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Views of the original El Cerrito Plaza, part II: The economy strikes back

By Chris Treadway
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 at 12:10 am in business, El Cerrito, History.

This go-round has photos of the classic El Cerrito Plaza in its declining years, which, sadly, seems to be when the most pictures were taken as people debated the center’s future. You can learn about the original center at the El Cerrito Historical Society program on Thursday.
The Plaza added attractions such as Chevy’s and Chuck E. Cheese (which also attracted the highest number of police calls to the center) during this period, but many smaller merchants closed and a toy store literally packed up and disappeared overnight. The biggest blows came when the Emporium and Woolworth’s closed when their parent companies liquadated, leaving just Longs Drugs and the Lucky/Albertsons grocery as the two major anchors.

(You can click the photos to see larger versions)

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The old Plaza sign.

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The later Plaza sign, reflecting old and new businesses.

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Decorating for Christmas in the late 1980s.

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The Gaucho Marching Band leads the El Cerrito High homecoming parade through the Plaza parking lot about 1997. Emporium (Capwell) has already closed and there are portable outhouses next to the building.

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An empty storefront next to Betty’s Hallmark.

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The south side of the Plaza around 1989. What was still open at that time? See the next photo.

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Enlarging the photo we can see Woolworth’s, Mechanics Bank, the Mel-O-Dee, The Junket and a toy store.

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The space between Longs and Capwell’s, um, Emporium, looks lonely in this midday shot.

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Plaza security makes the rounds about 1989. Behind Kids Mart are Betty’s Hallmark and Beadazzled.

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David’s Hof Brau anchored a corner for a time.

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A view of the southside looking to the hills.

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A view of the south side looking toward Albany Hill and the site of the original Castro adobe that stood on the property for more than a century.

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Another lonely looking view of the interior corridor, though in fairness, the photographer waited until nobody was visible. Note the sign for McPhee’s Junior Bootery.

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