December 1, 2022

Mariedelices

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Shoppers World 1951: Framingham MA retail history

FRAMINGHAM — Ruthann Tomassini was a young girl when Shoppers World opened in 1951. 

She remembers going to the shopping mall with her family. It was the first shopping mall “east of the Rockies,” according to the Framingham History Center

“The kingpin” of the mall was Jordan Marsh, a New England retail mainstay whose store was covered by a dome that many looked at as a grounded flying saucer. The plaza originally had 44 stores in all, including a cinema that could seat 1,432 people, according to the history center.

An ad showcasing Shoppers World in the 1950s

Retailers included Album, a records and greeting card store; Dorothea’s a ladies’ clothing store; Sears; a Stop & Shop grocery store; Framingham Trust Co. and many more. 

WWII had ended and development was booming

“I can remember the excitement of it.” said Tomassini, now a volunteer at the history center. “It really was a family stopping place.” 

Shoppers World still exists today but in a much different form. Gone is the shopping plaza’s garden and walking paths, replaced with a large parking lot for big box stores such Best Buy, Marshalls and Barnes & Noble.

In October, the plaza will mark its 70th anniversary.

Construction at Golf Galaxy, one of  the newest additions to Shoppers World in Framingham.

Frederic Wallace, Framingham’s city historian, said at the time of the shopping center’s arrival in 1951, the city’s population was growing. World War II had ended only a few years before. Development was booming alongside Rte. 9. in what would become known first as the “Golden Mile,” and later the “Golden Triangle” — a commercial area around Exit 13 of the Massachusetts Turnpike that includes the Natick Mall, Shoppers World and Rte. 9. 

The shopping center was pedestrian-friendly. Its open courtyard setting allowed for shoppers to enjoy both the weather and the flowers planted at the shopping center.

That said, the shopping center was designed for those coming in by car.  

A sign into Shoppers World

“It became a center for commerce and restaurants,” Wallace said. 

In the early 1950s, a shopping mall was a novel concept. 

But it made sense to bring the concept to this part of the country, Wallace said. It is said to be the country’s second-oldest mall.

Dana Dauterman Riccardi was the Framingham History Center’s curator in 2013 when it made an exhibit celebrating the history of the shopping plaza. She did a lot of research to understand what Framingham was like in the early 1950s.