Our history dates back to 1956 when Bill Murdoch asked his father if he could develop family land for a community shopping center. It was an eight acre site which then had several small buildings, a large gravel area and a hillside to the rear. He agreed and in 1960, they opened a Kroger supermarket where currently Rite Aid is located and the following year added 37,000 sq. ft. for 15 shops extending the center to Baptist Road. McDonald’s arrived 1962, one of their first stores. The purchase of the adjacent Slater’s Garage in 1986 gave Bill and his daughter, Molly Finnell, the opportunity to add nine more stores in 1995 while renovating the others which brought the total center to 84,700sq. ft.
The Murdoch family management now includes third and fourth generation participants who continue to run and invest in the business displaying their faith in the future of the neighborhood.
South Park Shops is located in Bethel Park, PA, one of the largest municipalities in southern Allegheny County with close to 34,000 residents and 12-square miles of tree-lined streets and unique neighborhoods. This outstanding community with a deep history and a strong sense of family is just 10 miles south of Pittsburgh. The School District has over 4,500 students enrolled and is comprised of eight schools – five elementary (grades K-4), two middle (one grades 5-6 and the other grades 7-8) and one high school (grades 9-12).
A few miles farther south is South Park Township with 13,416 residents who enjoy neighborhoods with a park-like setting. The community’s history also dates back to the 1700’s and continues to grow today with new construction. Over, 2,200 students attend the South Park School District which features an Elementary Center, Middle School and High School.
In the heart of these two communities is Allegheny County’s South Park, with over 2,000 acres, drawing over 4.2 million visitors a year with its varied programs and extensive park activities. Its facilities include walking, jogging, hiking and bike trails; both a nine and 18-hole golf course; an amphitheater; ice skating rink; six tennis courts; basketball and volleyball courts; a wave pool; shelters and rental facilities; a boards/bikes/blades park; game preserve; an in-line skating/deck hockey area; and a model airplane field.
South Park Shops is easy to find for first time visitors, since it is located at the main entrance to the park.
Why We Feature the Bison in Our Logo
To pay tribute to the herd of American Bison in South Park, SPS Properties featured the Bison in its redesigned logo in 1995.
About South Park’s Buffalo
You may or may not be aware that buffalo are roaming the range in South Park! The herd has varied in size over the years, but there are currently several living in the South Park Game Preserve, ranging from about a year old to age 10. Buffalo do have a pecking order so it’s preferable to have only one lead bull (male) in the herd; and, the male/female ratio should be three females to one male according to their keeper. Bison can live up to age 40 and can grow to a weight of over 2,000 lbs. The herd has lived outside year-round at the South Park Game Preserve for about 85 years, grazing on about seven acres of fenced land. According to their keeper at the Park, they do “just fine.” They can be seen from the front field of the facility located off of Corrigan Drive or in the upper pasture if visitors drive up to Sesqui Drive (located above the upper pasture). Generally, most guests to the Game Preserve can catch sight of the buffalo grazing – their favorite thing to do…just like cows! If you’re wondering what they like to eat…they enjoy horse feed, ear corn and hay as well as grass from the fields. The care and feeding of the Bison herd is supported by the Allegheny County budget.
A Look Back 70 Years with Bill Murdoch
Bill Murdoch has fond memories of the South Park Shops corner as it was years ago. He recalls that his father negotiated with the Passarello family to buy an eight acre parcel that is now South Park Shops. Bill remembers visiting carnivals with a ferris wheel and other rides, in the summer months, on this corner back then. He also recalls businesses at the corner such as Johnny and Evelyn Gitnik’s Parkside Inn Restaurant in the former hardware store and Local Post Office where National Tire and Battery is now. It was the favorite teenage hangout. Across the street was Joe George selling Esso gas on the current Papa John’s site. Belback’s bike stand was also on the corner with the Shetland Bar behind, now the Get Go gas station. One of his fondest memories is visiting Isaly’s Ice Cream located where CVS is now situated. “Larry Hatch was the general manager and went on and founded the Eat’n Park Restaurant chain.” said Bill.“Isaly’s sold the biggest treat, a “skyscraper” ice cream cone, and my friends and I would carry our skyscrapers across the street to the drive-in movie theatre, where we sat on red dog to watch movies in the 1940’s!”
The entrance to South Park was the center of the community, and Bill remembers in 1949 on Labor Day when President Harry Truman drove in his motorcade down Corrigan Drive between crowds of cheering people on his way to speak at the Free County Fair.