!-- Begin Inspectlet Embed Code -->

Pennsauken Mart: 1956-2006

[nggallery id=10] This past weekend I found myself unexpectedly nostalgic over one of the area's most dubious landmarks of my childhood: the Pennsauken Mart. This past Sunday, after 50 years, The Pennsauken Mart closed its doors good.

The Mart was something like an indoor version of an outdoor flea market. Just about anything you could think of could be found at the Mart. I mean everything. From the ordinary -- T-shirts (three for $10), luggage (entire travel collection for $49), and food market -- to the less ordinary and strange -- boa constrictors, Samurai swords, and hubcaps. There were service vendors at the Mart including a tattoo parlor and $10 massages and food and beverage vendors of every ethnic delight including Italian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and soul food. The Mart was probably the area's first food court.

Growing up, I would visit the Mart, or as I called it, "The Pennsauken Mall."  The most obvious for most was to purchase hot "Philly" pretzels right out of the oven at the shop that sold nothing but pretzels. Another reason, the Mart was a place to hang out. Tom Hartman, Mick Carty and some of my other friends and I would wonder the pungent halls while waiting for one of our parents to pick us up after we saw a movie at the Eric movie theatre which was located right next store to the Mart. I can recall visiting the Mart to purchase music, cigars, and insense. I remember one time, in fact it was the first time I ever recall hanging out with my friend Steve Oakley, we stood outside the liquor store asking people to buy us beer.

This weekend, I went vistited the Mart one last time. And this time I took my kids.

The halls were a whole lot emptier; many of the vendors had already packed up their tents, headed for new digs in Willingboro, Camden, Columbus, and Cowtown. Still, a few things remained anchored exactly as they had been since my first visit to the anti-mall including the "Head Shop," wig store, video store, and pizza parlors that anchored both main entrances.

I decided to take my kids to the Mart so that they could see that not all shopping centers were clean, well-lighted, and pleasant smelling. That, at one time, the Mart was the place to go to buy all sorts of goods in one place. And lastly, I wanted to share a childhood memory--albeit dirty and foul smelling--but a memory all the same.

Paul Altobelli

Home Office, 1219 Martin Ave, Cherry Hill, NJ, 08002, United States