Who killed ma and pa?

People waxing nostalgic for Lawson’s? Really?

Approximate location of our neighborhood ma and pa stores. After Interstate 90 came through, there wasn't much left of the neighborhood.

Approximate location of our neighborhood ma and pa stores. After Interstate 90 came through, there wasn’t much left of the neighborhood.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would post items about Lawson’s on Facebook and gush over how wonderful these ubiquitous chain stores were. After all, they killed the ma and pa stores.

It you want to wax nostalgic, wax nostalgic for something worthwhile; lament the loss of your neighborhood ma and pa stores.

Before Lawson’s came along in the ’60s and plopped down cookie-cutter stores in every neighborhood, peoples’ needs were met by the neighborhood meat market, green grocer or delicatessen. These were a throwback to pre-supermarket days. Some ma and pa stores survived the advent of supermarkets, filling a need at a time when many of us still walked everywhere. Not every household had a car, let alone two. Especially those in inner-city Cleveland.

In our neighborhood, there were two stores side by side on West 41st Street: Huth’s and Hattie’s. Huth’s was a butcher shop (which are also becoming obsolete). I believe Hattie’s had been a green grocer. We were more familiar with the Huth family because they lived a few doors down from us on West 40th Street. All I remember about Hattie’s is that it was run by an elderly woman who wasn’t particularly kind to children and not very sociable in general. Perhaps she had been more personable in her younger years.

We stopped going there altogether after a neighbor boy fell on a broken milk bottle in front of her store. He was bleeding profusely from a large wound on his torso. Her response was to shoo him away and tell him to go home. Fortunately he made it home alive, leaving a trail of blood and a legacy of resentment. In fairness to the old shopkeeper, she might well have been teetering on the brink of senility at that point of her life.

Huth’s had what it took to keep the neighborhood kids coming in — a front window well-stocked with candy bars and penny candy.

Across the bridge spanning the Rapid Transit and Nickel Plate Railroad tracks were two more stores. I’m not sure of the names, but I think one was called Young’s and the other Bogart’s. They were located catty-corner from one another at West 41st Street and Bailey Avenue. Which meant they had a captive clientele of school children from Orchard Elementary, my alma mater. One was rumored to be running a bookie operation out of the back room.

There goes the neighborhood – another Lawson's store.

There goes the neighborhood – another Lawson’s store.

Even if those rumors were true, no one cared. Back then, the phrase “mind your own business” meant something. Besides, it was all the better if a few extracurricular enterprises kept some of the ma and pa stores in business after Lawson’s and similar operations came in.

Here’s another reason to dislike Lawson’s. In the ’70s, I knew people who worked at one of the stores in the suburb of Parma. They were paid less than minimum wage. Apparently management circumvented the law by classifying the store as a restaurant — because employees made sandwiches for customers.

For these and other reasons, you won’t find me waxing nostalgic for Lawson’s. Waxing nauseous maybe.


3 thoughts on “Who killed ma and pa?

  1. As Mark Twain (almost) said, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” (Actually, the real quote was, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”) Love, Irv Jr.


  2. Pingback: Will dollar stores nickel and dime them to death? | IRV OSLIN

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