10 March 2021

DeCanto Shopping Center, Inc. (1961 - ?)

The reason for the question mark in the title of this piece is that much like the Ship of Theseus, DeCanto's is a paradox. With but one plank remaining from its earliest days (the barbershop) we can hardly still assert that Hillsborough's first shopping center is the same one that residents knew and loved in the 1960s. Or can we?

DeCanto's in the 1970s
(Photo courtesy of Joan Allisen Villa York)

Ralph DeCanto - who passed away in 1993 - was a longtime Hillsborough builder and general contractor whose name appeared on two iconic local businesses - DeCanto's Banquet Hall which was located where the Doctor's Way medical offices are today, and the DeCanto Shopping Center, Inc. located near the northwest corner of Route 206 and Amwell Road.

Ads from 1977 and 1981

The shopping center - popularly known as simply DeCanto's - opened in 1961 and expanded a few times during those first years. Popular establishments taking up residence at DeCanto's in the 1960s and 1970s were David's, a clothing store, and the Amwell Bakery.

Amwell Bakery - perfect for any holiday, 
ads from the 1970s

Other early tenants included the Hillsborough Deli, the aforementioned Hillsborough Barber Shop, a luncheonette, and the Cumberland Farms convenience store.

DeCanto's circa 1979

Although it was possible to get pizza at the Amwell Farms Inn in the 1960s, Hillsborough's first true "pizza place" was Nino's. Honestly, can you even imagine a time before Hillsborough had pizza joints?

Nino's ads from 1976, top, and 1990

Around 1966 DeCanto's added storefronts behind the building. Two popular early tenants "in the rear" were Serova School of Dance and Hillsborough Academy of Music.

Ads from 1966

Even before the Hillsborough Library moved to the A&P Shopping Center - where Bottle King is today - they opened at DeCanto's in 1966.

10 October 1966 Courier News

Perhaps no other DeCanto's business - or Hillsborough business for that matter - is remembered as fondly as the Hillsborough Pharmacy. 

1991 ad

Throughout the 80s and 90s new stores  - Redelico's Paint and Decorating Center, Chicken Holiday, etc. - replaced the old and a major facelift in 2010 completely changed the look of the shopping center.

2010 construction

Yet, like Theseus's ship, DeCanto's still essentially occupies the same space and serves the same purpose. And we might say its mere existence serves another purpose - to remind us of a simpler time and a simpler Hillsborough.


  1. I remember these stores as my grandmother lived on the corner where five guys currently is. The story is that my grandfather once owned the 206 frontage from Amwell road to New Amwell. All was sold except for 434 stores.