People give me “street cred” when I mention that I grew up in Brooklyn Park. Those of you who also grew up in the BP area probably find that statement as ridiculous as I do. Because if ice skating at the Evergreen Park rink and drying off in the warming house, taking swimming lessons at the Community Center, walking to Tom Thumb, and eating at Bok Ho gives you street cred, then by all means, call me a gangbanger. Ay yo trip! You know what I’m sayin’? Fo’ SHIZ, homeslice!
I insist to people that it was a nice area in which to grow up, but not everyone these days believes me. Rightfully so. The area has gone to pit.
But in the ’80s, it was nice. Even in the Zane Avenue area. Village North, you haven’t been forgotten!
Village North wasn’t just any old strip mall. Architecturally, it looked like a strip mall, with the shops arranged in a linear fashion, but it functioned more like a regular mall. It was always busy, you could walk the interior of the mall, they held events like craft shows, and by golly, even Santa paid his yearly visit.
I joke about tearing places down and building condos, but really, that’s exactly what happened to poor Village North. They tore it down sometime in 2003, and by 2006ish, up went a bunch of cookie cutter condos/townhomes. I really don’t know how bad the crime got in the mall – I last visited it in 1998, and it seemed safe enough then.
I apologize for the lack of OLD pictures. It’s not like I didn’t try! With the exception of the Circus Circus pics, all I have are current pictures of what the area looks like today.
You’d never know a landmark strip mall once stood here.
Now it looks like they’re trying to turn Zane Avenue/Brooklyn Blvd into another Plymouth, manufactured city center and all.
I listed these by location – from one end of the mall to the other. This is entirely based on memory, and I could be wrong. Please let me know if you have corrections or additions by emailing me or posting in the comments.
Korner Plaza: Closed in 1987. It was some sort of department store. I believe they sold juniors clothing, toys, and inflatable rafts. Rafts? Yeah, random, I know. But my mom bought my brother and I each an inflatable raft to use up at the cabin. So they sold outdoor sporting goods too. Go figure.
Minnesota Fabrics: Korner Plaza became Minnesota Fabrics at some point.
Some big pet food store. Not sure if it was a Petco or what…? I can’t remember if the pet store took over the spot of Minnesota Fabrics when it closed or if they coexisted next door to each other in blissful harmony.
Circus Circus: For us ’80s kids, this was the main draw of Village North. No, it was nothing like its Vegas namesake – this was not a fleabag motel & gambling establishment – it was a kid-friendly arcade. It was just like a Showbiz Pizza or a Chuck E Cheese — greasy pizza, a band of singing mechanical beasts featuring one hella scary gorilla, arcade games, skeeball, bumper cars, tickets redeemable for shit prizes, and the signature dark, dreary decor that gave this place a sinister feeling.
This Circus Circus location had a big ball crawl right near the entrance. As adults, we all know it’s a bacteria farm. Unless they hired a Hazmat crew to come in to fumigate and sterilize every hour, if you went into the ball crawl, there was a pretty good chance you were going to come out with a rash and a case of the whopping cough. But at least Walgreens was right down the hallway, so you could pick up some Robitussin before heading home
Sometime in the ’80s, Circus Circus remodeled and expanded. I’m not sure when this was, but it had to have been prior to 1988, as the photos below show the new & expanded dining area. The old dining area turned into some sort of sports bar with a bunch of TVs. It was separated from the main dining area by a glass wall (smoking was allowed in this area). You rarely saw families eating in this area; only really, really creepy old men hung out here, drinking beer and and chain smoking. The guys in here creeped me out – if they want to drink beer and watch the Vikings, why not go to a bar? For pete’s sake, Blondies is right down the road. Yeah…that’s because today, these same men are probably on Dateline’s Chris Hansen’s shit list. I believe they kept the animatronic show in the old eating area, at least for a while.
The new eating area was much larger than the old digs – and had a 3-ring circus style Rockafire Explosion show! (The old stage only allowed the main band). The animatronic show would just start out of nowhere, scaring the crap out of everyone. Being serenaded by a rat cheerleader, a possum in a trash can, and a scary ass gorilla lip syncing Beach Boys songs while eating greasy pizza was every kid’s dream.
They also installed this glass box that looked like a telephone booth inside the eating area. It was used for birthday parties – the birthday boy or girl would go into the box, the Circus Circus mascot (a scary clown with a huge head) started up a fan and a bunch of tickets would fly around in the box. Your job was to catch as many as you could before the time ran out. All kids were envious of whoever the birthday kid was, regardless if you knew him or not. Because WE WANTED TICKETS. They were our passports to treasure, redeemable for a giant Styrofoam pellet teddy bear, a terrycloth wristband, or a plastic yo-yo!
When you ordered food at the counter, you were given a number and instructed to watch the monitors for your order to be ready. While we waited for our pizza, Mom and Dad set us loose in the arcade to play games, but instructed us to watch the monitor for our number. And this was how my parents discovered I needed glasses. I kept playing skeeball long after our number came up. Mom thought I was being difficult; truth was, I couldn’t read the monitor. I wasn’t a happy camper! I thought glasses were fug. I only needed them for distance, I didn’t need to wear them full-time. Thank goodness too, because – LIKE, WHAT ABOUT FASHION?!
Great American Music. It had a wood store front. All I can remember is that it sold records and cassettes and was located right by Circus Circus. My mom bought Michael Jackson’s Thriller tape here!
Mario’s Movies & Games: Mario dealt in new and used movies and Nintendo/Sega games. So if you wanted, you could sell your 8-Bit NES and games to Mario (but don’t get your hopes up too high if the only game you had was Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt. You’d be lucky if he’d give you a quarter for it). Too bad eBay wasn’t around in those days. I don’t know if the place was actually owned by a guy named Mario. Probably not. Chances are, he wanted to capitalize on the Nintendo trend and use the namesake of the chubby video game plumber to lure in the hardcore gamer demographic (a.k.a. impressionable 10 year olds). After all, how many MARIOS do you know?
Famous Footwear: Not much to say about this. Though the Village North location is obviously gone, the Famous Footwears of today still look pretty much the same way they did in the ’80s.
Brauns: I HATED THIS PLACE and I imagine if you grew up in this area in the ’80s, you hated it too. It’s where Mom shopped and where kids whined and fussed. Brauns made Mom look like a mom. They sold Mom Jeans, Mom Shirts, Mom Slacks, Mom Vests, and other various Mom Accessories. Hi Mom!
Simeks Meat & Seafood: I LOVED their samples! They always had a plate of meatballs near the enterance, so while Mom finished checking out at Walgreens, my brother and I would wander over to Simecks to feast on some meat. The cashier would give us the evil eye and alert her manager to boot us out of the store if we were sneaking too many meatballs. They also sold some really good RAW cookie dough too.
Radio Shack: If Village North still existed in 2009, this Radio Shack location would still be in business. This chain should’ve died sometime in the VCR age, but nope. It’s apparently harder to kill than a cockroach. I guess there’s still enough demand out there for phone jacks, DC 12V car adapters, and metal dectectors to support this place.
Walgreens: This was one of the busiest stores in Village North. Our doctor’s office was around the Village North area, so this is where we got all of our prescriptions filled when we were sick. Today, Walgreens is located about a block down the road, in its own stand-alone building.
Some dry cleaning place
A barber shop: Even had one of those rotating barber poles!
A pet store: I’m not sure if they actually sold pets other than fish and birds, because I only remember getting flakey fish food and tank equipment at this store. I can’t remember its name. They had a great selection of pretty colored fish tank rocks too.
Plaster Paradise: Plaster Paradise was definitely different. They sold exactly what you think they’d sell – plaster. Yep, plain plaster sculptures, all ready to be colored in whatever lead-based paint hues you wish. Painting these spackle statues didn’t require a whole lot of artistic ability. Sure, you could REALLY go all out with these plastered widgets, but for the most part, anyone could make these suckers look halfway decent, even my 8 year old brother who liked to destroy my Barbie coloring books by scribbling all over the pages using Crayola’s Raw Umber and only Raw Umber.
This craft was kind of like Ukrainian Egg Art for the less talented. They had a huge selection of various spackle statues – you could paint your own knock-off Precious Moments doll or Hummel statuette. Besides the statuettes, they sold pretty much every other dust-collecting home decor item you could imagine – doorknockers, bookends, wall hangings, napkin rings, Christmas ornaments, weapons of mass destruction… All with a completely blank slate for the do-it-yourself hobbyist. They sold all kinds of painting supplies here too – different sized paint brushes and every color of paint you could imagine. Most importantly, it was MISSION CRITICAL not to leave this store without an aerosol can of shellack. Your precious artwork was not complete until you doused it with a coating of glaze, giving your brainchild a shiny varnish, ready for household display.
Company’s Coming: They sold everything you needed to throw a kick ass party, without the liquor. Company’s Coming was a “mom and pop” version of a Party City. It was a very tiny store, which really is the ideal size of a party store. I don’t get why places like Party City occupy a building as large as a Wal Mart. A party store need not to be that damn big!
Ben Franklin: I wrote about this place in my 10 Stores I Wish Were Still in Business post – basically, it’s a scaled-down version of a Michael’s. I went here to stock up on embroidery thread for my BFF Friendship Bracelet business.
Northwest Book Store: A Christian book store that sold bibles, Billy Graham posters, Precious Moments trash, and Sister Theresa bookmarks. I didn’t like this place because they didn’t sell Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High books. Probably because a Christan book store would think Jessica Wakefield ranked right up there with Judas.
IGN Super Valu: I wasn’t a fan of Super Valu. Or its red-headed stepchild, Red Owl (located across the street). This grocer had two good things going for it: #1: The chicken clucking machine at the front of the store, where you’d put in a quarter, the chicken would cluck to the beat of a nursery rhyme, and when the song would finish, you’d get a plastic egg with a surprise inside…which was usually incredibly disappointing. I once got a “gold” smiley face ring that broke me out in a nasty rash.
#2: They had baggers who would sack up your groceries for you, place them in a plastic numbered bin, and put them on a rolling belt at the front of the store. You’d go out to your car, pull up to the curb, and the friendly stock boy would place your bags into your car. How nice.
Burger Bros: Took over the grocery store location. Burger Brothers was a locally-owned company that was acquired by Gander Mountain in 1995. They sold sporting goods and had a giant bear in the store. Burger Brothers closed in 1997.
Around Village North:
The area around Village North was quite memorable too, so it’s worth covering.
In the parking lot area:
Arby’s: Arby’s was located in the Village North parking lot. It probably faced a lot of competition from the Rax across the street. In the end, Arby’s won the Roast Beef War and stayed in business long after Rax shut its doors.
An ATM: There was an ATM in the middle of the Village North parking lot. I don’t know why I remember this, but for some reason, whenever I picture the Village North shopping center, I always remember that ATM.
Marquette Bank: This was a circular shaped building with glass windows all around it in the Village North parking lot.
AMF Village North Bowl: Even back in the ’80s, my parents wouldn’t take us to this particular bowling alley. They thought it was really seedy. And it was – I think I only went there once as a child, for a birthday party. As an adult, I went there once in 2003, and got my drink on. Enough so that I sang at the karaoke bar and cleared out the place in 7 seconds flat. I sure liked their wireless microphone… The bowling alley was in the “back” area of Village North. I think it MIGHT have been connected to the mall, but I’m not sure. This was demolished in 2005. To fill the void, Brunswick Lanes opened up sometime in 2006. Call ahead to get your name on the lane list and don’t forget your glock!
McDonalds: This was a nasty, noxious McDonalds, even back in the ’80s. It was a franchised owned, not a company-owned restaurant, so they did things their way, and it showed. They served seasonal items like an orange milkshake months after the other Mickey Dees ceased sales. They never got your order right, most of the time the cold fries were knocked upside down and spilled all over the bottom of the bag, their hotcakes tasted & looked like glow-in-the-dark frisbees, and when you bit into their chicken nuggets, you often spotted a pink, cordlike tail.
Other places around the area:
Godfather’s Pizza: I can’t believe this dump is still around. The proof is in the photos!
There was also some sort of cowboy/hee-haw/Cattle Company style restaurant located in the Godfather’s Pizza/Century Court apartments/Blondies vicinity. You couldn’t see it from the main drag, and I can’t remember the name. It didn’t last long, and we only ate there once. All I remember is that ties were not allowed, and if you wore one, they make you take it off and replace it with one of those cowboy Randy Travis-style bolo ties — you know, with the ugly sheriff’s star pendant and a leather rope looped through it.
Century Court/Huntington Pointe Apartments: Brooklyn Park’s version of Cabrini Green. Was notoriously known as the ‘Most Dangerous Place in Brooklyn Park” by my
circle of friends. You did NOT go here at night! Century Courts was owned by Harv and Marv – 2 notorious slumlords. It was renamed “Huntington Pointe” in the late ’90s to improve its image. The entire complex was razed in April 2008 and in its place is a park. Like Brooklyn Park NEEDS more parks….
Blondie’s: This bar is trouble – recent murder scene. Nice.
Across the Boulevard:
Ponderosa Steak House: If you’re not familiar with Ponderosa Steak House, please, for the love of god, don’t let the name fool you. Technically, yes, it’s a steak house, but if you’re expecting Ruth Chris’, Murray’s, or even Timberlodge, you will be quite disappointed. Ponderosa tried to pass itself off as a chophouse, but really it was a toned-down version of the Old Country Buffet. When a “chophouse” offers a smograsboard (with a taco bar) AND a western-style atmosphere, you’re not going to get a prime cut of meat. You couldn’t pop bottles here (no liquor licence), but you could pop buttons – since you could order a steak AND graze the buffet, you buckaroos could really get your gorge on.
Rax: It was a fast food roast beef chain, similar to Arby’s. This location used to be a Country Kitchen. We didn’t go here very often, because my mom hated this place. I don’t remember much about it except that they had good shakes, the building looked like a solarium with all the windows, and had wicked cool alligator shaped plastic bottles for the drinks. (Don’t get too excited, Rax didn’t have a liquor license either. Can you imagine what fun drinking a cap’n coke would be in an Uncle Alligator bottle? Blondie’s has the liquor license & it’s across the street, but they sure as hell don’t serve moonshine in an alligator glass. If you asked for something like that, you’d probably get a cap in your ass.
Burger King: Closed in 2004. Demolished in 2006. According to the city of BP, there’s supposed to be a medical building up in its place.
Koops Red Owl: Yuck. Didn’t like grocery shopping here either. It reminded me of a small town grocer, especially with the hanging vinyl strips in the freezer sections, that you had to dip in and out of to get your foodstuff. It was a tiny grocery store and we only went here when we were waiting for our pizza to be ready at the nearby Little Ceasers. The fresh produce section was a mess – you really had to watch your step since half of the produce was smeared all over the floor. The fruit looked too nasty to buy, anyway – wormholed apples, peaches so bruised that it looked like they got in a bar fight, and bananas so spotty it looked like they had a case of the herp. Koops is now a Family Dollar.
Little Ceasers, Clean N Press For Less, Cost Cutters: These were all located in a small strip mall near Koops. The strip mall is still standing but the standard Brooklyn Park lineup of a check cashing place and an employment office prevails. I got my first perm at this Cost Cutters when I was in 3rd grade. I was going to write about how crazy my mom was for letting me get chemically-enhanced hair at that age, but these days, 9 year olds are getting botox, so I guess a perm is pretty tame.
Rocky Rococo: And it’s still here! Rocky himself looks more Panama Jack than Italian Pizza Connoisseur but hey, whatever works. They have great pizza! For Valentine’s day, pick your lover up a heart-shaped pizza pie and prepared to get laid. Hubba, hubba!
Goodyear Tires: Still around today!
Denny’s: Yep, Brooklyn Park once had its own Denny’s, a soulless, homogenized version of a greasy spoon-type diner. The only time it’s okay to go to a Denny’s is if it’s 3AM and you’re trying to sober up by eating a chicken fried steak after a night of painting the town red. I didn’t eat at this Denny’s much, maybe a handful of times. When it comes to the 24-hour diner type places, I always preferred Perkins to Denny’s any day of the week. Two words: WISHING WELL. When I eat greasy diner food, I’m going to shit it all out anyway, so by god, I at least want a cereal-box quality souvenir to commemorate the event.
Dunkin’ Donuts: They served donuts when donuts weren’t kool, krispy, or kremey. There were no community service officers directing traffic in and around this place. No reporters from WCCO. No people pitching tents and camping out for a fucking bear claw. Just donuts, no drama. Donuts didn’t become “cool” in Minnesota until the Krispy Kreme in Maple Grove opened in 2001. I’m guessing this place was closed by 2001 but I’m not entirely sure. I know it was open in 1998, but that’s the last I remember it.
Budget Power: I believe there was a Budget Power in this area, across from Village North. Budget Power was a local hardware chain. I don’t think we ever shopped there. All I remember is that the logo had a lightening bolt.
Rapid Oil Change: Rapid Oil Change turned into some car audio equipment store sometime in the late ’90s. Now it’s some place that’s part barbershop, part spinning rims dealer. Not surprising in the least.
White Castle and Dairy Queen: Yep, both are still standing to this day!
Seedy Strip Mall off of Brookdale Drive: I can’t recall ANY time we EVER stopped here because even back in the day, this place was a little shady. They had (and still have) a Chinese restaurant here. I’m not sure if it’s the same one or not.
Moonraker Apartments: (At least I think they were the Moonraker Apartments. Please correct me if I am wrong). They always had that sign that said, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now.” These apartments were shit even back in the ’80s.
Please enjoy the rest of the photos – all photos (except where noted) taken December 2008.
Feel free to share your memories of Village North Shopping Center in the comments!