A hand-carved wooden cherry, hung atop West Hempstead’s historic 60-foot arch on Hempstead Turnpike, is one of several renovations at the Cherry Valley Shopping Center. New York City real estate attorney Lior Aldad, who acquired the property from the Yellowstone Shopping Center Company in 2016, spent more than $1 million on the updates.
The renovations include the expansion of the front parking lot to accommodate more than 300 cars, two additional major street en-trances with turn lanes, new LED lights, repainted and redesigned storefront signage and refurbishing of the arch with new paint and an illuminated billboard that lists store names.
Aldad, who grew up in Little Neck, Queens, attended Adelphi University from 1986 to 1990 and studied business administration. During his years at Adelphi, he said, the shopping center was a popular venue.
“My dream was to restore it someday and give it the attention that it once had,” Aldad said, adding that he envisioned the shopping center as a family-friendly location.
“Everything looks good. The parking lot, the stores, and having our store repainted, it all looks pretty good,” said Anessa Plein, assistant manager at Dress Barn in the shopping center. She also said that with the holidays approaching, the renovations might encourage residents to shop locally.
Aldad said that one of his other goals was to restore one of the historical landmarks in the hamlet. A souvenir from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park, West Hempstead’s arch is one of 11 arches erected during the fair to provide public service announcements on electric message boards — then a revolutionary form of communication — to the millions who visited. The arches were created by General Foods and Time Inc., and provided local, national and international news to the crowds, according to West Hempstead Historical Society Archive Director Lesley McAvoy.
Before the renovation, the arch was badly rusted, with paint peeling throughout, and signs and graffiti on it. After the arch was repainted, the wooden cherry, which was hand-carved by Aldad’s father, Uri, provided the finishing touch.
“Bravo for the renovations, not only to the shopping center, but the arch, which deserves to be restored and recognized as a wonderful piece of history that West Hempstead should be proud to have,” said Terese Russo Santoro, of the West Hempstead Chamber of Commerce. The next step, she said, was creating a plaque so that future generations could know the arch’s history.
Aldad also wanted to bring the shopping center into the 21st century, which started with launching a website that lists the individual stores.
As for the Cherry Valley Shopping Center’s future, Aldad said that renovations are never complete. “We’re always trying to see the next thing to improve,” he said. “We’d like to continue to build our relationships with the neighborhood because we see them as an extended family of ours. We’re all trying to better the lives of the community around us.”