Monday, February 6, 2017

O’Hara’s Revisited – Part 2

Vintage O’Hara Business Card from the early days
After my tour of the O’Hara’s property, Ralph O’Hara invited me inside his family home to enjoy a cool drink and examine some cherished mementoes of the family business.

This included an original business card that predated the Leavitt Road location (shown above) as well as some vintage newspaper ad clippings (below).

Here’s a 1963 photo of the Pearl Road Drive-in menu board that includes small promotional signs for the drive-in's suppliers, including O’Hara’s Lakeland Poultry Farm (at the upper left hand corner).
Ralph also had a few vintage shots of the store, including one from when Leavitt Road was under construction.
Another souvenir was a December 1971 copy of the Central Sentinel, the newsletter of the Central Security National Bank of Lorain County. In it was a nice capsule history of O’Hara’s Beverage:

“In 1945, Vance and Grace O’Hara started in business – this was right after Vance was discharged from the service. They raised chickens and turkeys at that time. Vance O’Hara bought the present site, then built a two-car garage where they conducted their sales transactions. At that time, there were no paved roads around the store.

“They later decided there was not much security in chickens and/or turkeys so Vance started a small grocery store. Grace was a bit skeptical about the store at first but he convinced her that this particular location would soon be that he called “the heart of Lorain.”

“After a few years of dealing in groceries, they applied for and received their liquor license at which time they added on another section to the store and at the same time started building their home.

“Grace said, “We had several opportunities to sell the business but held on.”

“Vance passed away in 1965 after a long struggle with cancer. Grace recalls that this was the same year they paved Leavitt Road. After Vance’s death, Grace assumed the double burden of running the store and came to rely heavily on her part-time employees. Her two children, Althea and Ralph, helped her out tremendously and as Grace says, “We did it together.”

“Grace built on another section to the store and followed through with the exact plans her husband has envisioned.

"When asked for advice to pass on to others who might be thinking of going into the grocery business, Grace said, “Be prepared to give a lot of hard work and time. You really must be dedicated and believe in yourself to be a success.”

“Grace O’Hara is very proud of the fact that her daughter, Althea, graduated from Ohio State and is now teaching the second grade at the Garfield school. Her son Ralph shows a great deal of athletic talent, playing offensive center and guard at Edison High School.

“On February 15, 1972, Grace will lease the store to someone else and take a long needed rest.”

Ralph and I continued to chat about the timeline of the store. The service kept him away for a while, and afterwards he helped run the business in the 1980s.

He got out of it for a while when the store was sold, but he returned to the business in 2012. Once again, the O’Hara family owned the store and was back in charge of day-to-day operations.

Ralph is not sure what the future holds, but for now he really enjoys running the family business.

The store as it looks today, with new attractive signage recently added
It’s obvious that he and his family are proud that the business – one of Lorain’s oldest – has survived for so long, thanks to hard work and loyal customers that continue to “Hit the Spot” for their beverage needs.

The well-known O’Hara leprechaun sign
Special thanks to Ralph O’Hara for the opportunity to learn more about the history of his business, and my apologies for the long delay in preparing this post!


Kenneth Brady said...

Leavitt Road wasn't paved until 1965? Never realized that.

Dan Brady said...

I have two posts starting tomorrow about those 1965 road improvements to Leavitt Road. It was widened to four lanes and was all new concrete from W. 21st Street to North Ridge Road. I'm not sure what kind of surface it was before that, probably not dirt though.

Lisa said...

Frog legs on menus of that era . . . I see that time and time again. Wonder why?