, vice chair of the Berkley Historical Committee and co-author of Arcadia Books’ Berkley, says, “In 1954, Southfield’s Northland Center opened and most of these stores were soon gone.” But decades later, with widespread online shopping, many large retailers and malls struggled. After years of decline, Northland closed in 2015. Today, Berkley has a thriving shopping area on 12 Mile, though the businesses pictured here have vanished. The Berkley Theatre (rear left), which opened in 1940, screened its last picture show in 1999. A Rite-Aid exists where the auditorium once was, but its marquee was spared. A poster-size version of this image is available for $10 at the Berkley Historical Museum, the Berkley Public Library, and the Berkley City Clerk’s Office. Contact museum@berkleymich.net or call 248-658-3335. 

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