Cathy Jones's Commentary

Posted June 3, 2006 (user submitted)

Delco Plaza is a combo strip shopping center/ indoor mall located in Winchester, Virginia about 70 miles west of Washington, DC right on US Route 50. Today the center itself is doing an OK business with a Food Lion, Costco, and a Gabriel Brothers as anchors but its history has seen more ups and downs than most centers have seen in their lifetime.

Delco opened up in 1973 with only Zayre however the next year the center was expanded to include A Dart Drug/ Dart Home Center plus a two screen movie theatre and a Tall Texan Restaurant as well as a few other stores. Zayre and Dart had only outdoor entrances but the movie theatre was located in the mall section. The indoor mall was and still is quite small, I think the most the indoor mall section had was only 10 stores. The center itself over the years had as many as 20 stores. I remember the mall in the early 80s had a Head Hunters ( a "jungle" themed hair salon ), and arcade, fitness center, a seafood restaurant called "Captain's Table", and a shoe store called The Silver Slipper. There was also a Video World in the plaza too.

Throughout the 70s the mall's lineup stayed the same, that is until 1982 when a Warehouse Food Market was built next to Zayre. However like Zayre, Warehouse Food did NOT have an entrance to the indoor mall.

The Delco Plaza "drama" begins in 1978 when a rumor was going around the area about a young girl who was bitten by a snake in a dressing room while trying on a pair of pants at Zayre. The rumor was just that, a rumor. No one knew how or why it was started but it did for a brief time stopped some people from shopping there.

In 1979, Zayre sponsored a swimsuit contest only to have one of the local churches picket the event. One of the protestors, actually held a sign that said "Zayre promotes the rape of women". Needless to say, Zayre was NOT happy ( nor were they happy that a photo of this sign made the local newspapers ). Zayre was so mad about this that I believe they actually sued, or at least attempted to sue the protestor. Freedom of speech is one thing but to say that a business "promotes rape" and you have no proof other than your feelings about a contest, well that is another matter. I don't remember what the outcome of this was but of course for awhile the event was the talk of the town.

In 1980, the folks who run Delco Plaza decided to allow the annual Apple Blossom Festival carnival to set up in the parking lot only to have the Scrambler ride go berzerk which sent 10 people to the hospital. The carnival never did came back to Delco Plaza.

In 1981 a number of folks got food poisoning at eating at the Tall Texas. As a result the restaurant of course closed. It was discovered afterwards that the restaurant didn't even have hot water for months prior to this incident.

In 1983 two customers at Zayre got into a fight over a Cabbage Patch Doll only to have one of them be pushed through the door of the store. The woman was seriously injured and the other woman arrested. Then a few months after that at Dart Drug, a shelf collapsed in the candy section, two kids were hurt. Around this time there was a report about a child being molested in that store, like the Zayre/snake story this may have been a rumor but Dart Drug decided to stop selling Playboy, Playgirl and Hustler around this time. I believe it was due to this rumor. At the time Dart Drug was one of the very few stores in the area to sell these types of magazines.

One of the more stamgest ( and funniest ) incidents to take place at Delco Plaza happened in the fall of 1985. Winchester is the home of country music star Patsy Cline and it was in the fall of 85 when that Patsy bio flick "Sweet Dreams" hit theatres. Local country station WUSQ-FM Q102 decided to put on a "Patsy Contest", those who could sing the most like Patsy won a prize. The contest was held in the indoor mall section of Delco near the theatres. Over 100 people entered this contest and the crowd was said to be near 500. That is a LOT of people for such a small mall. So far so good, that is until some drunken woman decided to slur her way through "Crazy" on stage and was booed by the crowd. She then decided to take off her top, threw it into the audience and ran around the stage topless. Of course that caused quite a scene. Enough so that the police had to be called.

One of the more tragic incidents to have taken place at Delco happened in April 1994. At the time Delco Plaza was home of Belle Starr. One of the hottest nightclubs in the area. Belle Starr opened in 1992 in a part of the shopping center that was for years used as storage by the other stores in the center. WFQX-FM "Froggy 99", the local, then-Top 40 station sponsored some event there where beer was only 99 cents. Of course that attracted a lot of people. One thing the folks at both WFQX and Delco did NOT know ( if they did they overlooked it ) was that Belle Starr had a reputation of not checking IDs of those who went into the bar. Sadly this night, they did NOT as 5 kids all younger than the drinking age limit of 21 got into the bar, drank quite a bit of the 99 cent beer only to die in a horrible crash on their way home.

Belle Starr found themselves into some very hot water. When all was said and done, they lost their liquor license and quite soon in order to stay open, Belle Starr tried to be a family restaurant. It failed and they closed.

The movie theatres, despite being only two screens are pretty much really the only stable part of the center having been opened since 1974. They remain today by offering movies for $2.00.

Zayre in 1989 became Ames and would close by the mid 90s. That part of the center would be empty until Gabriels came to town. Gabriel Brothers sells clothes that are "irregular" in other words, well cheap.

Dart Drug would close in the late 80s and that part of the center was empty I know for a least 8 years until Food Lion took over that part by demolishing the former store and putting their store in its place.

Warehouse Food Market closed in 1990. Within a few years the now defunct Heilig-Myers furniture chain took over that space and lasted until the chain went under. Now its called "The RoomStore".

Today some pizza place is where the Tall Texan was, a Christmas store is located where Belle Starr once was and as far as the indoor mall itself goes, only the theatres remain and a few offices though the pizza restaurant does use some of that mall for "outdoor" dining..inside the mall. Got that?

A Movie Galley took the place of Video World, and a Virginia state liquor store "ABC" is located in a part where the former Dart Drug used to be.

At the back of the mall within walking distance is the Costco.

Today Delco Plaza is doing quite well despite Winchester's booming retail scene. But there were a quite a few times over the years, well it was a different story.

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