Crocker Park makes me mad. I can’t help it. We go for the Apple Store and some of the restaurants, but while we are there I can’t help but feel a bit of resentment.
Malls killed a lot of small town business districts. Luckily that was not the case with Oberlin, but places like Elyria and Lorain began suffering slow, painful deaths as eager shoppers headed off to the “one place fits all” location.
Next the malls began taking hits for various reasons, some closing altogether and others, like Midway, just limping along. So a bunch of developers decided to create Crocker Park, Legacy Village, and the like. What a great idea it was to manufacture “pretend” small towns for people to flock to. Upscale shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and movie theaters deck the “pretend” streets complete with parking meters.
Downtown Elyria and Lorain continue to strive for relevance and Oberlin has hung on with few empty storefronts, but without the diversity of the past. Few of the businesses that thrived during our last century have survived.
Gibson’s is an Oberlin staple as is Ben Franklin. Watson’s remains as do Herrick’s and the Carlysle Shop, but gone are the days when one never needed to leave Oberlin because all needs could be met in our downtown shopping district. Now we need to be reminded to shop locally and there’s even a name for it, “Small Business Saturday.”
When I was growing up we could get clothes at Powers and Dawley’s, the Town Shop, Dunlaps, and Seeley’s Army/Navy. We had a shoe store, a leather store with purses, totes, and even moccasins. We had both the Oberlin Hardware and Watson’s, which had not only hardware but also a wide selection of toys. The Co-op was locally owned and sported a wide array of items with a music store in the back. We had two local banks with the Oberlin Savings Bank and the People’s Bank, which became Lorain County Savings and Trust. In the mid-1960s Lorain National Bank moved in as well. Kaiser and Wells and Hess Pharmacy catered to our needs beautfully and the Sport Shop had just about anything anyone would need for athletic endeavors.
Like many people my age, I had a Christmas Club account at my bank downtown, which I would withdraw for my gift shopping, all of which was done locally without having to have a special day for it. One of my favorite memories is wanting to get a new rake for Dad for Christmas. I had noticed that his was beyond raggedy and had tucked the idea away for use at Christmas. December wasn’t exactly the season to be rake shopping, but Jim Molyneaux disappeared upstairs at Watson’s and came down hoisting a lovely purple rake. It was hard to wrap, but it was just what Dad needed, so it was perfect. I don’t think it would have happened that way at Wal-Mart.
So, why am I writing this? It’s to urge everyone to shop locally as often as you can, not just on specially set-aside Saturdays. Our local merchants are our local residents. They are our neighbors. Don’t go to a pretend town. Use the real deal. Shop Oberlin.
And now that I’ve delivered my pet peeve message, I’m going to get off track and say that I’m especially proud that one of the businesses left downtown is Sperry Gorske. My Aunt Helen bought the agency in the 1940s from Mr. Burgner and my cousin Pitt runs it today. Bravo! He is my insurance agent and will be as long as he is there.
Got to love local!