The King Is Here! – Chess King

Menswear took a hard turn in the 60’s. Gone were the days of Rock Hudson and Carey Grant. Young men were discovering new fashion role models in the likes of Robert Plant, Jimi Hendrix and I guess maybe the Beetles, maybe. It may have taken them a second, but the powers that be started to understand that young men who wanted to be in the know were more than willing to part with their hard earned cash to do so. Being one of the firsts to capitalize on this notion was a shoe business. In 1968 Melville Shoe Company went beyond just shoes for the first time and they hit a gold mine.

Chess King Store
The king is here! Long live the king!

Chess King was tailored across the board to the younger generation. The basic idea seemed to be who better to keep the company on trend then the clients themselves. The main offices and distribution headquarters were all staffed by young adults and in the stores, managers were barely out of there teens. The manager of the first Chess King opened in Dedham Mall, was a 19 year old fellow by the name of Paul Harris.

Chess King Storefront

Stores were designed to be as cozy as the basements kids would hang out in. Barn wood paneling on the walls, bold carpeting, the smell of incense burning and loud music. It was all there, with your friends older brother at the helm and the hot chick from school running the counter. And if that wasn’t enough to make you want to stop in and putter around for a while, stages and runways were installed to accommodate live shows. In no way shape or form could it have felt like you were actually shopping. So you may have also picked up a new pair of bell bottoms or blew a bit of your savings on that policeman’s overcoat you’d been eying, but it was great, the whole experience was great.

Chess King store shopping
You know you look good if the pretty sales girl at Chess King tells you look good.

Chess King never really looked to future fashions because someone, probably one the budding staff, understood that’s not how most teens operated. Young men wanted to buy clothes that were in, clothes that they’d seen on tv or in magazines, pieces they already knew they wanted. They weren’t looking to be sold on the next big trend, they just wanted to stop by and pick up a new shirt, maybe a medallion. If they found themselves needed something fancy, Chess King also carried three-piece vested suits, or a leather jacket may have been more their speed. Whatever you needed from slacks to flannels Chess King was the place to get it.

Chess King Clothes

Melville Shoe Corporation successfully opened a total of 6 stores in it’s first year and almost quadrupled that number within the next year. By 1975, there were a total of 252 Chess King stores in operation from north to south, east to west, all over the US, including Puerto Rico.

Chess King Pants

By the time Melville decided it was time to strategically reduce it’s operations, there were enough Chess King stores that it almost doubled Merry-Go-Round’s retail outlets when they purchased Chess King in 1993. The acquisition of Chess King would also send Merry-Go-Round’s sales from the high millions to over a billon dollars.

Chess King Mall

More Chess King at Mallwalkers:
Chess King Rocks – A look at failed ad campaign involving washed up rock stars.



Walk Like a Man, Dress Like a Monkee at Penney’s

In 1966 Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork (better known as The Monkees) had became pop music idols, television superstars, and international sensations. The boys were also becoming fashion icons with their English-Cowboy-Mod styles. Kids wanted to look their idols on TV and needed an outlet find these new fashions.

Monkees JCPenney Photo Shoot
The lads looking quite dapper in the JCPenney “Monkees Collection”.

Seeing the demand for this new fashion JCPenney teamed with Screen Gems to launch their new “Monkees Collection”. This new collection would feature double breasted vests with coordinating wool hats, tapered floral print shirts, buckled shoes, and of course super-tight trousers.

Monkees JCPenney Catalog
The Summer 1967 Penney’s catalog offered kids the chance to look like their favorite Monkee.

Also in 1966, producers were putting the finishing touches on the new Monkees album “More of The Monkees”. Penney’s thought that the release of the new album would be the perfect time to release their new clothing line. Hoping to cross-promote, Penney’s hired photographer Bernard Yeszin to do a photoshoot of the boys wearing clothes from the Monkees Collection.

The photos were supposed to be used exclusively for promotion of JCPenney however one of the pictures ended up being used for the cover of the new album. This was great for Penney’s, as kids could go to the store and get the exact clothes that their idols were wearing on the new album. The Monkees however weren’t very especially keen to the new album cover. They had hoped to use the album to help project their cool and eccentric look. Instead there they were, dressed in somewhat ordinary clothes from JCPenney.

More of the Monkees album cover
More of the Monkees would spend 18 weeks at number one.

Mickey and Davy were especially upset with the album cover. Davy later said in an interview that he had never seen the album until a young fan presented it to him asking him to autograph it. A confused Davy asked her what it was and she replied that it was his new album.

JCPenney Monkees newspaper ad

Either way it worked out for The Monkees and Penney’s. The album would spend 18 weeks at number one which would be the longest of any Monkees album. The clothing line enjoyed initial success and plans were made to develop a new section of the store known as Monkee Corner. This new section would see the addition of more Monkees styled clothing such as shoes and wallets. There was even plans for a girls line of Monkees clothing by legendary London designer Mary Quant.

But alas it wasn’t meant to be. By fall 1967 Monkees merchandise sales were plummeting and the plug was pulled on Monkee-Mania. There’s not even a mention of Monkee anything in Penney’s 1967 Christmas Catalog.

The monkees love Kellogg's
The Monkees shill for Kelloggs from the classic TV show.

Though the Monkees could be considered sellouts from the beginning, I still love them none the less. The music is great and just hearing the theme from the show instantly puts me in a good mood.

“Everything is as it is in this world and we either accept it or frustrate”
-Peter Tork


External Links

Monkees Live Almanac – Great Monkees fan site with lots of fun things Monkee related.

Monkees on YouTube – A playlist of all the classic episodes.

Greetings From The Clock of the Nations at Midtown Plaza

In downtown Rochester, New York, shoppers were growing weary of the perils that came with downtown shopping, such as dealing with traffic and endlessly searching for parking spot. Not to mention the city’s aging commercial district was beginning to look a little run down. Couple these problems with the wave of trendy new shopping centers that were beginning to pop up in nearly every suburb and it wasn’t before long that customers, along with their dollars were beginning to leave the city. This left urban business owners and local civic leaders with the big question of how can they keep people shopping downtown?

This image of downtown Rochester shows congested traffic, lack of parking, and large crowds. All of which had people driving to the suburbs to do their shopping.

In 1956, the presidents of two local department stores (Gilbert McCurdy of McCurdy’s Department Store and Maurice Forman of the B. Forman Company) got together and decided it was time for a private initiative to revitalize downtown Rochester. Their initial plan was to buy up land adjacent from their stores to add additional downtown parking. They hoped the additional parking along with major renovations to each of their stores would begin to restore their fleeting customer base.

The team brought in world renown architect and design Victor Gruen to lead the project. Gruen and his associates came and performed a long-term evaluation of not just the site, but the whole southeastern core of the city. Gruen’s conclusion was that to compete with the rise of suburban centers, downtown Rochester would need much more would than just a parking garage. The city needed a complete revitalization to it’s core, and this started with constructing a massive new urban center that would feature a mix of office space and commercial business. Now he just needed to convince not just McCurdy and Forman, but also city government that his 20 million dollar project of Midtown Plaza would be a boom to the city by generating new tax dollars and by increasing the value of neighboring real estate.

Victor Gruen – Architect, Designer, and a man of words.

McCurdy and Forman bought in, city government also quickly jumped onboard and decided to help out by agreeing to build a nine million dollar, three level parking garage with the capacity for nearly 2,000 cars directly beneath the project.

Midtown Plaza would be anchored on the northern side by two well-established and newly remodeled department stores along with the 500 room Manger Hotel. At the opposite side the plaza is the new Midtown Plaza Tower, Rochester’s tallest building at the time. The first fourteen floors of the tower house over 250,000 square feet of office space with the top four floors of the tower occupied by the upscale Top of the Tower Hotel and Restaurant where patrons could take in the cityscapes while dining from above.

At the heart of the plaza lies the Midtown Plaza Mall. A completely enclosed and climate controlled shopping center and gathering place for the community. The stores in the mall were hand selected and carefully screened to attract a more sophisticated clientele than most suburban shopping centers. There were, for example, more high-quality clothing stores and no five-and-dimes.

Midtown Mall Postcard
Greetings from Midtown Plaza Mall. This old postcard The Clock of the Nations at the heart of the absolutely stunning mall.

In addition to the variety of stores, the court of the mall would also feature a sidewalk café, a lighted fountain, and of course the Clock of the Nations. This sculpted timepiece was specially designed to be contemporary version of the centuries old animated clocks of Europe and would be the only one of its kind in the entire nation. Originally drawn on the back of an envelope by Gere Kavanaugh, a member of the Gruen and Associates staff. The concept was then passed along to sculptor Dale Clark to bring to life the vision that was to become the focal point of the mall.

Dale Clark Clock of the Nations
Sculptor Dale Clark in arrives at Midtown Plaza in working clothes ready to reassemble his remarkable timepiece.

Clark was a former Lockheed engineer turned sculptor, who at the time was living on a sailboat in Long Beach, California. He and a team of twelve craftsmen built the mechanical sculpture on a barge adjoining to his sailboat. They completely built the clock from the ground up by experimentation, with Clark even fabricating much of the internal machinery himself. Despite all this work, Clark and his team managed to complete the sculpture in just over three months. The parts were then shipped to Rochester and reassembled just in time for Midtown Plaza’s formal dedication.

Onlookers gaze in amazement as the puppets dance to the music of different nations.

The center would open in 1962 and The Clock of the Nations was an immediate hit. Crowds came in amazement to view the 28 foot tall timepiece that had a dozen revolving stages, each with its own costumed dolls, scenery, and music that represented different nations. There is a nation for each hour. Ireland at 1, Puerto Rico at 2, Scotland at 3, Japan at 4, Thailand at 5, Poland at 6, Italy at 7, Canada at 8, Germany at 9, Israel at 10, Nigeria at 11, and the United States at 12. On each hour and half hour one of the stages would open and the costumed dolls would dance to that countries music. Each 12 hours at midday and at midnight all 12 stages open and all of the dolls would dance to an American march tune.

Greetings from The Clock of the Nations – This old postcard shows a midday show at Midtown Plaza Mall.

The wonderous clock certainly wasn’t without its fair share of problems though, there were times when the wrong music would play, the puppets wouldn’t dance, or the whole thing would just stop working. And the big problem though was that nobody really knew how to fix it. Each repair to the clock would require the maintenance staff to use the same level of experimentation that Clark used in it’s design.

With a football field sized climate controlled court the Midtown Plaza Mall was a community gathering spot.

Over time other attractions came to the Midtown Plaza Mall. In 1968 a working  children’s monorail was installed and operated every year for Christmas. The mid 70s saw a genuine 25 foot tall totem pole constructed by two Native American craftsmen to celebrate the centers fifteen year anniversary. But throughout that time it was the mighty Clock of the Nations that remained the focal point of the mall with locals often using it as a meeting spot.

Clock of the nations ralph avery
A beautiful illustration by Ralph Avery shows The Clock of the Nations.

Even with it’s many features, the mall like so many other centers, fell out of fashion. During the mall’s final years of operation it’s once prestigious directory of stores was reduced down to a Peeble’s, Foot Locker, Radio Shack, and a dollar store.

In October 2007 it was announced that the Midtown Plaza would be demolished to make way for the brand new PAETEC headquarters. A year later the mall would close its doors for the last time.

Midtown Plaza Mall Totem Pole
The magnificent totem pole that once adorned the court in Midtown Plaza Mall

But what would become of the monorail? The totem pole? The clock? These were such a huge part of the lives of nearly everyone who had grown up in Rochester.

One man, Louis Perticone wanted to save them all. His plan was to rebuild the entire center square of the Midtown Plaza Mall in his warehouse/art gallery known as Artisanworks. He wanted the space to be used similarly to a banquet hall, where parties, meetings, and weddings could be held. Though an amazing idea, his plan lacked the finances and space required for such a project.

Monorail cars on display at New York Transportation Museum – Image via Genesee Valley Money Saver

A couple of the monorail cars eventually found their way to the New York Museum of Transportation where they are on display but will sadly never run again due to modern electrical codes. The totem pole was donated to the Seneca Park Zoo.

Clock of the Nations at Rochester Airport – Image via Back Roads Traveller

The clock was transported to Rochester Airport which would be its temporary home while the clock underwent a massive $100,000 electrical and mechanical repair project. It’s final home was to be Golisano Children’s Hospital where it could go back on public display but the hospital changed their minds and decided they didn’t want it. The airport had its own renovations project and they didn’t really want it either. So it was placed in storage where it remains to this day, sadly tucked away and out of the public view.


External Links

Louis Perticone’s ARTISANworks – Louis is still trying to obtain The Clock of the Nations to display at his gallery. Hopefully someday his vision comes true.

Tom the Backroads Traveler Blog – Blog with some wonderful pictures of The Clock of the Nations on display at Rochester Airport.

New York Museum of Transportation – Visit the Midtown Mall monorail cars on display.

Building an Icon – Rolling Acres Mall

In 1964, on Akron’s west side, The DeBartolo Corporation was building the city’s first enclosed shopping center, Summit Mall. On the northeast side, Akronite Richard B. Buchholzer had partnered with Cleveland developers Forest City Enterprises and was in the beginning stages of building Chapel Hill Mall. Malls were going up everywhere across the country and it only seemed logical that Akron’s south side would be next. When studies showed the demand existed and with major department stores showing interest in the area, Buchholzer and Forest City concluded that the time to start planning Akron’s third major mall was now.

Two years later the group would settle on a 260 acre site on Romig Road located in the city’s southwest corner. The initial plan was to build a near twin to Chapel Hill. A single layer shopping mall flanked by two anchor department stores. In the acreage surrounding the center the group panned to build a 200 suite motel, medical and office buildings, and some 900 apartment units.

This artists rendering of Rolling Acres Shopping Center showcases Forest City Enterprises second major Akron project – a twin to the already existing Chapel Hill Mall – in which an 800,000 square foot center bordered by apartments and office buildings.

But Rolling Acres wasn’t the only shopping center being planned for the area. In the nearby city of Barberton a group was planning the Austin Mall Development, a smaller enclosed mall that would be surrounded by a new housing development.

Both projects faced major setbacks from area residents with many believing that the shopping centers would reek havoc on downtown retail in both Akron and Barberton. It was also thought that a shopping center would stunt downtown urban renewal projects.

Though Rolling Acres and Austin Mall were both eventually given the green light for rezoning, the Austin Mall never materialized.

The architectural rendering shows the first phase of Forest City’s development at Rolling Acres. Forest city also owned 127 adjacent acres which they had planned for commercial and high density residential.

After years of delays, construction at Rolling Acres would finally get underway in 1973. The shopping center was built in two phases. The first phase being the malls main level and the initial two department stores. The second phase would be the addition of a promenade level and three more department stores.

Original development plan for Phase I of Rolling Acres Mall shows the main level of the mall and plans for a future lower level.

The full first year of construction was spent grading the rugged landscape and transforming it into a workable site so the foundation of the mall could be laid. Once the initial foundation was in the rest of the project took only eleven months to complete.

Rolling Acres was nearing its opening. All of the years of planning and manpower put into the construction were finally becoming clear and the end result was truly beautiful. A modern wonder of retail was finally coming to life.

An excited Ray Kapper who was Chairman of the Planning Committee, speaks to The Beacon Journal on construction finally getting started at Rolling Acres.

Prior to the malls opening there was a special preview ceremony and private reception held at the mall where Rev. V. Stan Hampson pronounced the blessing of the mall and consecration of The Court of the Twelve Trees using a thousand year old Hawaiian chant.

After the mall was given it’s blessing, Ruth Ballard, wife of former Akron mayor John Ballard gave a champagne christening for the spectacular fountain that sat at the center of The Court of the Twelve Trees underneath a massive spaceframe skylight.

Some of the lucky group that was privy to the mall preview celebration.

At long last, the big day had finally arrived. The grand opening. The original twenty stores would be a perfect representation to the company’s philosophy of meeting the needs and demands of shoppers of all ages and incomes. A family could spend the whole day at the mall, take in a movie at the cinema, let the kids play video games at Play Palace, and then cap the day with dinner at Der Dog Haus.

Rolling Acres Mall Grand Opening
Rolling Acres adopted RA, The Friendly Giant as their mascot. Named after the Egyptian sun god, RA would appear in many advertisements throughout the early years. He even made an appearance at the grand opening.

The opening was a success. New stores would open on a near weekly basis. In addition to this success, Rolling Acres was also becoming more than just a retail outlet, the mall was becoming a center of community activity with special activities and events ranging from meeting Santa or the Easter Bunny, to meeting celebrities such as the Budweiser Clydesdales or getting to ring a life-size replica of the Liberty Bell. There was always fun to be had at Rolling Acres and the community loved it.

Rolling Acres Entrance
Originally posted by Tony Parks in the Rolling Acres Mall Memories Facebook group, this photo shows the entrance how it may have appeared at its opening.

Riding high off their achievement of a successful phase I it was now time for the company to turn its attention to phase II. But that’s a story for another time. Stay tuned!

Need to feed your nostalgic Rolling Acres craze? Be sure and check out this video walkthrough of the mall.

Could Things Have Been Different For Euclid Square Mall?

Originally constructed in 1977, Euclid Square Mall was certainly never the Cleveland area’s biggest or most flashy mall, but it most certainly deserved a better fate than it would eventually suffer.

Could things have been different? Maybe. Let’s look back at some times that could have possibly changed the fate of Euclid Square Mall.

Euclid Square Mall Entrance
Entrance to Euclid Square Mall – Image credit Nicholas Eckhart’s wonderful Flickr account.

In late December of 1997, The Zamias Services Company would close a deal on the  purchase of ten mall properties from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Included in the deal were Euclid Square Mall and 9 other malls scattered throughout the eastern and midwestern states. With the deal the company was looking to grow their already impressive portfolio of 35 shopping centers.

At the time of purchase, Euclid Square Mall was still a somewhat respectable center with vacancy rates at 15%. Though these numbers were below average for the Cleveland market, they were still nowhere near as bad as the 29% vacancy rate at nearby Richmond Mall or the 31% rate at Randall Park Mall.

Renovations at Euclid Square Mall

Renovations at Euclid Square Mall
With Simon-DeBartolo already renovating the nearby Richmond Mall could a swanky facelift have saved Euclid Square?

In an effort to improve the vacancy numbers at Euclid Square, Zamias Services did a study of the mall which looked at multiple renovation and redevelopment plans for the property. Some of these plans included a complete renovation, a conversion to a power center, completely demolishing the mall and repurposing the site into an apartment community, and one plan even looked at turning the site into a golf course.

Euclid Square Mall as a Power Center
For better or for worse, the power center idea never unfolded.

Sadly, none of these ideas ever came to fruition. One year later the mall would lose a major anchor when Kaufmann’s would relocate to the nearby and newly renovated Richmond Mall. This loss would only help contribute to the soon to be rapid rise in vacancy.

Euclid Square Mall Directory
This 1999 mall directory shows there was still some life left.

Even after losing an anchor there still may have been a chance of turning the place around as the mall still had some signs of life but by 1999 it had seemed that Zamias Services had given up. Shortly later in 2000 Zamias would sell the mall to North Carolina real estate investor Haywood Wichard.

Haywood not only looked like a business class villain from an 80s movie, he also played the part to near perfection. He cared zero about the mall, the jobs it created, or the people that worked there. He cared only about one thing and that was turning a profit on his investment. Mr. Wichard was quoted in the Plain Dealer as saying “We are willing to sit there and hold it until a use comes along. Somebody will come along eventually who will need that property.”

Haywood Richard Euclid Squares Death Nemesis
Haywood Wichard – Was he wise to not dump money into the mall or is he the reason the mall doesn’t exist today?

In just a year under Haywood Wichard’s ownership vacancy rates soared to 87%. By 2002 the mall’s remaining anchor, Dillard’s, converted the store to a clearance center and closed off access to the second level of the store. In 2004 Haywood eventually gave up the idea of ever turning a profit on the property and sold the mall at a loss to local businessman Ted Lichko.

Whereas Haywood Wichard seemed like a villain, Ted Lichko seemed like the unlikely hero that Euclid Square needed to save it from certain doom. Lichko was mostly known operating United Furniture but also was in the business of purchasing run-down brick apartment buildings and rehabbing them into safe, affordable housing. He had even bought and turned around Conneaut Shopping Center so it seemed like he could really make this happen.

Lichko’s first plan was to fill the other vacant anchor store. His idea was Outlets USA. Despite the name, Outlets USA was not your typical factory outlet, but more of an upscale flea market set in a department store consisting of a gallery of vendors selling wares such as furniture, cigarette lighters, tires, and scratch and dent appliances. Outlets USA would feature 150 spaces for vendors on the first level of the former Kaufmann’s store and if that was filled up they would open up the second level.

Outlets USA Euclid Square Mall
Outlets USA – Not just an outlet shopping mall.

Next, Lichko would focus on revitalizing the mall’s interior. His first order of business was to reactivate the beautiful fountain system. He put his team to work to clean up the mall interior and get the stores into move-in ready condition. Lichko hoped that the mall could rebound by using a “main street” mix of offices and stores. Lichko even had educational organizations evaluating areas of the mall as potential business school campus.

One of Lichko’s first orders of business as the malls new owner was to reactivate the malls beautiful fountain system.

Initially Lichko’s plan would pay off. Outlets USA’s grand opening weekend would attract nearly 13,000 customers. One of the food vendor’s, “The Dog House” actually ran out wieners! It was a hit and customers even commented to the Plain Dealer on how great it was for the mall to be back open and about how wonderful the mall looked.

The success however wouldn’t last. Outlets USA would close just two years after opening, with Litchko citing that the vendors were a bad mix with the mall. And just like that, the mall was headed back on it’s course of failure.

A shuttered Outlets USA at Euclid Square Mall – Image via Nicholas Eckhart’s wonderful Flickr account.

And that is basically the end of the line for Euclid Square. Though it did have somewhat of a resurgence as a place of worship. In 2013 there were as many as 24 different churches located in the mall. However in 2013 the mall also lost it’s last retail client when the Dillard’s Clearance finally closed its doors.

In late 2017 the mall would eventually meet its doom after many years struggle.

In 2016 the mall would be condemned by the city of Euclid and a year later demolition would begin.

So, could things have been different for Euclid Square? Maybe. But with fierce competition from upscale centers like Crocker Park and Legacy Village it would be hard to imagine a world where Euclid Square would still be a successful shopping mall. Heck, even Richmond Mall who underwent major renovations is now closed.



Will that be on your O’Neil’s card today?

In today’s world it’s hard to imagine life without the convenience of credit cards. But it wasn’t until the early 1900s when stores would begin issuing tokens to only their best and wealthy customers. These customers would be given the convenience of presenting their tokens to sales associates at checkout and then be billed at the end of the month, much the same as modern credit accounts.

Charga-Plate employee
Grace Wallace, an employee at Charga-Plates happily operates a notching machine to make new cards for customers.

By 1929 charge accounts would account for nearly half of all retail sales for stores who offered them. It wasn’t long after in 1935 that a standardized card based bookkeeping system known as Charga-Plate would gain popularity. Similar in look to a soldiers ‘dog tag’ these new plates would be notched with the customers name and address. The plate would simply be placed in a machine with a charge slip placed on top and then a ink ribbon would imprint the customers information onto the charge slip.

Employees of O'Neil's Akron preparing the new Charga-Plate system

In 1946, The Charga-Plate system would come to Akron, Ohio. The M. O’Neil Company, Polsky’s, and Yeager’s would all adopt the system and issue an Akron Charga-Plate which customers could use at any of the three stores.

Akron Ohio Charga Plate
Back side of an Akron Charga-Plate. These cards would be good at the three largest downtown Akron department stores.

O’Neil’s would continue to use the system up to the late 50s when they would establish their own line of store credit cards. These new cards would closely resemble the credit cards we are familiar with today though they would function similarly to the Charga-Plate with rollers imprinting the face of the card onto a sales receipt via carbon copy paper. This is the reason that some credit cards still have raised numbers to this day.

Vintage O'Neil's charge card
A 70’s era O’Neil’s charge card courtesy of Leo Noser.

In 1969 the magnetic strip on the back of credit cards would be developed by IBM who still consider the invention one of their 100 greatest contributions to society. Initially this new technology was much to expensive and it wasn’t until the 1980s that many company’s went away from the imprint style machines to the new magnetic strips.

Now with just a swipe of a card an electronic machine would send the customers information to the card issuers computer and within seconds the computer could verify if the customer had sufficient credit to complete the sale.

Oneils charge advertisement akron ohio
Charge it at O’Neil’s Rolling Acres.

Customer’s at O’Neil’s would continue to swipe their cards until 1988 when owner The May Company would merge their O’Neils division into May Co. Cleveland and over time rebrand the stores as May Company.


The Joseph Horne Company Enters the Cleveland Market

In 1976 The Joseph Horne Company would open their second Ohio store and their first in the Cleveland market at the brand new Randall Park Mall. Though they were considered the new kid on the block in Cleveland, The Joseph Horne company had already been in business for 127 years with 13 stores in the Pittsburgh area as well as a branch location in Youngstown.

Though the Joseph Horne Company was part of the much larger Associated Dry Goods Company the move was still considered “gutsy” as the Cleveland market already featured retail heavyweights such as Higbee’s, The May Company, The Halle Brothers, JCPenney, and Sears.

Joseph Horne Company Randall Park Mall
Architectural rendering of the future Joseph Horne Company at Randall Park Mall – Image via Cleveland Public Library Image Collection.

Looking to make a splash, The Joseph Horne Company spent nearly 3 years on design  and construction of the Randall Park store making sure to place extra emphasis on the stores interior design quality. After all, what better way to accentuate the quality of the items being sold than to show them off in the most attractive environments and settings?

Joseph Horne Randall Park Mall
Exterior at Joseph Horne Company, Randall Park Mall

When finally completed the store would be sheer elegance from top to bottom with genuine wool carpets, real teak wood floors imported from Bangkok, velvet wallcoverings, brass accents, and in one area gold leaf molding around the ceiling.

The company’s hard work would pay-off though. On the stores opening day busloads of people jammed the aisleways to get their first look at the new kid from Pittsburgh. It was so busy there were lines just to get in. One frustrated shopper was quoted in The Plain Dealer as saying “What good is it to come to a store if you can’t even get in?”.

Joseph Horne storefront
One of the interior entrance’s to the Joseph Horne Company at Randall Park Mall – Image via Pinterest

Just inside the stores main entrance shoppers would find the men’s sportswear department with light ash wood cabinets and wall trim and a pattern of burgundy and gold carpet squares.

The stores central core would house a 58 foot bay area where two escalators would carry shoppers to different departments on each level of the store. This area would be dominated by a 23 foot high crystal chandelier. The chandelier would take 4 months to build and weigh in at a lofty 2,300 pounds with 1,900 of that in crystal alone. Dark mirrors would line the walls surrounding the escalator to reflect the lights of the chandelier throughout the escalator well.

The massive at chandelier at Horne’s weighed over a ton!

Directly beneath the chandelier was the cosmetics department which had a geometrically designed carpet of brown and white color.

From cosmetics following along the herringbone patterned teak wood path would bring you to the nearby accessories department, where shoppers would find handbags, jewelry, and scarfs all showcased in a Brazilian Rosewood display cabinet trimmed in brass.

Joseph Horne COmpany
Accessories department at Joseph Horne Company Randall Park store. – Image via Stores of the Year

The houseware’s department would feature a sunny yellow tile quarried in California. The area also had display racks made of butcher block and knotty pine and an 8×8 copper hood to showcase the stores wide assortment of brass pots and pans.

Joseph Horne Company store
Houseware’s department at Joseph Horne’s. – Image via Stores of the Year

In the juniors department walls were lined with mirrors and accented with neon. A large white neon “JR” would be a beacon shining bright to indicate the departments target age group and lure young customers in.

Hornes junior department
Plenty of mirrors and neon in the juniors department at Horne’s Randall Park store. – Image via Stores of the Year

Even the dressing rooms at Joseph Horne’s had an extra touch of class, with louvered doors trimmed with brass “S” shaped handles.

If that weren’t enough, the store also boasted a restaurant on the third level, Josephine’s Eating and Drinking Emporium, that could seat 150. With an impressive collection of art and antiques along and plenty of window seating to offer patrons breathtaking views of the North Randall countryside, Josephine’s was the perfect dinner spot to wind down a long afternoon of shopping.

Some of the fine dinner values available at Josephine’s Eating & Drinking Emporium.

Waiter! I’ll take the Quiche Lorraine please.

A Look into the World of Spencer Gifts – 1974

When I think of Spencer Gifts I think of lava lamps, strobe lights, Farrah Fawcet posters, cheesy sexual themed games and “gifts”. One think I don’t really think of however is catalogs. But that’s how things all started for Max Spencer Adler when he founded Spencer Gifts in 1947, by selling mail order novelty items via catalog.

What comes to mind when I think of Spencer Gifts – Image Credit: u/darkoffice on Reddit

I recently happened upon one of these catalogs from 1974 and thought I would share a few of my favorite items, some of which I honestly wish I could still purchase today.

Take this portable flamethrower for example. At just $9.95 I would honestly look forward to going outside and clearing the sidewalks if I had one of these! So light and easy to use you can clear sidewalks one-handed.

Spencer gifts flamethrower
The Amazing Low-Cost Jiffy-Jet Flame Gun. Actually outperforms more costly foreign made flame guns.

Or perhaps these 20/20s? In a day where we put so much strain on our eyes straining at computer screens and cell phones maybe a pair of these could actually help in adjusting to reading fine print. I’m honestly somewhat interested in how these work. I really do want to try a pair.

Spencer Gifts 70s ad
Reading Marvels. Helps read fine print and far away signs!

Here’s one you don’t see anymore and probably for a good reason. The old fuzzy toilet seat. A great idea in theory until Uncle Bob comes over and has a few too many beers and his aim starts to diminish. Then your left with a wet, smelly, stained, but cozy toilet seat. Sure you can wash them, but they’re just never the same after.

Fuzzy toilet seat cover
The Furry Toilet Seat Cover – Soft as a cloud.

After eating 4 sausages, a hearty serving of corn, and crinkle cut carrots with peas you probably wont feel much like doing the dishes. No problem! With this new 3-way skillet you can cook everything in the same pan! And it’s non-stick! I would be stunned if there isn’t still something like this on the market. Seems perfect for one of the “As Seen on TV” stores.

The 3-Way Skillet – perfect for baby food or left overs.

And once you drive down 4 sausages your waistline might take a bit of a hit. No worries, just slap on the midriff belt to control unsightly bulges and “bay windows”. Thankfully they’ve finally done away with that annoying crotch piece.

Not just for women anymore. The midriff belt adjust for a perfect fit.

This is honestly my favorite item in the catalog. A pre-seeded 15 foot carpet of flowers for a buck? How cool is this? I would buy this for myself and as a gift probably even at a significantly higher price.

Roll out the carpet! 15 feet of flowers for a dollar.

You’ve just done up your hair and want to go check on your flower carpet. But look, it’s raining outside. No problem. Laugh in the face of those thunderstorms and protect your hair at the same time in this fashionable see-thru bonnet. Surely there must still be a market for this out there. Bring it back!

Even a high bouffant is spared with the fashionable rain bonnet from spencer gifts.

Amazingly there were no strobe lights or lava lamps in this catalog but there was still this classic. The fiber optic flower globe. I had nearly ever other weird lighting accessory available  from Spencer’s growing up except this one. I feel like I owe it to myself to finally find one. eBay here I come…

Spencer gifts lights
Dim the lights and let the radiant vision enchant you!

Nearly 75 years later, Spencer Gifts no longer offers their mail-in catalog. But it’s hard to deny the novelty chains success while so many other retail chains have failed.

Blueprint Archive – Radio Shack at Mellett Mall

Mellett Mall (later Canton Centre) in Canton, Ohio would open for business in 1965 and shortly after in 1968 Radio Shack would follow suit and sign their first lease with the mall. At the time of opening, Radio Shack’s offerings included the sale and servicing of high fidelity stereos, citizen band radios (CB), televisions, tape recorders, and electronic components, equipment and supplies.

Radio Shack Blueprint
1984 elevation drawing for the Radio Shack store at Mellett Mall.

In 1984 Radio Shack looked to move its store to a new location and they would land next to Abbott’s Cards and Gifts in the malls east wing which was anchored by Montgomery Ward. The blueprint pictured is the architect’s elevation drawing and floor plan for that relocation.

Radio Shack Mellett Mall
Image showing the completed Radio Shack storefront in the malls east wing.

In 2001 Montgomery Ward would go bankrupt and close their store at the mall putting the future of the entire wing of the mall in jeopardy. Under new management the land that the east wing stood on was sold to Walmart.

Despite multiple attempts from mall management to relocate, Radio Shack would stay in this location until the wing was closed for demolition forcing management to terminate their lease.

Canton Centre Mall Directory
Canton Centre Mall Directory. The General Cinema Theatre as well as the entire Wards wing would be demolished in 2004.

Interestingly, the malls breaking of the lease with Radio Shack would end up costing ownership 40,000 dollars due to a clause in the original lease.

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.