Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rusine's Part 1

Rusine's sign still above 822 Broadway
I've said it many times: the best part of doing this blog is getting emails from people who want to share some of their Lorain memories.

Robert Rusine recently emailed me with some great reminisces about his father, and the business that his father ran for many years that should be familiar to many Lorainites: Rusine's. 

"My father, Mike Rusine, operated our bookstore on Broadway," said Robert. "Our store sold cigarettes at the cheapest price in town, along with books, cards, Russell Stover's candy, Buxton wallets, and even Dunhill smoking accessories.

"We had the largest collection of books, tobacco pipes, comic books and candy bars of any store in the county. The Cleveland Press delivered their evening addition, the last edition, on the Cleveland Lorain Highway Coach."

Why was that edition so popular?

As Robert explained, "Customers would line up to buy it because it contained the numbers, the winning numbers for those who played the numbers."

The bookstore at 822 Broadway as it looks today
Robert also told me about a little game his father used to play with some of his customers. "He would have the customer roll the dice, double or nothing, to get the hardbound book for free or pay two times the cover price."

It was a colorful time in Lorain's past, and the customers at Rusine's would fit in perfectly in a Damon Runyon short story.

"We knew all the customers at our bookstore," explained Robert, "by their first names or nicknames. There was Carter Hall, Peachy John, Bull Durham, IBX, Burnt Toast and Speedy. Many of them were retired pensioners from United States Steel plant, or habitual gamblers. Others were pimps or prostitutes, and alcoholics who frequented the bars in the area."

There was also a particular clientele who favored the girlie-type magazine: the men who sailed the cargo ships on the Great Lakes who found themselves in Lorain.

"It was interesting for us, as the six kids of Mike, who waited on the customers in my dad's store as we grew up," noted Robert.

Christmas time was a good time to promote the store, and Robert and his siblings did their part, although some of their marketing tactics would be frowned upon today.

"Each year just before Christmas, my brother and I would distribute ads for candy and greeting cards from our store, by placing them in the mailboxes in the entire area," he recalled, "and also in the cars parked throughout downtown Lorain, by opening car doors and placing the ad on the front seat!

"One time we couldn't get the door of the car closed. It would not budge. So we took the advertisement off the seat of the car. Try doing some of these kinds of things today!"

According to Robert, his father was a real visionary. "My dad foresaw that people did not like to pay at the meters on Broadway. He had an architect design a plan for downtown renewal. It contained a parking garage for free parking, and anchor stores such as the Hudson store which was popular at the time. It would have been built, of course, before the Midway Mall and preserved downtown as an ongoing business district. However, no one took notice even though he placed the architect's design in our store window."

It sounds like Mike Rusine's idea was ahead of its time.

Next: Rusine's other business


-Alan D Hopewell said...

I had the priviledge of helping sell off the final inventory of Rusine's, back in '88-89; it took well over a year of weekends, and was almost like an archeological dig, so many years accumulation of books, magazines, products, everything from candy bars to a miniature cold cut slicer was stashed away in that store, and sold bit by bit by his son-in-law, and his assistants, myself included.

Prior to that, I was a patron of Rusine's myself, from 1968 until the store closed in the 80's.

Anonymous said...

I had the honor of being personally kicked out of this store when I was a teenager by old man Rusine himself (for looking at those "girlie" magazines). He even caled me a pervert!

Randall C. said...

Wow - I remember Rusine's - How could I forget the smell of tobacco and musty old paperbacks. I used to love stopping in after church on Sundays with my father. We would walk over from St. John's UCC on 7th & Reed and he would keep me close for fear I would "discover" the girlie magazines. He wasn't with me when I would wander over there after my Saturday morning Confirmation classes though. My how times have changed, somehow I can't imagine a Starbucks inside Rusines.

Jennifer said...

Hello my name is Jennifer and I am the granddaughter of Michael and Elizabeth Rusine. This 2013 Christmas I am sending out Christmas cards to family and friends that were sold long ago at Rusine's store. With a flip of the card received this web address will be listed. I would love it if you would post a special thought or memory in their honor. Tomorrow I will be making Grandma Elizabeth's spritz cookies with her other granddaughter Lindsey. As a surprise to Lindsey I will have Grandma's Christmas apron all ready for her to wear. Merry Christmas to all. I love you Grandma and Grandpa.

Dan Brady said...

Hi Jennifer,
Look for a special post on Dec. 23!