Strip malls are evil indications of the eventual complete Mcdonaldization of society. Starbucks, dollar stores, Subway, Whole Foods... we know the scoop. New forest green and khaki buildings popping up in gentrified areas and developed urban sprawl suburbs. I abhor them, all but one.

CERMAK PLAZA

Built in the 50's, this strip mall in Berwyn, IL can be identified by the light up teal and white sign on Cermak Road. In cursive, above block letters it reads "Cermak Plaza/ Shopping Center" a zigzag arrow points to the mall. The sign provides a nostalgic charm, but that isn't why this plaza is special.

What really makes this Plaza special is that its parking lot serves as a sculpture garden. The most famous sculpture is The Spindle created by Los Angeles artist Dustin Shuler. Shown in the movie Wayne's World, this forty-two foot high spike is impaling eight cars topped off with a VWBug. Supposedly the Berwyn Police Department plays a prank on rookies, dispatching them to the plaza to check out the "eight car pileup". Another work by Shuler at Cermak is Yellow Pinto Belt, which is a flattened out pinto on the side of a wall.

Cermak Plaza has numerous other sculptures including many wind blown mobile types. There is a helicopter with moose antlers among other metallic structures that accentuate energy and transportation.

My favorite sculpture and one of the first at the Plaza was a mouse trap game type of clock Magic Clock Cermak1981. The artist is sculptor George Rhoads. Using ramps, pinballs, and cymbals he created a working clock encased in glass. The box is six feet tall, four by two feet wide. Its bright colors (orange, yellow, green), energy, light and sound were capturing to me as a child. I always wanted to sit and wait for the hour to pass, so I could witness the ball go down the ramp and hear the cymbals chime the hour. Rhoads has similar works in malls throughout the world.

Cermak Plaza also has a yearly carnival set up. With ferris wheel, tea cup spin and the like. Very safe temporary death traps.

The one old school shop is an Italian food store called "The Egg Store". Walking into the place the smell of rosemary, oregano, fresh sausage, homemade bread - it floors you. They have the best olive oil, homemade sauce, pizza dough, and polenta.

Besides the sculptures and usual strip mall fare, Cermak Plaza also has occasional sea gulls flying around. I guess they think the shiny tops of cars resemble water, or, being the dirty buggers they are, like to eat the abundant parking lot trash.

Cermak Plaza may be a strip mall, but it is also a historic art gallery, a sometimes amusement park, a place to get good homemade Italian fare and the home of a few dirty bugger sea gulls. It is special.

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