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Dave Olson, Published April 27 2012

Brookdale, Moorhead's first shopping center, turns 50

MOORHEAD - Moorhead was a city of promise in 1962 for Bob Foster and Tom Toulouse.

At the time, both men ran businesses in a shopping center in Golden Valley, Minn.

Foster had a drug store. Toulouse was a barber.

“He (Foster) came in the shop one day for a haircut and said he was going to Moorhead to open up a drug store and mentioned that I should look at the barbershop,” Toulouse said, thinking back to that day 50 years ago.

Toulouse agreed to check out the newly minted Brookdale Shopping Center, the first mall of its kind in Moorhead.

“I liked the way everything was going to be set up, so we moved up here together and opened up at the same time,” Toulouse recalled.

When they started their Moorhead businesses in early May 1962, one store, a Post Discount outlet, was already open in the mall.

“It was a great store,” Toulouse said, adding that, to everyone’s surprise, Post Discount didn’t last long.

“They pulled out in the middle of the night one night,” Foster said of Post Discount, which occupied a large space next to his Foster Drug store, a fixture at the south end of the shopping center from 1962 until 1982, when Foster and Toulouse both closed their shops.

“I would say the heydays were from ’62 until about 1976-77, in that area,” Toulouse said, adding that the mall was starting to look bare about the time he and Foster left.

Foster said one of his reasons for leaving was growing competition from other malls, such as the Holiday Mall, which opened in the mid-1960s just across Eighth Street from the Brookdale mall.

“West Acres came in,” Foster added. “Of course, that drew everything in that direction.”

Still, the Brookdale Shopping Center continued on until the late 1990s, when it was demolished and replaced with a new shopping center and Sunmart grocery store.

The new structures don’t quite match up with the footprint of the original mall, though a segment of the first shopping center was structurally sound enough to become integrated with the central part of the new shopping center.

‘Perfect’ spot

Brookdale is located at the intersection of Eighth Street and 24th Avenue South next to Interstate 94, which in 1962 roughly defined Moorhead’s southern boundary.

“It was the perfect spot to put it,” Toulouse said of the mall’s location.

“It was the first shopping center in Moorhead. The town was starting to expand. They were doing a lot of building out this way,” said Toulouse, who still lives in a house on Rivershore Drive, not far from Brookdale.

Today, Foster lives in Golden, Colo., and works at a pharmacy in Littleton, Colo.

He remembers Moorhead of the 1960s as being “as good a place as any” to raise the three children he arrived in town with and two more kids who came along later.

“My house now has been moved away, but I lived on Rivershore Drive for several years,” Foster said.

His drug store in Brookdale had a lunch counter during its first 10 years.

Leon Simon, who, with his brother, Jack, bought the Brookdale mall several years after it opened, remembers Foster’s lunch counter.

“I used to eat lunch there all the time,” said Simon, who operated furniture stores in the area for many years, including one next to Foster Drug.

Simon recalled the time he was in his store with Dave Streed, his attorney.

They were looking out of the store’s display window when a car drove through, damaging some inventory.

“What a perfect time to have my attorney there,” Simon said, laughing at the memory.

Turned out, he said, the driver had picked up some medication at the drug store next door and took too many pills, making him groggy.

Major role

Simon, who sold his interest in the Brookdale Shopping Center in the 1990s and still has an ownership stake in the Holiday Mall across the street, said Brookdale played a big role in the development of south Moorhead.

“People go where there is convenience,” he said. Tenants in the original Brookdale Shopping Center included a grocery store, a hardware business and a paint store.

“They were all people who made it convenient for residential people that want to build in that neighborhood,” Simon said, adding: “It was even convenient for people on the east side of Fargo to come over there, because Minnesota had no sales tax.

“That was my biggest advantage in the furniture business,” said Simon, who has lived in Florida for the past 35 years.

Today’s Brookdale Shopping Center is going strong, said Rick Jordahl, who has an ownership interest in the mall through a family trust.

“We’ve been very lucky. If we ever have vacancies, they fill very quickly,” Jordahl said.

He said a current vacancy will soon be filled by a Cherry Berry frozen yogurt shop, and the only remaining vacancy has three parties interested in it.

The situation was different in the 1990s, when, as Jordahl puts it, Brookdale was very distressed.

“We have, all of a sudden, an awful lot of demand, and I’m very pleased with that, because Moorhead has been tough,” he said.

‘It was all there’

Scott Hutchins, Moorhead’s community services director, moved from Crookston to Moorhead in the late 1960s to attend what was then Moorhead State College. He said Moorhead was seen as the big city and shopping malls were a fresh experience.

“Enclosed shopping centers, that was the new thing,” Hutchins said. “They had a variety of services. It was all there.”

And according to Hutchins, malls continue to hold value for Moorhead.

“Those are key locations on major transportation corridors and support not only a broader consumer base than just the neighborhoods, but certainly the adjacent neighborhoods as well,” Hutchins said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555