Alright, I’m going to diverge a bit from the sort of things I usually cover. As many of you know by now, I take a big interest in broadcasting from anywhere in the U.S., but at the heart of this blog is an appreciation for Northeast Ohio. For obvious reasons, this usually takes the form anything related to NE Ohio television. As you might guess, that’s the area I have the most fondness for, the M.O. of my whole hobby, you could say. However, that doesn’t mean I automatically dismiss anything that wasn’t shown on TV. Of course not. Like most people, I have nostalgic memories of my hometown, of places that are no longer there or no longer the same as they once were.
That almost-long-winded intro is my way of saying that lately I’ve been nostalgic for the now-demolished shopping center on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It’s only been gone a few years, but it feels like much longer. Probably because for the longest time, “hitting up the strip,” as I and probably I alone called it, was a weekly (and sometimes more) occurrence. It actually went beyond just the shopping center, as there were plenty of other places on State Road itself I liked to check out regularly. Most of those places are still standing, but the shopping center as seen in this post is looong gone.
All of the pictures in this post were taken by me on March 24, 2009. In the grand scheme of things, the entire center would be demolished relatively soon after, but technically, everything was still standing until, I believe, August. You’ll notice a bluish tint to all of these shots; like a dope, I didn’t roll down the car window to take the pics. There are two possible explanations for this: 1) it was fairly cold that day, or 2) my brother and I were in his Firebird, an exceptionally cool car, except the passenger-side window liked to go down but not up. In retrospect, I probably could have put up with the cold, but spending half a day trying to get the window to roll up? “Nah brah!”
I don’t remember the exact order of every shop in the center, but I do know that these three were the first ones on the strip, provided you were going right-to-left, which I almost always did. The store on the furthest right was a restaurant I never went in, and the one next to it was a discount book shop I also never went in, though I now wish I would have visited both at some point. However, I did go into the VCR & TV Repair shop once. Not only did they do repairs, but they also had old electronics for sale. This was waaay before I had established this whole “buying old used blank videotapes” hobby, but even then, I wanted one of the Betamax recorders that was for sale there. Of course, this was long before I had any kind of regular income, so whatever amount of money I had, it probably wouldn’t have been enough for anything. I do know ths repair shop relocated, and since I now have two fairly-nice-but-not-currently-working Betamax VCRs, maybe it’s time to give them a call.
You wouldn’t know it from the picture, but this is Goodwill. Those Halloween pictures went up the last season they were there, and stayed up until the end. Or, at least they were up every time I went by. Of all the places in the shopping center, I probably wound up checking out Goodwill most. 30 cent vinyl records, $1.00 videotapes, and ancient clothes no one would be caught dead wearing? Now you’re speaking my language! Actually, while this Goodwill had a good selection, since they’ve relocated this store elsewhere on State Road, I’ve had even better finds.
Well now! I certainly do remember visiting this Best Cuts more than once! In my younger days, Mom would take my brother and I there for our regular haircuts! A lady that cut our hair in a way acceptable to Mom’s high hair standards worked there. Eventually she left to work at some other “hair place.” While I’m sure we continued to go to this location for a while afterwards, I seem to recall our visits to this particular Best Cuts dropped off substantially following her departure. Mom always took our hair seriously, which was why in grade school, while all the other boys had shaved heads, my hair looked positively Sam Malone-ish. In retrospect, I’m actually pretty grateful for that.
I’m not sure what this is a shot of. I think it’s the start of Save-A-Lot. There’s not much I can say about it, except it looks exceptionally desolate. But, since the whole place is gone now, I might as well use every pic I can. Actually, I kinda like this shot. Very evocative of…something. Maybe?
Falls Bootlegger was on “the strip” for years, but they’ve since moved practically around the corner and down the street from the former shopping center.
I don’t have a picture of the former-location, but Fishland Pets was also a regular stop for me. I loved the place; very reasonable prices and a really great selection of animals. A big, huge, long-lived cane toad (appropriately named “Beef”) came from there, as did a did a little bullfrog and a firebelly toad. The shop also had a big pool right up front under the window where a turtle named “Big Mama” lived, and once in awhile there would be kittens for sale (practically free, actually: you could get a kitten of your choice with the purchase of any cat-specific item).
This now-former Firestone store closed out the first-half of the shopping center. If you think I had little to say about Accent Ability, I have even less to say about Firestone. I mean, it’s Firestone, there are a bunch of them. Really, without any other experience with the place, what can I say? I like cars, but I’m not exactly a “car guy.” However, I’m glad I grabbed this pic, because it makes a nice seque into the 2nd half of the center, where some of my fondest memories lie.
Unfortunately, the 2nd half was roped off, barring me from any kind of halfway decent picture, unless we wanted to run through the barricade (hint: we didn’t). We’ll have to make do with pics I took from the road…
As this was taken from the road, I’m reasonably sure this shot is from the roped-off half of the center. Why take it from the road otherwise? If it’s not, pretend it is, okay? Either way, it was in the second half that the old North Gate Bowling Lanes was located. I remember long ago, when I was only a few years old, my Dad taking me there. You had to walk down a flight or two of steps to get to the actual alley, and I recall that at the time there were pink elephants painted on the walls, which I, as a young fella, loved.
Many years later (it had to have been about 2005), my brother and I did our usual run of the center, and decided to check out North Gate. The elephants were gone, but the alley was still there. We didn’t bowl, but we did ask about prices, stopped and played a quick game of Ms. Pac-Man (NEO Video Hunter hot tip: Ms. Pac-Man is always best in bowling alleys. Trust me), and decided to come back when we had more money and time. Well, a little while later, we did just that, except North Gate wasn’t open. There was a paper schedule taped to the door, listing new times that weren’t all that accessible to us. The next time we went by, the place was closed entirely. Of all the places in the shopping center, North Gate is the one I wish I would have spent more time at. I love bowling (even if in reality I’m pretty awful at it) and North Gate seemed like exactly the kind of non-showy hometown place I would have wanted to hang out at. I’ll always regret not being able to bowl at least one game there or taking some pictures of the place before it closed. At least we stopped in there that one time for one last look, even if we didn’t realize it was a last look.
Also, I wonder what happened to that Ms. Pac-Man machine?
We’re just about done with our run-through of the State Road shopping center. Even more memories of the final few stores. Near the end of the strip, there was a D&K discount store. My Mom used to take my brother and I there, and I remember in the summer of either 1997 or 1998 (maybe even both) us going in there. D&K had a bunch of closeout items at bargain basement prices. Lots of cheaply made toys and VHS tapes of public domain cartoons that were manufactured in who-knows-where were the things that interested me most then. I remember getting little pocket books of classic novels, very abridged (well, I guess, actually rewritten) and with lots of pictures. I’m not exactly sure why I wanted these books, but I believe I had War Of The Worlds and Moby Dick. I have no idea if they still reside somewhere in my basement or were long ago thrown out.
Also in that second half of the shopping center were two of the longest-lasted stores in the entire place: KB Toys and Dollar General. We’d stop into Dollar General every once in awhile (they have since relocated further down on State Road), but KB Toys was where we spent more time. In the late-90’s, my brother was a Pokemon addict, and that’s where they held these Pokemon “Clubs,” which was basically where people could trade cards, play each other, and if I recall correctly, some official ‘trainer’ would give out badges and whatnot for some achievement of dubious importance. I never really go into all that, at least not for an extended amount of time, but I did like going with my brother to these meetings, since I could play the latest video games that were on display. This was where I was introduced to Sega Dreamcast, and at the time, Crazy Taxi was just about the funnest thing ever. Later, I wound up buying lots of PS1 games there (though by that point they were becoming increasingly downsized), and when I finally got a PS2, I remember this location was where I got Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, on sale, no less.
Also, lots of neat ‘bargain’ toys would sit in bins outside of the store, and some of them were of relatively impressive vintage (think early-90’s figures and whatnot). I never made much use of this bargain bin, though now I wish I would have bought a toy or two out of it.
That pretty much ends our look at the now-gone State Road shopping center, but it doesn’t feel right concluding without a shot or two of Montgomery Ward. This place was closed for years, long before the shopping center was torn down. I do remember Mom taking me into it when I was really little. I seem to recall some downstairs lounge that didn’t really have anything for me to eat, but my memory’s hazy on that.
There’s Montgomery Ward, in a shot clearly taken from waaay off in the non-roped part of the shopping center. For those wondering, the cars parked in the bacground are for a bank that’s still there today. There are a few places, such as that bank, Burger King and Arby’s, that are up front towards the street and thus were spared the demolition of the rest of the shopping center.
Before ending this post, I have to mention two places that were looong gone before (probably) any thought of tearing the center down ever arose:
First off, Funsville USA, the arcade that was located in the shopping center. it ended up closing in the early-1990’s, but my Dad took me there a few times. Despite only being 5 or 6 years old, I loved the place. I still distinctly recall playing the arcade version of Super Mario Bros. there. Here’s the thing with Funsville: I can’t remember exactly where it was in the shopping center. I have two ideas: one is the bank I was just talking about. I seem to remember “Funsville USA” being written on the building. But, I also remember a Donkey Kong Jr. ad/marquee/whatever in the window of one of the shops in the actual strip. I’m thinking Funsville was where the bank now is, but I could very well be wrong. If I’m not, then what shop had that DK Jr. ad in the window?
Second, The Galleria. I think that was the name of the place, at least. Also, I’m not positive it was in the shopping center, I could be confusing it with a location in the plaza at Chapel Hill. Either way, it was a big antique/second hand shop, and while I only visited a couple of times, I found some really cool things, including an old print ad for The Marx Bros.’ film The Cocoanuts and a vintage 1950’s TV Guide, both of which I still have.
So, that about wraps this whole thing up. Even though a new shopping center of some sort is scheduled to be built where the old one was, as of right now, it’s just a big empty space. Whether the new place inspires the same kind of fond memories I have of the old one remains to be seen. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but somehow I doubt I’ll ever be as nostalgic for it as I am of the dearly-departed shopping center I just spent 400 paragraphs talking about.
Farewell, State Road shopping center. You are missed.