Looking for Continuity at Randall Park Mall

The Oxford Dictionary defines continuity as the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time. Continuity is by no means is one of the first words that might pop into your head when thinking of Randall Park Mall. After all, the mall had a fairly short operating life of just over 30 years. But in 1976, when the mall was nearing it’s grand opening, continuity would be the perfect word to describe the DeBartolo Corporation who were busy erecting regional shopping centers at a frantic pace to keep up with consumer demand and fierce competition from rival developers.

Edward J DeBartolo
Edward J. Debartolo in front of his “Continuity” sculpture. Image courtesy of the Leo Noser Collection.

This continuity at which the company would operate would be the result of the DeBartolo Corporation’s ability to handle all aspects of shopping center development in house. From site selection and design, all the way to leasing and operations. The DeBartolo Corporation handled it all and they were quite good at it.

Thus It would only seem fitting for the DeBartolo Corporation’s crowning achievement of building and operating the world’s largest shopping mall, that they would look for the perfect piece of art to help convey the company’s image to the public in a grand fashion.

Werner Neblung
Werner Neblung, the artist behind Continuity with his son Rick directing work on one of their sculptures.

The DeBartolo Corporation would commission Werner H. Neblung, an immigrant German artist and owner of Railco Metal Craft to construct his “Continuity” piece after it had been selected from a sketch and a two foot model.

When completed Continuity would be in the shape of a ten foot cube consisting of one continuous (hence the name) ground and polished piece of polished eight inch aluminum tubing. The sculpture would weigh in at 2000 pounds and would rest on one of the end points of the cube. where it would be perched high atop a seven foot tall pyramid.

Continuity by Wener Neblung. Image via Randall Park Memories Facebook group.

Neblung would actually fabricate the entire piece completely in his studio and when complete the sculpture would receive a full month of grinding and polishing to achieve its perfectly smooth and shiny look.

Sculpture Randal Park Mall
The brushed aluminum of Continuity goes marvelously with the bright red carpets of Randall Park Mall. Image via Stores of the Year Volume I.

This striking sculpture would most certainly catch any shoppers eye from either level and from any viewpoint in the mall and would become the focal point of the lower level of the mall opposite the Higbee’s entrance.

Christmas at Randall Park Mall
During the holidays the sculpture was double perfectly as a Christmas gift. Image via Randall Park Mall Memories.

Though Randall Park Mall is long gone, rumor has it that the sculpture was removed before demolition and is currently hidden in a storage unit at the Thistledown Racino in North Randall.

 

The JOX JAG by Thom McAn

When you think of shoes made for BMX biking you probably think of Vans, Vision Street Wear, Airwalk, or maybe even Converse All Stars. But it was actually Thom McAn who in the late 70s introduced the first ever specialty BMX shoe.

JOX BMX ad
JOX – The shoe named just for you!

The company’s JOX brand had already been around for a few years and was mostly known for making low-cost and somewhat low-quality athletic shoes when they partnered with Renny Roker, a BMX promoter and owner of the JAG BMX team to help design the JOX JAG. The shoes were completely constructed with the rider in mind, featuring sturdy soles and a special mag wheel style tread to help keep grip of the pedals.

Renny Roker – Legendary BMX promoter would lend a hand in creating the JOX JAG.

Riders loved the shoes, if not for their quality then for fact the Thom McAn company showed genuine interest in the BMX sport. In addition to Team JAG, the company would soon become a sponsor and official shoe of Team Schwinn. Thom McAn would also be an official sponsor of the BMX World Championships.

The JOX JAG would be one of Thom McAn’s top selling shoes every year it was produced, though in the mid-80s the JOX brand changed gears and began trying to  market to actual jocks by making knock-off’s of hot selling basketball shoes with their own JOX “pumps” and Jordan look-alikes. Needless to say this would be a failed venture and soon the JOX brand would fade.

JOX JAG High Top Shoes
Soon the company would add high-tops to their JOX JAG line

It’s a shame really. It really seemed like JOX were on to something with their JOX JAG. If you look at the models pictured above they look strikingly similar to the Vans, and Airwalk shoes that would be wildly popular a few short years later.

An interesting side note the JOX JAG would be the first and only product ever produced by Thom McAn that would be named after an outside person or company.

Jox JAG BMX shoe
The JOX JAG shoes featured a special tread to help riders keep a grip on their pedals.

“There’s not a lot you can say about a good tennis shoe. I guess that’s what I like about Jox, I don’t have to think about ’em.”
Anthony Sewell – Captain of Team JAG and wearer of JOX JAGs

Greetings From Booklein Family Reading Center

Founded in 1927 the Klein News Company of Cleveland got its start as a local distributor of magazines and newspapers. As paperback books started gaining popularity, publishers would utilize distributors such as Klein to help bring the new low-cost books to market. To help spur interest in these new inexpensive books the company would donate them to area libraries as well as organizing bookmobiles to help acquaint students with them.

The Klein News Company wasn’t just an innovator in bringing paperbacks to market though, they were also innovators in technology. In the 1950’s and 60’s the company was the first in Cleveland to use the initial generation of IBM Computers to help improve the company’s operation efficiency.

Booklein Summit Mall
Postcard from the Booklein store at Summit Mall in Akron, Ohio.

By the 70’s The Klein News Company was the area’s prominent distributor of paperback books and was looking for a way to expand their sales even further. With supermarkets being the backbone of paperback and magazine sales at the time it only made sense to try and enter into a similar retail market, the shopping mall.

The company would bring their new idea to life with Booklein (pronounced book-line) Family Reading Centers. Though the name translated from German means “little book store”, the store was actually named after the company president, George Klein. Despite the name, Booklein was always first and foremost a magazine shop. The store stocked “all the magazines you’ve ever wanted to read…and then some”.  But it wasn’t just all books and magazines at Booklein. The store also featured tobacco, candy, maps, calenders, and of course, lottery tickets.

Booklein flyer rolling acres mall
Booklein – For all the magazines you’ve ever wanted to read…and then some.

In addition to the Summit Mall store The Klein News Company would go on to open Booklein shops at Great Lakes Mall, Rolling Acres Mall, Randall Park Mall, and Sandusky Mall before abruptly exiting the retailing market in 1984.

I have many fond memories of the Rolling Acres store as Booklein and later as Churchill News and Tobacco. The store was a must visit every time I would go to the mall. It seemed that no matter what age I was or what hobbies I had at the time, the store would have a magazine to cater to my needs.

Rolling Acres Bookstore
Booklein at Rolling Acres Mall

“We don’t just sell books, we serve our customers with a smile-that’s why we call ourselves ‘The Friendly People Place'”
Toni Lack – Manager at Booklein, Summit Mall from The Beacon Journal 1978

Hickory Farms – The Summer Sausage Kings of Toledo, Ohio

Cheese wheels.
That was the plan. Cousins Richard and Earl Ransom thought there was a gap in the market needing filled for a shop offering old-time wheels of swiss and cheddar cheeses, just like they did in the days of their youth. Customers would be able to get their orders cut fresh, straight from the wheel. In 1950 they would take their vision to market, setting up shop at a home show in Toledo, Ohio. Their shop would be so successful at the home show that the cousins would soon be setting up kiosks at shows and fairs across the country.

Dick and Earl Ransom, The Summer Sausage Kings of Toledo, Ohio. (Toledo Blade)

Building off their success of cheese sales, the Ransoms would introduce a new product in 1956, “The Beef Stick”, a four pound, two foot long smoked summer sausage. They would also rename their business to Hickory Farms after their new product’s hickory style smoky flavor. The new beef stick would be the perfect compliment to their cheeses and with customers loving its flavor it would soon become the company’s cornerstone product. Business was booming for Hickory Farms and in just three short years the cousins would be selling 1.5 million pounds of summer sausage at their many kiosks and by mail order.

Hickory Farms Beef Stick
Winner of the coveted California Gold Medal.

It was time to expand, and in 1959 the Ransom’s opened the first Hickory Farms retail outlet in Toledo, Ohio. The new store would adopt what would go on to be the company’s signature look, a country motif, complete with wagon wheels pressed into service as lights. beams criss-crossing the ceiling, and red barn style storefronts. Staff would be dressed in red and white checkered shirts with denim skirts.

Believing so strongly in their products, the Ransom’s thought they had the finest quality products on the market and their way of convincing their customers of this was to offer plenty of free samples. And it worked. After just small a taste of beef stick, the customers were hooked.

The classic country look of Hickory Farms storefront.

In the early 60s the Ransom’s began offering franchises of the stores and soon after  Hickory Farms were popping up everywhere and by 1968 they would be celebrating their 100th store opening.

Also in 1968 the already world famous beef stick would achieve new heights so to speak being selected as one of the menu items for the Traleika Traverse Expidition, a trek to the top of Mt. McKinley in Alaska. The beef stick was selected for its keeping qualities and its high calorie per weight value.

Would you like to try a sample of our double smoked summer sausage before you head over to GTE Phone Mart?

Over the years the Hickory Farms beef stick has won numerous awards and medals and has yet somehow been delegated to become the gift you get people when you cant think of anything else to get them. Though I must say I’ve yet to ever hear of anyone ever complaining of getting it as a gift.

As for the Ransom’s? They sold their stakes of the company to General Host in 1980 for 40 million dollars ending their two decade plus reign as the summer sausage kings.

 

Deperately Seeking, Shoes?

Surely anyone who has seen the 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan remembers the jacket. After all it did pretty much hold the “key” to the entire movie. But don’t forget it was Susan herself that decided the boots were indeed worth trading the jacket for.

Madonna Boot
“The Boot” – Available exclusively at Bakers Shoes.

By the time the movie was released the Madonna craze had already begun and thankfully for us pieces could be found in the local shopping malls. Frederick’s of Hollywood was seeing an increase in the sales of the Merry Widow, the longline bra that Madonna frequently wore. Baker/Leeds, a leading shoe store popular with high school and college aged shoppers, was also able to jump in on the trend by introducing “The Boot”. Cause what else would you call it? Each store was given a limited stock of boots, and when those were gone stores were able to take individual orders. The boots were produced in Missouri so it really wouldn’t take too long before your order was ready. But for some teens that was not satisfactory. Just like Susan they wanted their boots now.

madonna seeking susan
“Susan” is desperate for these boots.

Surprisingly to this day it seems the poor boot is the least sought after. It might cost you several hundreds of dollars to get your hands on The Boot originally sold at Bakers/Leeds, but it will cost you thousands to get one of the promo jackets briefly sold through MTV. Julien’s Auctions has auctioned off a movie worn jacket for over $250,000, and even one of the earrings was able to fetch $12,500. Yet when one half of the original movie worn boots went under the hammer, the right one, the left was donated to Hard Rock Cafe, it sold for just over $5,000. The (original) Boot deserves a little more than that if you ask me.

The Halle Brothers – Belden Village Mall

In 1970, after a hiatus of nearly 15 years, the Halle Brothers decided to return to the Canton, Ohio market in grand fashion, with an anchor store at the brand new Belden Village Mall. After over a year of extensive market research the Halle Brothers would determine that the Stark County area was already being more than adequately served by a number existing of full-line department stores. They needed a plan. Something different.

Halle Brothers Belden Village
Exterior entrance to Halle’s at Belden Village Mall from the company’s 1970 annual report.

So the Halle Brothers came up with “The Shop Concept”. With this new concept the Halle Brother’s would buck the notion of being a traditional department store selling items such as sporting goods, camera’s and toys, and focus strictly on higher end fashions and offering only quality merchandise from select lines. In this way the Halle Brothers thought they could better serve the needs of area residents.

The Halle Brothers also realized there would be other retailers already offering similar lines of merchandise at comparable prices. They would attempt to overcome this hurdle by stressing innovation in merchandising techniques and offering high quality service.

Halle's Belden Village
Halle’s Interior entrance at Belden Village Mall Grand Opening.

Now that the company had their business model, they needed someone who could bring their innovation into reality. They brought in Rudi Baumfield of Gruen and Associates. Rudi was somewhat a legend of retail design at the time, he was the man who designed the first enclosed two level shopping mall in the United States as well as designing more than a dozen Joseph Magnin stores on the west coast.

Belden Village Canton Ohio
What’s Happening at Halle’s in Belden Village Mall.

Rudi’s plan would feature wide aisles, bright colors, and subtle lighting. There would be thick carpeting throughout the store with the exception of some small surfaces in the men’s department and at the entrances, which were covered in black tile. The various departments would be recessed from the main aisles and be decorated in their own distinct manner, giving the illusion of small shops rather than a department store.

Halle Brothers Belden Village
A showcase of the Rudi Baumfield designed store featuring the artificial skylight as a centerpiece.

The store would feature a stunning 20 X 116 foot artificial skylight in the center of the sales floor. The skylight consisted of four colors of plexiglass arranged in randomly rising and falling four-sided pyramids almost looking like an optical illusion.

Halle's Belden Village
Closeup view of the pyramid like optical illusion skylight.

In addition to being one of the most appealing retail outlets in the area, the Halle Brothers also stressed that one of the most important factors to running a successful operation was the quality of service. And they would make sure of this at their Belden Village store. Out of a near 700 applicants for jobs, they selected only the top 120.

Complaint Department – Merry Go Round

The Merry Go Round store at Rolling Acres Mall definitely had a rather long rap sheet with mall management. In this early complaint, a written warning was finally given from Vivian Poe, the Mall Manager to store employees after multiple verbal warnings were ignored about playing the music too loud.

Rolling Acres Mall Complaint
Written warning from the desk of Vivian Poe.

Through exhaustive research I was finally able to track down the image below via a Merry Go Round Alumni Facebook Group which shows two of the possible perpetrators working at the store in question. The photo was taken near the date of complaint so these two must be considered suspects.

Two Merry Go Round store employees at Rolling Acres Mall in the early 1980s showing signs of obvious guilt and remorse.

In these girls defense they were probably just doing what they were told. There have been many studies on the volumes and genres of music played to retail shoppers. Some studies say that loud music disorients customers, while others say certain types of music makes a customer spend more money. There’s even a theory about how playing music loudly keeps certain age groups out of the stores which would otherwise detract from the target customers experience, which makes perfect sense as I never noticed the loud music when I was younger, but now an older age I steer far clear of these stores.

Blueprint Archive – Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall

Today’s entry to the Blueprint Archive is this lovely sign drawing from Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall. The mall, which was developed by Jacobs, Visconsi & Jacobs would open in 1977 and the Lerner Shops would follow suit shortly after opening in 1978.

architectural drawing euclid square mall
1978 sign drawing for Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall

In the 1970s Lerner Shops had already established themselves as a major player amongst women’s fashion retailers. At one point they were even America’s largest chain of fashion specialists. Held in high regard amongst multiple generations of shoppers, Lerner Shops would offer all of the newest styles to complement any occasions, from  daytime versatile to nighttime alluring, customers knew they could find the look they were after at Lerner.

Lerner Storefront
Though not the Euclid Square store, This image from a 70s Rapid-American Corporation (majority owner of Lerner Shops) annual report shows what the finished storefront may have looked like.

The Euclid Square Mall store would eventually move from space B-252 to the A-156 location where it would remain until closing in the early 2000s.

After its days as a Lerner, the store A-156 would go on to become the Euclid Beach Boys Event Center and Museum which featured memorabilia from local amusement parks Euclid Beach, Geauga Lake, and Chippewa Lake.

Lerner euclid square mall
Store A-156 – Lerner at Euclid Square Mall marked for doom in its final days during the malls demolition.

Higbee’s – Randall Park Mall

In the early 1970s Edward J. DeBartolo was quickly becoming one of the biggest single developers of shopping centers in the country. Already having a strong foothold in the Northeast Ohio market owning and operating Great Lakes Mall, Summit Mall, and Richmond Mall, DeBartolo was planning for something bigger for the area. Something like maybe the biggest shopping mall that anyone had ever seen.

Ed Debartolo Sr.
The king of shopping centers, Edward J. Debartolo and son Eddie more than likely scheming on where to build the next mall.

So in 1973 construction began on Randall Park Mall in North Randall Ohio. The mall would be a massive 2,200,000 square feet and its size would unseat A. Alfred Taubman of the Taubman Company as the “Builder of the World’s Largest Shopping Center” and cement Mr. DeBartolo’s legacy as the true king of mall developers.

Higbee's Randall Park Mall Under Construction
This 1974 image from Higbee’s Annual Report shows the interior construction of Randall Park Mall from the viewpoint of the Higbee’s store entrance.

A shopping center of such grandeur would of course need some pretty remarkable anchor stores, and where better to start than with a Cleveland local, The Higbee Company. Higbee’s, already having been in the business 116 years, had truly blossomed into the area leader in full service department stores when they opened their ninth store at Randall Park in 1976.

Higbee's Randall Adventure Game
Higbee’s Randall Adventure Game featuring the many departments of the store from the Cleveland Plain Dealer Special Randall Park Mall Grand Opening section.

With the Randall Park location, the Higbee Company would look to open their fanciest store yet. A two level store of 195,000 square feet. The upper level of the store would house a complete fashion center for the entire family with departments such as The Signature Shop for men, a complete Designer Shop for women featuring many of the top brands, a Pro Shop for sports clothing, and of course the Junior Area and Student Shop for the kids.

Make a name for yourself in the Higbee’s Signature Shop for Men.
Higbee's Footwear department
Fancy footwear for the ladies from all the best brands.

On the lower level of the store you could find additional departments such as Housewares, Gifts and Gourmets, Books, Toys, and Form & Function, an all new contemporary furniture and home accessory shop which borrowed strongly from the highly successful Higbee’s Westgate Home Center.

Gifts at Higbee's Randall Park Mall
Gifts and gourmet abound on the lower level of the new Higbee’s at Randall Park Mall.

It’s easy to see how one could get caught up and make a whole day out of a trip to Higbee’s alone. There was even a restaurant, The Racing Silks Dining Room, where customers could stop and have lunch or visit The Pronto Room for a quick coffee or nibble.

Randall Park Higbees restaurant
Fine dining in The Racing Silks Restaurant at Randall Park Mall.

The Fountains of Eastwood Mall

Eastwood Mall logo
The original umbrella logo of Eastwood was meant to represent the unusual umbrella style of ceilings in the complex.

William M. Cafaro, Youngstown native and Chairman of WIlliam M. Cafaro and Associates, the firm that would develop Eastwood Mall in Niles, Ohio had already been constructing shopping centers across the United States for several years. So when it became time to bring a mall into his own backyard, he wanted something extraordinary.

main fountain at Eastwood Mall
This old Postcard depicts the main fountain with colored lighting.

And extraordinary it was. The blueprints alone for the project took ten and a half tons of paper to draw up. The transformer used to power the concourse would be the largest of its kind in the country at that time. The project would use 64,500,000 pounds of concrete, and would feature 120,000 square feet of terrazzo flooring.

Fountain Eastwood Mall Niles Ohio
Two lovely young ladies pose in front of the massive main fountain at Eastwood Mall.

But the highlight of Eastwood Mall would be its extensive fountain system. With more than 12 miles of pipe that would continuously circulate 25,000 gallons of water to the cascading fountains sprawled throughout the mall. The fountains would be considered one of the most lavish creations in the modern shopping world.

Eastwood Mall Fountain
Atlas Cement Ad from 1969, the year Eastwood Mall opened showcasing the umbrella ceilings, terrazzo floor and fountain.

The main fountain would be hailed as one of the most attractive in the nation. Powered by a 60 horsepower pump and an electronic system that would control the cycling of water jets as well as an arrangement of colored lighting to enhance ambience.

John Cafaro, Executive Vice President of William M. Cafaro and Associates would go on to say “There’s no other shopping area in Northeast Ohio or Western Pennsylvania, or any place else in the country for that matter, any more beautiful or convenient to the shopper than Eastwood Mall.”

Eastwood Mall in the 80s
The fountains were still stunning in the 1980s.

The beauty however would not last and in a 1995 remodel the fountains were completely removed and replaced with seating areas, complete with big screen televisions…

Removal of Eastwood Mall fountains
Image showing the mid 90s removal of the fountains at Eastwood Mall.

Though nowhere near as magnificent as it was 50 years ago, the mall is still owned and operated by the Cafaro Corporation and remains somewhat relevant, recently (2017) being named The Best Place in Ohio for Black Friday Shopping by USA Today.