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Queens Chronicle

When Union Turnpike went commercial

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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012 10:30 am

As late as 1936 practically the only things along the south side of Union Turnpike were the Hillside Riding Academy at 182-70 Union and the Hillcrest Riding Academy at 176-34.

If you were a horse lover, you were in heaven. Then suddenly in 1937 the stable owners made enormous profits by selling off all their land to developers Gross-Morton and Schuettinger and Oehler.

In just a couple years row and rows of stores lined the east-west artery. Among them was Emil Ladimer’s Hillcrest Dairy & Grocery at 179-22 Union. Entrepreneur Ladimer, who was just 25, lived a short distance away at 148-25 89 Ave. in Jamaica.

But although food was a commodity everyone needed, and Ladimer worked long, hard hours, he was no match for the larger supermarkets that came into the area. As Union Turnpike became a higher-rent district, he was pushed out. His store was replaced by the Villa Istriana restaurant, and today it’s home to Vino Ristorante. Ladimer died in 1974 at the age of 60.

The name Hillcrest was overused on the strip, with Hillcrest Appliance, Hillcrest Bicycle Repair, Hillcrest Chemists, Hillcrest Jewish Center and Hillcrest Florist being only a few that bore it over the years.

The U.S. Postal Service does not recognize the name Hillcrest as a station or branch for mail delivery. It was never more than a real estate name to sell the development. But Hagstrom’s uses it, as do the people — and isn’t it really up to them?

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