Monsey Memories: Shoppers Paradise and the Fire That Destroyed It

Monsey Memories: Shoppers Paradise and the Fire That Destroyed It

Yitzy Fried 

In the year 1962, an enormous department store was erected at the intersection of Route 59 and Route 45 at the entrance to Monsey. It was named Shoppers Paradise and was advertised for its vast selection and its proximity to the New York State Thruway, through which customers could conveniently travel from all surrounding towns. 

Sadly, the glory would last all of five years—but let us start at the beginning. 

The store opened with great fanfare, in a three-day grand-opening celebration on the weekend of August 30, 1962, with live music and entertainers making appearances throughout. 

“Shoppers Paradise, with thirty different departments offering a wide variety of name-brand merchandise all under one roof, will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily, except Sundays, said the Journal News. 

“Shoppers Paradise is easily accessible via the New York State Thruway, Garden State Parkway, Palisades Interstate Parkway, the Tappan Zee Bridge, and Routes 9-W, 17, 303, 59, and 45. The opening today culminates four months of renovation work in an old bus terminal formerly owned by Rockland Coaches. The transformation of the bus bard into a modern, completely air conditioned shopping center was accomplished at a cost in excess of $250,000 (the equivalent of $2.5 million today),” the journal said. 

“The store has 51,000 square feet of floor space for its 30 departments and adjacent parking areas which are lighted and paved and can accommodate 1,000 automobiles. The management offers an unconditional ten-day money-back guarantee on all purchases. 

It is unclear how well the Shoppers Paradise did in the ensuing years, but nearly five years to the day from their grand opening, we read: “Shoppers Paradise Destroyed; 45 Families Nearby Evacuated. Loss is half million ($5 million today); fire causes traffic jam. A spectacular predawn fire today destroyed Shoppers Paradise at Spring Valley, a combination supermarket-general merchandising store and one of the largest of its type in Rockland County. 

“Besides the loss, which police estimate will amount to up to half a million dollars, the fire resulted in 45 families I a nearby apartment house being evacuated for about two hours and a four-mile long traffic snarl tying up commuting cars and buses. 

“The store was in the heart of Spring Valley off Route 59, the main east-west artery through Rockland… By 6:30 a.m., about five hours after the first alarm was turned in, the fire was reported under control, but still burning. The fire, of undetermined cause, started in the front of the store,” the paper said. 

Shoppers Paradise would likely not have survived in today’s economy and would likely have gone the way of most department stores. But it certainly would have served the Rockland area for quite a few decades if not for the devastating fire that snuffed out its glory prematurely. 

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