Jim Buice column: “One stop”: Time capsule brings back memories of Thruway Shopping Center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 21, 2019

For those who were around 50-plus years ago, Thruway Shopping Center was the happening place to be in Winston-Salem.

So, I was curious to learn what the time capsule buried in front of the old Thruway Theatre on Feb. 14, 1969, would reveal when it was opened last Saturday morning in front of what is now the FastMed Urgent Care clinic.

Unfortunately, I was out of town for the gathering, which featured a former DJ from WTOB Radio as the emcee and featured a few politicians and others interested in seeing what was included in the contents.

I would have loved to have been among the hundreds who attended, but it sounded like it was a typical assortment of letters, photos, programs, artifacts and the like. There was even a cassette tape in there along with a miniature replica chair and photos from fashions modeled by “Miss Thruway 1969,” who was actually on-hand for the special occasion.

It would have been interesting to read some of the letters with predictions for the future, but for me, it was a time to reflect on some of the history associated with the popular shopping center on Stratford Road, which was positioned right beside the soon to open Interstate 40.

I found a newspaper advertisement touting the opening in 1955 with the following description of the trend-setting facility:

“One stop does it all in tomorrow’s idea in modern retailing. With maximum parking area and minimum walking distance, the Thruway shopper in one stop can accomplish shopping pleasurably from selected retailers without loss of time. The Thruway Center has stores offering the various principal staple products and services associated with contemporary living as well as merchants catering to special customer needs. The beauty of handsome surroundings, the absence of traffic problems, the convenience of free parking and the easy accessibility of Thruway’s residential location does indeed bring to this area a modern market concept tuned to today’s tempo.”

There were only 13 businesses in the original building, which is the one on the eastern side that now includes popular Trader Joe’s. That original lineup included a brand new state-of-the-art Food Fair grocery store with seven electric conveyer checkout stations.

Other large tenants included F.W. Woolworth and Eckerd’s Drug Store. Tiny Town, with a complete selection of toys and games, was a favorite among the kids. And really, there was something for everyone with a bank, flower shop, hair salon, hardware/household and appliance store, and a laundromat.

There was even a car dealership called Dalton Williams, which featured Lincoln and Mercury automobiles. They only had room to house two cars at a time, but apparently their glass front was removable to allow rotating display models.

At the grand opening, “The Exciting New 1956 Mercury Monterey” was the grand prize given away in a drawing at Food Fair.

The only business that remains today from that opening lineup is Dewey’s Bakery.

Thruway was an instant hit and as business was booming in the 1960s, the developers acquired the land extending to Knollwood Street to the south and started a major expansion.

Being a sports guy and music buff, I can remember a couple of my favorites at Thruway as a young boy being Reznick’s Music and Bocock-Stroud, which was a popular sporting goods store.

A couple of great restaurants — Town Steak House and Sam’s Gourmet — opened, and other popular additions were Davis Department Store, Rose’s, Thalhimer’s and Norman Stockton, just to mention a few.

Unlike many other shopping centers, Thruway has stood the test of time, constantly evolving and reinventing itself many times over the years. It continues to thrive.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the next time capsule there in 2069.

• • • • •

In the last Clemmons Village Council meeting, Allen Daniel brought out an interesting nugget of information in the swarm of public comments with individuals opposed to the Tanglewood Business Park.

Daniel chose to address the environmental impact of the project on Idols Road, stating that the 170 acres (the size of the park) of impervious surface creates enough runoff from one inch of rain to fill seven Olympic-size swimming pools. The capacity of seven such pools is 4,590,000 gallons for just one inch of rain.

And that’s just for one inch of rain. If there are two to four inches, which we frequently had last year … well, do the math – meaning Salem Glen and everything down stream of the Yadkin River at that creek will be in harm’s way. That’s a lot of water.