Author Topic: Then and Now: Packard's, Target  (Read 7676 times)

Offline BLeafe

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Then and Now: Packard's, Target
« on: November 29, 2012, 11:40:09 AM »
(from today's Record, Signature section, page 2)

Then and Now: Packard's, Target

Thursday November 29, 2012, 10:31 AM
The Record

Downtown Hackensack was all a-twitter, even in pre-Twitter 1998, with news that the Minnesota-based Target Corp. — described in an article in The Record as "a national chain of discount department stores" — had been "making inquiries" about the property on River Street once occupied by the late, great Packard's market.

Fourteen years later, Target is a household name in most North Jersey households. And Packard's has slipped into memory — and onto nostalgic websites such as, where onetime Hackensack residents like Kathleen Gough of Westwood have documented the store's glory days.

Gough, who grew up near the store, wrote: "The very best part of Packard's was the third floor toy department. They always had a Viewfinder at the counter that you could look into. I thought that was magic! At Christmastime they had a great train setup and Santa would give you a toy and a lollipop." As magical as the store was inside, Gough added, the outside was pretty special, too, particularly in winter months: "They always plowed their snow up to the back of the B&W [bakery] and all along that wall. I remember sliding down those hills and even building igloos in them." Packard's holiday decorations were another delight, the most notable of them being a giant lighted image of Santa on his sleigh suspended between the two cone-shaped radio towers on either side of the store's roof.

After Packard's closed in 1991, the building remained empty for years. 1998's promising Target rumors went on for months, though. Three years later, the purchase was a done deal. As The Record reported on Feb. 7, 2001, many longtime Hackensack residents were teary-eyed "as wrecking crews slowly began to demolish the 117-year-old structure that also housed a wallpaper factory and a flea market." Built in 1884, the building first opened as the William Campbell Wallpaper Co., a factory that, at one time, employed as many as 3,000 people. In the 1920s, Harry Harper, a former Yankees pitcher, opened a grocery on the site and apparently had some success with it.

Harper later sold the property to Frank Packard, and from 1935 to 1991 the Packard family continued to run the grocery, known as the Packard-Bamberger Co., eventually expanding to create an upscale market and department store that sold hardware, furniture, clothing and more.

Packard's even held amateur boxing matches in the store's parking lot, sponsored by The Record.

Michael J. Yeager of North Brunswick grew up in North Bergen and recalls Packard's as the first store in the area to carry ground chicken. "They were the Whole Foods of their time," Yeager said. "They also had a good florist shop there. And, of course, wallpaper. I bought the wallpaper for my first apartment there." Edward Podwin of Bergenfield had a more cutting memory to share: "I went there as a very young child at my mother's side for my first haircut. I remember the creaky wooden floors and the wooden escalator to the basement where the barbershop was. The barber was an older gentleman in a Dr. Kildare white smock who sang 'Baby Face' to me while he cut my hair. At the time I didn't know what to make of it all, but it's something I have never forgotten."

Neither has Diane Doppio Byrnes. "My dad, Vic, was one of the butchers at Packard's, so it's where we did our food shopping. But that barbershop! My mom would make me and my sister get our haircuts there, and they were the worst haircuts ever!"

The wooden floors and escalator remain the most vivid non-holiday memories of the store, although Gary Chartoff of Ridgefield also recalls a nursery area: "Our parents would dump us in the playroom with the other kids, but it wasn't too bad. I think they had a kiddie movie there to help pass the time." Marlene Evans of Bogota said her mother worked in the store's restaurant, which was called The Print Room. "My mother worked there in the late '40s up until the early '50s, when I was born. She said they had the first microwave in the area, which, back then, was a huge piece of equipment.

"The third floor was only open during the Christmas season, and it was all Christmas stuff: Santa, elves, trains and, of course, the toy department,'' Evans recalled. "The second floor sold clothes.

"There was a snack bar on the main level near the checkout counters and an 'international section' where you could buy lion or elephant meat in a can, bumble bees or ants in honey, strange canned fruits and vegetables from all over the world.

"Ah ... so many good times there."


(click to enlarge photo)
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 03:59:13 PM by Editor »

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Offline johnny g

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Re: Then and Now: Packard's, Target
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2012, 09:24:46 AM »
I remember as a freshman in high school (1982) getting off the 165 bus on my way to Bergen Tech, stopping there in the morning just as they were opening and getting coffee before heading over to school. They also had a travel agency in the entrance way which is where I booked a Florida vacation in 1987. I never ate at the Print Room though, although I do remember it...the had all their shopping carts loaded in under the entrance way in the alcove and we'd sit there waiting for it to open...good times!