We grew up with them, back when they were found at places like the Green Acres Shopping Center in Valley Stream or The Mall at the Source in Westbury. And like a childhood pet or an imaginary friend, they’re gone now but not forgotten. When we needed to buy something in the decades of our youth — whether platform shoes or Air Jordans, hot pants or distressed jeans, a Three Dog Night 8-track or a Boyz II Men CD — we likely found them at one of these five fabled chain stores that supplied Long Islanders’ wants and needs until fading into the retail mists.
There are other such stores in our nostalgia, of course. But these five hold a particularly special place, from a particularly special time.
“Back in the 60s when we were into rock 'n' roll, you had a couple of local stores where you could buy a handful of 45s,” remembers Jeff Goldman, 71, who grew up in Franklin Square and now lives in Oceanside. “But on weekends we’d board the Bee Line bus on Franklin Avenue and go straight to Green Acres Mall,, and that opened up a world. Sam Goody was a mother lode,” he says of that music-store chain, a cornucopia of records and later 8-track and cassette tapes and eventually CDs and video, as well as musical instruments and audio equipment. “All the 45s we wanted and all the albums we could devour.”
Goldman wound up working at that Sam Goody store in 1970, while a student at Hofstra University. He quickly became aware of the chain’s reputation for knowledgeable staff. “You had to know about more than the latest Beatles singles or [Jimi] Hendrix or whatever,” he says. “I learned about other genres, including Classical. It was a lot of fun.”
An outgrowth of Sam “Goody” Gutowitz’s Manhattan record store, the chain by the late 1950s had expanded to other cities, including its first Long Island location at what was then the Green Acres Shopping Center. A second Long Island outpost opened in 1962 at the newly completed Walt Whitman Shopping Center, now Walt Whitman Shops, in Huntington Station. Sam Goody likewise was a founding store in 1969 at the new Smith Haven Mall, in Lake Grove, and in 1973 at the new Sunrise Mall, in Massapequa. Gutowitz himself moved to Woodmere, where he died in 1991.
He had long sold the chain by then, starting a string of takeovers. Expansion continued, including to Garden City’s Roosevelt Field Mall in 1995. But its once wide-ranging and eclectic stock became the same as that of most other music stores, and for a confluence of reasons the chain, once numbering in the hundreds, slowly died. Like the last Blockbuster store, only two are left, in Ohio and Oregon, owned by the pop-culture collectibles chain F.Y.E.
Goldman, at least, took away more than memories from Sam Goody. “In March 1974, the love of my life walked in looking for a Chicago album,” he recalls. “Five year later I was long gone from there — but where else could I propose to her but at that store?” He and Marcia have now been married 43 years.
RadioShack: It’s where you went to buy batteries. For a while, it was also where you bought CB radios and the TRS-80, one of the first mass-produced home computers.
“I distinctly remember running to RadioShack for things like batteries or the newest answering machine that was built into the phone,” says teacher Tiffany Seely, 50, of Plainview, who competed on “Survivor 41” in 2021. “I even remember buying my first CD player, which was also known as a boom box, from there.” Years afterward, as a parent, “I got my 3-year-old his first remote-controlled car from there.” And the batteries for it.
Founded in Boston in 1921, taking its original two-word name of Radio Shack from that of a ship’s communications room, the company had expanded to nine stores, none on Long Island, when it was purchased by the Tandy Leather Corp. in 1963. Within five years, there were Radio Shack departments inside Friendly Frost appliance stores, including 10 in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Tandy eventually opened more than 5,000 free-standing stores nationwide.
About 28 dotted Long Island as of March 2017, when the retailer — beset by woes including not leveraging its PC success, not allowing online shopping until well after its competitors, and thinking “The Shack” was hip, cool rebranding — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time in two years. A handful of independently owned outlets remain in the U.S., but RadioShack is now primarily an overseas brand.
And while Seely retains “fond memories of going to RadioShack with my dad when I was young, to explore all the latest high-tech toys,” others are less enamored. Bayville comic and “Stand-Up Memories” podcaster Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, former head writer for Howard Stern, recalls that in 1965, as a senior at Oyster Bay High School, he and his bandmates in the rock group The Sonics would use the store as a punchline.
“Every time me or [guitarist Chris] Bates got a new piece of equipment, whether it was an amp, a guitar cord, a battery, no matter what it was, without fail, our drummer Carl [Dincesen] would say sarcastically — the only way he spoke — ‘Where'd you get that? RadioShack?’ ”
Founded in New York City in 1993, the apparel company Delia’s was among that decade’s most influential retailers for tween and teen girls through its innovative mail-order “magalog” — a hybrid magazine / catalog that at its peak went out to 55 million consumers.
In November 1999, Delia’s ventured into brick-and-mortar stores. They eventually numbered as many as 115, including Long Island locations at Roosevelt Field mall, Smith Haven Mall, Hicksville’s Broadway Mall, now Broadway Commons, and in Westbury at what was then The Mall at the Source, plus a store at Tanger Outlets Riverhead.
A victim of changing tastes, expensive leases on its physical stores and rival retailers that mimicked its aesthetic, Delia’s in December 2014 began liquidating its stock and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. By then, only the Roosevelt Field and Smith Haven stores remained here.
But Delia’s lives on, at least in name. In November 2018, the online boutique Dolls Kill, which styles itself as a spiritual successor, revived Delia’s as a sub-brand that continues today — without brick-and-mortar.
“We shopped at the one in Green Acres, for clothes, toiletries and other things,” remembers Westbury attorney Harold Somer, 65, who grew up in Valley Stream. “They had a good record department,” he recalls of one of Korvettes’ selling points. “They also had a great camera department,” he adds. “And a sporting goods department — they sold bowling balls and actually did the drilling there” for customized finger-holes.
But mostly, E.J. Korvette was known for discounts. Founded in 1948, growing to 45 metropolitan locations and a handful elsewhere, the chain left that as a legacy — one it had to fight for.
That’s because a Depression-era law forbade large retailers from artificially lowering prices — sometimes even below their own costs — to undercut and drive out mom-and-pop stores. Instead, prices were set by the manufacturer. Korvettes got around this by handing out “membership cards” to its customers, making its stores, very technically, a consumer cooperative. And the law had such subjective criteria and other contestable issues that when manufacturers sued Korvettes, the chain won — setting the stage for big-box discount stories today.
But there was something else about it. Walking into Korvettes felt friendly, Somer says. The chain — which had opened its first Long Island store in 1955, in Carle Place — closed down on Christmas Eve 1980 after filing for bankruptcy.
The Dick’s of its day, Herman’s World of Sporting Goods is where Long Island bought its golf clubs, fishing gear, scuba tanks and other equipment a department store might not necessarily carry. And it embedded itself into local sporting life, such as serving as the commercial sponsor of the Newsday Long Island Marathon held May 3, 1981.
“Herman’s was more expensive than Modell’s,” another sporting-goods chain, which now operates online-only, recalls Tony Cancellarich, 59, who until recently lived in Hicksville. “Herman’s people seemed to know a little more.”
A 1924 outgrowth of a Manhattan record store that namesake Herman Steinlauf founded three years earlier, Herman’s was said to be the largest sporting goods chain in the world by the time he died on New Year’s Day 1974. Long Island had four stores, growing to eight by 1992.
There were 117 stores total when Herman’s filed for bankruptcy liquidation four years later. High prices were indeed a reason cited for its demise, along with being “behind the times” and failing to “create the excitement found in the super stores,” according to one trade reporter at the time.
But for Cancellarich, at least, a vestige of Herman’s remains. “A bat and a mitt I bought in 1988, I still have both,” he says.