|Photo courtesy of the Lorain County Historical Society|
At that time, O'Neil's of Akron was one of the leading department stores in one of American's fastest growing markets. By expanding into Lorain County at a location midway between Lorain and Elyria, O'Neil's hoped to tap into a potential trading area with a population of 200,000.
Despite much talk, the plan to enclose the shopping center never materialized.
The shopping center struggled on through the 1970s. One of the few bright spots during this time period was the Lorain International Festival, which was held annually in the rear parking lot.
By the 1980s, all of the large stores were gone except for May Company (which had replaced O'Neil's in April 1967.) Both supermarkets had moved out and only 22 units were occupied.
In May of 1984 – exactly 30 years after its opening – the shopping center was sold. At the time of its sale, tenants included Olan Mills Studio, WZLE Radio, the Golden Ox restaurant, Januzzi's Select-a-Shoe and J.D. Andrews Men's Clothing.
The new owners hoped to revitalize the shopping center by making it smaller and thus more accessible and convenient for shoppers. A portion of the west wing of stores was demolished and the courtyard was removed. The entire complex was renamed the Centre of Sheffield.
New stores were added, including Finast (1987), Marc's (1990) and Goodyear Tire (1994). Unfortunately the shopping center lost its anchor store when May Company closed.
Today, it is almost impossible to look at the Centre of Sheffield and recognize its 1950s layout and appreciate its role as the first modern shopping center in the area. Nevertheless, many Lorainites will continue to have fond memories of the shopping center as the longtime home of the International Festival, as well as the Talking Christmas Tree.
|The Centre of Sheffield today|