Country Club Centre turns 60

Country Club Centre, shown during its early years, is presently celebrating its 60th anniversary. The well-known, north area shopping center opened on Aug. 21, 1952. / Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Country Club Centre, shown during its early years, is presently celebrating its 60th anniversary. The well-known, north area shopping center opened on Aug. 21, 1952. / Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series regarding the history of the “four corners” of Watt and El Camino avenues.

Country Club Centre, a well-known shopping destination in the north area of the city, has reached a milestone, as it recently turned 60 years old.
The shopping center, which derived its name from the nearby Del Paso Country Club, opened on the southwest corner of Watt and El Camino avenues on Aug. 21, 1952.
Although it would be extremely unlikely to find anyone adept in U.S. geography who would think of any place in Sacramento after hearing the name, “Four Corners,” the corner properties of Watt and El Camino avenues are undeniably locally famous.

Sacramento’s four corners
For those who need a little assistance when it comes to this bit of U.S. geography trivia, the name, “Four Corners,” has for many years been used to identify the region where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah join together.
Certainly, references to such places as Country Club Centre, Country Club Plaza, Tower Records, Sam’s Plaza Hof Brau, Jack’s House of Music and Country Club Lanes draw plenty of endearing, reminiscent responses from many longtime Sacramentans.
And based on the fact that these locally renowned places are all representatives of either the past or present days of the four corners of Watt and El Camino avenues, it would be difficult for one to dispute the historic significance and legacy of these four corners.
In the north area of Sacramento, perhaps no place would be better designated as “four corners” than these very notable four corner properties.
Sacramento native Pat Melarkey, who is well known for his service as a county supervisor and his local work in dentistry, recalled how these north area corners appeared prior to their development.
“There was nothing out there at all, and I’m talking about a time between about 1945 and 1950,” Melarkey said. “It was all vacant and I was exercising horses in a field there on Watt Avenue and El Camino (avenues) with Dr. Bill Campbell, a very well-known physician in town. The field was on the big corner where Wal-Mart is now (in Country Club Centre). I remember one day, when (local real estate broker) James Cordano drove off the road – it was only a two-lane road then – and parked in a field and was talking to Dr. Campbell when we were resting our horses. (Cordano) said that he was putting together a deal to buy up the whole corner. (Cordano) is the one who developed Country Club Centre (with Joseph Blumenfeld), and he also developed Southgate (Shopping Center with Blumenfeld) and Sunrise Mall (with Ernest W. Hahn). Cordano said that any acreage on Watt or El Camino (avenues) was $100 an acre and that there were a few blocks off of those two streets that were $60 an acre.”

Original plans
The Country Club Centre corner was eventually owned by the Blumenfeld theater interests, as the initial plan for the property was to construct a drive-in theater on the site.
In recalling his change of plans, Blumenfeld, in a 1952 interview with The Sacramento Bee, said, “After the project was started, we were convinced by some of the largest merchants in the country we were building the wrong type of development and they persuaded us to abandon our original plans and convert to the present type shopping center.”
With this change in plans, Blumenfeld became the president of Country Club Centre, Inc. and Cordano began his service as vice president of the corporation.
Selected to build the immense Country Club Centre was the Erickson Construction Co., which was located at 1119 East Bassettlaw Ave. in North Sacramento.

Grand opening celebration
After the first unit of Country Club Centre was finally completed, a grand opening celebration was held from Thursday, Aug. 21 through Saturday, Aug. 23, 1952.
Among the features of the celebration were thousands of gifts and prizes, including a free 21-inch RCA television set for one lucky number holder in a drawing, and performances by Billy Jack Wills and His Western Swing Band, clowns and The Kramers jugging act.
Other attractions of the celebration included free orchids for women, rides for children on the Calo dog food’s dog-drawn cart, Lucky Market hats for children, free Coca-Cola (Thursday), free Dr. Pepper (Friday and Saturday), and special prizes for those who could guess the weight of quantities of frozen fish and Pillsbury grain and a giant bologna.

Original businesses
The original businesses of Country Club Centre’s initial unit included the J.C. Penney Co., Eagleson’s, Lucky Market, Kid-E-Korral juvenile shop, Emigh Hardware, Heintz Bakery, Kirby Shoes, Buster Brown shoe store, Green & Heyden shoe store, Anita Shops women’s apparel, Country Club Centre Launderette & Swanson’s Cleaners, and O’Neil Bros. service station.
The J.C. Penney store, which was located in a single-story building with a basement and a balcony, included 23,000 square feet of selling space and 39-foot-wide show windows.
Eagleson’s, was already a longtime established men’s wear business when it opened in Country Club Centre, as it had been established in San Francisco in 1867 and had since added a store at 801 K St. and another store in Los Angeles.
The O’Neil Bros. service station at Country Club Centre became the sixth unit in this Sacramento area service station chain.
The O’Neil name in local service stations dated back to 1921, when Joe and Jack O’Neil established a service station on 13th Street, between K and L streets.
Heintz Bakery, which was owned by Joseph Heintz, was already a recognized bakery in the capital city through its other location at 1206 J St.
Following Country Club Centre’s grand opening, the shopping center continued to expand, as additional stores planned for their own grand openings about three weeks later.

8 Responses to Country Club Centre turns 60

  1. Janene love says:

    Sorry for the mispells …I’ve become so excited about going down memory lane my tablet hasn’t had time to keep up with my typing …(we won’t mention I didn’t do so well in typing 5th period)
    Anyway friends …have a great day/or night, and remember God gives us everyday to make a memory happen! Love and Peace in God’s Blessings☺

  2. Janene love says:

    We must keep in mind there were two phases of these department store entities.
    One originating as “Country Club Centre” ….then the construction of “Country Club Plaza”. Which was feared by Country Club Centre patrons to be the downfall of their beloved Venture to shop!
    Before the official “Country Club Plaza”….it had only offered land to build…and the first food court in the Sacramento area, entitled ” Gourmet Lane”, which was attached the “Stop n shop”.

    Different in comparison to across the street of Watt Ave …was the Place to everything you need in shopping ….respectfully known as the “Country Club Centre”…
    Along with the above mentioned merchants, there were also Leeds shoes, ThomMacan shoes, Kaufmanns mens clothing, Sees Candies, Carmel Korn, Ransahoffs, Joseph Magnin, The Toy Shop….and to answer the question; it wasn’t a walgrens nor was it a Payless (Payless was at the corner of Watt and Arden) it was “Woolworths”, a really a neat place to go, to virtually find almost ANYTHING you needed, especially at Christmas time! Plus it was a great to place to have something to eat at its little instore cafe diner!!!

    The head lining department store for Country Club Centre was; JC Penney…which was a 2 story by loft deprtment store. I should know… I would doddle at the jewellery counter, downstairs by the front entrance, where upon my mother thought I was with her, and I thought mommy was with me admiring the pretty jewlery? When it caught my attention, I should tell the jewlery lady my mommy is lost! All I could see was a sea people ….till the jewlery lady said to me …. look whoes coming down the stairs, I was so happy these JC Penney lady’s had lines to locate my mommy to find me!
    Of course I realized I should have stayed close to mother …when upon all through this…I kept looking at this rather large picture of Mr. JC Penney,in which was placed high upon the walls of the downstairs which it was like he was looking at me saying, you’ve been a naugty girl for not staying with your mother, don’t let it happen again!” From that point on I never got lost again!
    Yes Rhodes (later becoming Liberty House with a basement) was the other head lining department store to Country Club Centre. Where there use to be a circle fountain, gracing other stores like Joseph Magnin, with also a little restaurant that was for fine dining/lunch.
    Weinstocks location was downtown formerly known as “Hales”.
    Weinstocks opened another location when the official “Country Club Plaza” was built.
    FYI…back in the early 80’s ….with the decline of Country Club Centre, with not even Montgomery Wards to draw customers to its newly enclosed mall. Then with the decline of Country Club Plaza…and the “Arden Fair Mall” which was first to become the chain of ghost mall atmosphere…This all due to its competitors…Sunrise Mall, Downtown Plaza. City planners drafted up two plans of expansion for upgrading this area Arden Arcade shopping Mall.,#1 plan to upgrade, refurbish and combine Country Club Centre and Country Club Plaza…building a glass bridge over Watt Ave, connecting the two now elaborate and state of the art in architectural design, Country Club Centre with Country Club Plaza….
    #2plan refurbish the old ghost Mall of Arden Fair upscale modern design.
    Well you know the rest.

  3. Bob says:

    Rhodes became a Liberty House and I shopped there before it closed. That got bought by Macy’s and since Macy’s was across the street they closed and tore down the Liberty House building. That was the demise of that cool mall! And the Country Club Plaza looks like it might close, as most of the big tenants seem to be moving to Town and Country Village, and the inside looks like a ghost town!

  4. Kristi Kraemer says:

    and it wasn’t Walgreens; it was Payless Drugstore. One of the biggest in town.

  5. Kristi Kraemer says:

    Actually, it was Rhodes. It was at the North End.

    Does anyone know about the Tiki? Why was it there?

    There was also a fish restaurant next to Rhodes. It was a nice place: people dressed up to dine there.

  6. Bobbie says:

    The store was Montgomery Wards

  7. Randy says:

    Weinstocks was the high end department store located there.

  8. lani says:

    Wallgreens was there & a high end dept store cant remember name. I was on El Camino the last store in the mall on the west end a two story with an elevator what was the name?

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