Hecht’s, version 2.0: Laurel Centre

Thirty-one years ago this week, the Laurel Leader noted the opening of the brand new Hecht’s at Laurel Centre—completing the relocation from its original building in the open Laurel Shopping Center, where it had been since the early 1960s. It would go on to be the sole occupant of the new building until Hecht’s eventually folded, and became Macy’s.

The new store had upper and lower levels, and included the popular Edgar’s Restaurant and an in-house beauty salon. As the above photo will attest, it also featured a small but beguiling kids’ section called the “Land of Ahhs”, where stuffed animals and board games filled whimsical display cases, including the locomotive and Snoopy’s doghouse seen here.

A clipping from October 1980 (seven months earlier) showed the building still under construction just beyond the Laurel Shopping Center:

What I remember most about the store wasn’t so much the displays or the wares themselves, but the floors. Weird, I know.

But the distinctive parquet flooring was something new to me as a child; something I’d probably only seen on TV during Boston Celtics games before. And the flooring layout in the new Hecht’s wasn’t traditional, either. Other department stores had rudimentary walkways; typically around the perimeter of the store and intersecting at central points throughout. The new Hecht’s, however, utilized these new parquet pathways differently—weaving throughout the store in short straight lines and 45-degree angles. In a video posted on YouTube in late March of this year, (shortly after Macy’s closed) I was surprised to see that the flooring was, in fact, still there. You can also get a sense of how these angling pathways once encouraged shoppers to explore the countless nooks and crannies the store had to offer.


Screenshots from “Tour of the Dead Laurel Centre Mall”, by CaltecCenter (YouTube)

Apparently, Macy’s didn’t do a whole lot of upkeep over the years after inheriting the building.

And driving past the old mall last week—just days after its official May 1st closing—the building looked essentially as it has since that upper parking deck spectacularly collapsed back in July 2005. Empty.


(6 digital images by John Floyd II, 2005)

Now that mall has been formally closed, (and just as ominously, a double-wide construction crew trailer set up in the parking lot) the building that once housed both Hecht’s and Macy’s will probably be disappearing soon. More likely, what’s left of those fragile parking decks surrounding it will be the first to go.

But oddly enough, one Hecht’s-related item that never seems to completely disappear are those cardboard gift boxes, especially at Christmas. I’m kind of glad for that. It’s like seeing an old friend.

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