Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hank Kozloski's History of Oberlin Avenue Part 2

Here's the rest of the article from the Lorain Journal of April 2, 1989 written by well-known Journal Staff Writer Hank Kozloski about the history of Oberlin Avenue.

Widening Horizons Part 2
Oberlin Avenue grew from farmland into busy commercial center

Lowell Knizell, of the Lorain city engineer's department, observed that the widening has attracted offices, especially professional medical buildings.

The widening project from West 30th Street south to Cooper Foster Park Road was estimated to cost $1.8 million and actually cost $3.4 million. Knizell figures it would cost an estimated $7.75 million to do the project today. Work began on Aug. 7, 1973 and completed Sept. 12, 1975 with final acceptance by the city two months later.

Vlad Nickoloff, former Lorain builder now residing in Key Largo, Fla., recalled how the construction company once forgot to put up barricades and signs after pouring concrete.

"Some lady was shopping at Jay Jursinski's Food Market," Nickoloff said. "She wasn't paying attention when she pulled out of the parking lot and drove right into the wet concrete."

1956 Willow Hardware ad
Before construction began, Oberlin Avenue was best known south of Meister Road for the Neuman dairy farm, woodlands, the site where the Barnum and Bailey Circus pitched its tents, and at the far south end, a well-known night spot known as Old Stone Villa, which today has become TNT Antiques. In between, of course, was Airport Tavern.

Before Lorain Plaza was developed in the 1960s to anchor Oberlin Avenue at Meister Road, it was the southwest corner of Oberlin and Meister that set the pace. It began when Steve Navalinsky built Willow Hardware.

Robert Whalen saw the business possibilities and built Whalen's Pharmacy followed by Jay's Food Market, a business Jay Jursinski later moved further south. That would become Meyer Goldberg's Supermarket, then Gray Drugs and, today, Rite Aid Drugs. In quick order, other businesses appeared on Oberlin Avenue, first Lezber Floors, then Bob Nagy's Plastering.

Dom Rebman, owner of Rebman Recreation Inc. bowling alleys at the southern extreme of Oberlin Avenue, remembers the days long before developers began turning lush farmland along Oberlin Avenue into valuable apartment complexes.

1962 Reman's ad
"When I was a kid my dad was in the meat packing and grocery store business," he said. "He would bring me out here (where the bowling alleys are now located) to the farms to pick up livestock. It was a gravel road then.

His father later bought some of that farmland and built the bowling alleys. It was 24 lanes then. Today, with 48 lanes, it's the largest bowling establishment in Lorain County.

Knizell said he expects Oberlin Avenue to be almost "totally commercial within 10 years" even though a considerable portion of property is still zoned residential.

"The only request we have for rezoning now is from a doctor (Dr. Alexander Boye-Doe, presently at 2100 Reid Ave., Lorain) who wants to build his new medical offices on the west side of Oberlin Avenue just south of Westwood Drive," Knizell said. "Before the year is over, however, I expect many more rezoning requests."

Oberlin Avenue at its southern end never did go completely commercial, despite the 1989 article's prediction.

The ubiquitous 'dollar stores' seem to be the only national chains interested in Lorain, and the Family Dollar in the old Meyer Goldberg's store and the newer Dollar General further south on Oberlin Avenue seem to bear out that point.

Hopefully the long overdue repaving of Oberlin Avenue will give that main north-south corridor of Lorain a much-needed shot in the arm.

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