Updated: Dec 1, 2022
In light of the recent tragedy during which the shopping plaza located at 901 Shaker Road in town was destroyed by a fire (November 23, 2021), the Longmeadow Historical Society wanted to take a look back at how there even came to be a shopping plaza in that location. The story of what would become known as the Trading Post of Longmeadow Shopping Plaza began in 1960 when a group of Longmeadow residents sought to create a shopping center to serve the residents of Longmeadow and neighboring Enfield, CT. Their planned development was just part of many real estate ventures that were being planned in Longmeadow at the time that were looking to take advantage of the rapid growth the town was experiencing in the post-war era.
The group consisted of:
Bruno M. Gallerini, the president of the Trading Post Inc., who was a WWII combat veteran and served on the Park Commission.
Robert A. Thomas, the treasurer of Trading Post Inc., also a WWII vet and was a self employed criminal defense attorney who would go on to found the Bottle Shop and serve on the Select Board in town.
Frank C Knight, a real estate developer who rounded out the group.
The group began their endeavor by purchasing a gas station from Janice Scheller and George Zunner III, both of West Hartford, CT. Scheller worked with her husband Oswald in the real estate business after he retired from the Connecticut Life Insurance Company. George Zunner III was a general contractor who was notably responsible for building the Popular Market building - which now houses the Big Y in town. Scheller and Zunner had originally purchased the gas station in 1955 and signed a 5 year lease on the gas station with ESSO Standard Oil Corporation. As their lease was ending, they decided to sell to the Trading Post group.
In its original iteration, the group decided to build a plaza with 5 storefronts with parking in front of and behind the plaza and keep the gas station in its current location. Since the property was already zoned for business, the group only needed to win approval for their parking plan from the Zoning Board of Appeals as was required at the time. While it did face some opposition from the general public, the ZBA unanimously ruled that the parking plan should be approved and the Trading Post Inc. could begin construction at once.
When it opened its doors in February of 1961, the Trading Post Plaza featured four tenants with a fifth in the works. The anchor of the plaza was a Geissler’s Supermarket, which was owned and operated by Connecticut grocer Adolph Geissler, which would quickly become Armata’s in 1963.
Next was the Trading Post Pharmacy run by Nathan A. Davis.
After the pharmacy was Hairstyles by Harvey owned by Southwick hairstylist Harvey Isabelle, who was known for his demonstration of beauty products and new hairstyles to the women’s groups of Western Massachusetts.
The final business that opened in February of that year was Jiffy Cleaners and Laundrette run by Silvio Mendill and Norman Dallaire. It is noteworthy that Mendill was charged with operating the business on the Sabbath in April of 1961, was found guilty, and fined $50 (about $465 in October 2021 dollars according to the CPI inflation calculator).
The final business to go into the original plaza was the Bottle Shop, which required a liquor license. This was no small detail since the Longmeadow Select Board had not issued a liquor license for a package store in 14 years. Thankfully for the Trading Post group, the liquor license was granted and the Bottle Shop opened in September of 1961 filling out the plaza.
For over 60 years this plaza has served the Longmeadow community and it is the hope of the author that for the sake of the employees, owners, and customers of the various businesses affected by the fire that they are able to rebuild.
Images credit: GenealogyBank.com and The Springfield Union
Hampden County, Massachusetts Deed Book 2419: 278