The advent of the automobile in the early 1900s brought drastic changes to the United States retail industry. At the time, business was centralized in the downtown areas of America's cities and towns, with very few shopping options available in outlying areas.
This began to change in the period immediately before -and after- World War I. Cities began to extend outward. In the downtown area of a suburb of Chicago, a group of dilapidated buildings were razed and replaced by a "car-friendly" complex of retail structures. This heralded the start of a new age in commerce.