|Portion of 1963 newspaper ad|
During the last few months, I've received several emails from readers suggesting that I do a blog entry on the old Ontario department store. Well, I can't ignore a coincidence like that - so here goes!
I'm sure most Lorain Baby Boomers remember this store. It was located at the intersection of Elyria Avenue and North Ridge Road.
|September 1962 ad from Lorain Journal|
Researching the store and finding out when it opened has proved rather difficult. Since the store really wasn't in Lorain, it was not to be found in the Lorain phone book listings. Like the Dog 'n Suds nearby (which I've seen described variously as being in Sheffield Township, Elyria Township, Lorain, and Elyria), Ontario was kind of in a no-man's land. The best way to describe its location was just past O' Neil's on the way to Midway Mall.
Ontario was one of several department stores back then that my mother might take my siblings and I to on a Saturday afternoon. Another store would be Hills out in South Lorain. (Sorry, but since a trip to Hills might be capped off with a frozen Coke, I am much more sentimental about that store than Ontario!)
Each of these stores had a different personality, based on their line of goods, their location and clientele. For instance, my mother bought a lot of clothes for us at Hills, but never Ontario. In our house at least, Ontario was more for hardware and sporting goods.
Although Ontario didn't show up in the Lorain City Directory until 1968, I know for certain that it was in existence as early as 1962. Here's a full page ad from the Lorain Journal from March 2, 1962. (Give it a click so you can peruse all the great deals!)
Here's what the company logo looked like by 1969.
Note that under the logo it says 'a division of Cook United'. According to this entry on the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History website, Cook United also owned the Uncle Bill's Discount Department Store chain.
Here's an Uncle Bill's commercial that also has Ontario branding at the end.
Strangely enough, I interviewed at Cook United back in the early 1980's. If they had hired me, I might have worked on some Ontario advertisements and got real used to those squiggly-line borders!
Anyway, I dug through the city directories and noticed that Ontario was no longer listed beginning in 1982. If I ever come up with some concrete dates for the store's grand opening and ultimate closing, I'll post them here.
Today, the old Ontario store complex is home to Lorain County Department of Job and Family Services (shown below). It was a great use of the old building, and one of the projects that former Lorain County Commissioner Betty Blair rightfully considered one of her proudest accomplishments that she voted for while a member of the board.
Ontario seems to have been quickly forgotten. I don't think I've ever seen a newspaper article about the conversion of the store complex to the Lorain County Department of Job and Family Services that ever mentions the former tenant of the building by name.
At least the store lives on in our memories. Raleigh, one of the readers of this blog remembers:
"I remember my brother and I used to get our allowance on Fridays, and once we entered the doors of Ontario's, we would make a bee-line to the model car rack. If you can believe it, that was back in the day when the boxes were sealed with two small pieces of scotch tape on either side of the box... and the paint rack.... people had "tested" the color in the can by redecorating the rack with the prospective color."
Thanks for the story suggestion, the help with the Uncle Bill's research and the personal recollection, Raleigh! And if anyone has a specific memory of shopping at Ontario, be sure to post it here in the comments section! Since there is almost nothing at all on the internet about Ontario, this blog post may be all the attention that this fondly remembered store ever gets!