An article in the Cape Argus reported that after 20 years Pinelands still had no shops, and it was a purely residential area. Residents used the Pinelands Bus Service to Mowbray and then took the train or trackless tram to shops in Claremont. The Cape Argus article further expanded on the regular deliveries that Claremont shops make to Pinelands which included vans from dress shops, hardware stores, butchers, etc.
The lack of shops was due to a clause in the 1919 granting of the Land which read “No land shall be sold for commercial purposes. Land used for commercial purposes may only be let on lease”. In 1939 when Garden Cities moved from their thatched property to new offices at Central Square, Mr and Mrs Sides took over the building and started a tearoom called The Wattle House. This led to residents accusing Garden Cities of not consulting with the community regarding trading in Pinelands. However as it was in lease it was legally acceptable. The debate for and against shops in Pinelands continued, often with vociferous arguments during the years 1924 to 1945.
In 1929 a public meeting voted against the establishment of a “Filling Station and/or Garage”. Again in 1940, residents drew up petition against a service station, but Garden Cities pushed ahead. Finally, the Civic Association withdrew their objection, and the Service Station was built on the corner of St Stephens Road. In 1996 a rezoning application was made to permit a 24-hour convenience store. The forecourt was to be a modern aluminium structure which residents felt would not blend in with the area. BP (SA) refused an invitation to attend a public meeting to discuss their proposal, stating that it met international standards and was not negotiable. In the end they were forced to change to a slate roof.
In the initial planning of the town, a fruit and vegetable market was to be created near the Pinelands Station with Broadwalk being originally named Market Road. However it was only in 1929 that the Pinelands Civic Association obtained permission to operate a Market opposite Central Square. A New Market was opened in the same area by Hermanus Jurgens in February 1952 assisted by the Cornwall sisters. Jurgens moved to the brick shelter in 1955 built by the Municipality. With him was Adellah Solomon whose family still operate the stall today. Jurgens left the market in 1961 to open a shop at the Howard Centre. Adellah Solomon continued operating the market until 2003 when she had a heart attack. Her sister took over and still operates the small market in the shelter. She gets up at 5am every Tuesday to Saturday to buy fresh produce from the Epping Market. Sarah Matthews joined the family running the stand in about 2016.
A proposal was put forward in 1930 to build shops on Central Square between Broadwalk and Serpentine and on either side of Central Avenue but nothing came of the plan when it was vehemently opposed.
A 1945 pamphlet was issued boldly declaring in capital letters “The greatest day in the history of Pinelands. Monday 17th September. Keep that day clear“. The event was a public meeting to get support for a Co-Op in Pinelands where it was hotly debated. Eventually permission was granted, but no display windows were allowed. The Cooperative Trading Society opened in 1946 after Zerilda Steyn spearheaded the process. The shares in the company were held by 1357 Pinelands residents. The first manager of the Coop, Mr Purkiss, had a staff complement of 48. He had been the last owner of the Wattle House tearoom which he had purchased from the Sides family. Only residents who were members of the Co-Op could use the facility and non-members pushed for the facilities to be open to everyone. A petition was sent to Garden Cities who then agreed to extend the building. The extension included among others, Central Pharmacy, Central Drapers, Royal Diary, the Blue Haze, Central Fisheries and the Wattle House. The original Wattle house had stood in the same area before being demolished. The Coop was later replaced by the Beehive Supermarket and still later by Kwik Spar. The first floor of the centre housed five flats allocated to ex-servicemen.
The Pinelands nursery was established in 1945, covering 3 acres in Riverside.
In 1948 land was set aside for a new shopping centre and construction started in 1951 on one of the first pedestrian precincts in South Africa. Howard Centre opened in 1953. There were 23 offices and among the initial 20 shops were 2 banks, a post office, a children’s wear shop, a butchery, a fish shop, Pinelands’ radio service, a ladies wear shop, a mens wear shop, a shoe shop, CNA, Barnetts Pharmacy, Harold Webb hardware, a hairdresser, Pinelands Drapers and the Housewives Market.
Plans to upgrade the centre started in 1964 but it was only in 1978 that the Centre was upgraded to include the Pick n Pay supermarket. This involved realigning Howard Drive and turning it into a double lane in both directions. Once the Centre opened, parking became an issue. A limit on parking time was introduced but was difficult to enforce. The Municipality then considered paid parking at the Centre. While Wave Technology Cape was the preferred operator, there was an outcry from residents which forced a rethink. The option of a no payment ticket system to assist with law enforcement was mooted but finally in 1989 was scrapped. The Centre was again upgraded in 1993. Pinelands Post reported that while residents found the new revamp vastly improved the condition, parking remained a problem. With this upgrade the owners had struggled to meet the parking requirements but were able to purchase the tennis courts in Lonsdale Way next to the Pinelands club to be preserved for future parking requirements in the wider Howard Centre area. To ensure the preservation of the future use, the erf remained in the name of the Municipality and was zoned a road reserve.
Parking issues continued to be a problem for surrounding areas in 1998, with many suggestions put forward. In an effort to resolve the problem, the city intended to lease the parking areas to an individual for three months. The applicant was rumoured to be part of syndicate trying to take control of all Council owned parking areas and the idea was scrapped. The owners of Howard Centre then successfully approached the city to build a multideck parking garage and to lease the parking outside the library. In 2004 the new owners carried out a R30m revamp with a food court and the addition of Woolworths, Clicks, Musica and Foschini and deck parking for 300 cars was built.
A second service station was established on Forest Drive as a branch of Pinelands Motors in 1961. It boasted having one of only four grease pits in the country at the time and claimed it reduced the time to service and grease a car to 10 minutes. In 2001 it was decided to demolish the building and build a new service station along with a McDonalds restaurant. After much negotiating, MacDonalds agreed not to erect their large yellow signature sign.
In 2006 Old Mutual opened its own shopping mall in its office block for staff but also open to the public. It had a rocky start with the expected Woolworths, Steers and Nedbank not materialising. A Spar closed after a few months, but the mall has become a useful facility for Pineland’s residents with shops such as Dischem, Spec Savers, Oasis charity shop and a number of food outlets.
In 2008 there was a proposal to demolish the old police station site which was zoned single residential and build a four-storey multi-purpose block including shops. The idea was abandoned after strong objections were submitted. It was resold and the new owner renovated the building and placed special attention to the heritage of the building, including keeping the old goal cells as rest rooms.
In 2015, on the other side of Central Square, a submission was made to demolish the South African Centre for Netherlands and Flanders building on Central Square to create a mixed-use four-storey building with shops on the ground floor. This would have introduced shops into the residential roads of Central Avenue and Broadwalk. Due to strong opposition, it was abandoned. In 2017 there was a second submission based on the first application. After even greater objections by residents, the owner in the Netherlands, the Willem de Zwijger Foundation, halted the project and promised residents that the building would remain and they would allow the tenants to continue.