Highland Park Shopping Center: A look back after 50 years
S ome people might remember back when they were my age and even older than me, that the shopping center parking lot used to be the hangout for kids, I mean kids from Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale, they would all come to Siloam Springs. Mark Alexander Highland Park owner/manager
At one point in time, the intersection of South Mount Olive Street and U.S. Highway 412 was comprised mostly of open fields and large parcels of barren land. Accessibility to the area was also more limited than that of today, as U.S. Highway 412, which was U.S. Highway 68 at the time, was a two-lane road. The only signs of modern society as many know it today were a bank, a couple of small gas stations, a large two-story home where the police station is now located, and some small houses located where Times Square Shopping Center currently sits.
All of this began to change in 1968 when a man named Virgil Alexander had the vision to construct Highland Park Shopping Center, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this December. To celebrate, an event was held on June 16 to commemorate the anniversary. Free hot dogs were given out, kids were able to play on bouncy houses and Disney television actress Miranda May visited the complex to participate in a meet-and-greet with her fans.
The 80,000-square-foot multi-suite complex was the first shopping center of its kind in Siloam Springs, said Mark Alexander, son of Virgil Alexander and owner/ manager of Highland Park Shopping Center. It has housed a variety of different businesses throughout the years, ranging from a pet grooming store to an arcade.
The first business to open in the complex was a Sears Catalog Store and it was also where Walmart store #4 opened after it outgrew its original space, which was near what is now Bell’s Office Supply. Others in past years have included a Montgomery Ward Catalog Store, Coast to Coast Hardware and Safeway, Alexander said. There was also a period of time in which the complex and its surrounding property became a social destination for many.
“Some people might remember back when they were my age and even older than me, that the shopping center parking lot used to be the hangout for kids, I mean kids from Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale, they would all come to Siloam Springs,” Alexander said. “They would cruise the parking lot, they would get up on the highway, go to Sonic, then they would come back up here and park and meet up with friends, hang out and just do it all over again.
“That went on for years and years and eventually we had to shut it down, but it was a big deal. I do not know why; maybe it was the arcade because people did not have video games at home during those days. But maybe it was because back, then no one had cell phones, so you had to leave your house and go find the friends you wanted to hang out with.”
Today, it is home to 21 businesses, including Goodwill, Aaron’s, Game Exchange, Subway, Anytime Fitness, Radio Shack and the
Herald-Leader. One business that is relatively new to the complex is Shoe Sensation, which opened its store in April 2017.
“It has been a positive experience and I feel we have developed a relationship with some members of the community,” said Stephanie Rutherford, assistant manager of Shoe Sensation. “The 50th anniversary celebration the other day brought people in that still did not even know that we were here. We have also started getting a lot of positive feedback, with people saying that we needed another shoe store and that they enjoy the brands that we have.”
Among those who have been around the longest include Upstage, Anytime Fitness and Subway. Another that makes this list is Daylight Donuts, whose owner is Linda Waeltz. Waeltz has been working at the donut and coffee shop for 14 years and has had ownership of it for the last four years. During her time here, Waeltz said that the amount of recurring customers she has each day is what makes her experience here worthwhile.
“I have enjoyed being in this area, I have coffee drinkers that have come in here since day one and still come in today,” Waeltz said. “I actually have a group of coffee drinkers that come in every day at four o’clock, another one at five o’clock and another one that comes in at seven o’clock. There are definitely people around here that kind of make this place a part of their daily routine; it is great.”
A rendering of Highland Park depicts what the shopping center might have looked like before it was built in 1968.
Highland Park owner Mark Alexander, left, and Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce CEO Wayne Mays, right, visit with Disney Channel actress Miranda May during a meetand-greet held June 16 as part of Highland Park’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Currently, 21 businesses reside at Highland Park.