I’ve posted about this topic before, but it was on the old website, so why not trot out the topic again?:)
The distinctive triangular shape of a long-gone HoJo, like the one pictured, haunts our interstate exit in Middletown, Ohio.
Like a vacant-eyed ghost staring back at a more prosperous past, it eyes passing cars on I-75, remembering the days when it was known for its vast assortment of ice cream flavors and clean hotel rooms. HoJo was the perfect stop for weary travelers on their way to a distant destination, its flaming orange-tiled roof a bright beacon in the night. But times change and so do businesses. They come and go, into our lives and out, and when they close they take a piece of us with them. I wax nostalgic at these businesses that are gone but still occupy a place in my past. There are, by the way, HoJo’s still in existence but they are shadows of their former selves, generally run-down, no restaurant, and out-muscled by their better sheet thread-count rivals. Here are some businesses I most miss, in no particular order…some of these may be regional so excuse me if you haven’t heard of them:
1) SERVICE MERCHANDISE: When I was a kid I could sit at my grandma’s house and spend hours flipping through their catalog. I think a store held on in the west side of Cincinnati into the 1990s, but now the business is on on the web and I don’t know how it manages to do even that.
2) RINKS/ZAYRE/HILLS: I lumped these three together because they were all sort of bottom-dwelling discount chains. Rinks was a grocery-store/department store, a Wal-Mart before there was Wal-Mart. They had locations in SW Ohio and I think they were named that because the first Rink’s was in an old skating rink. Rink’s was the first place I was ever allowed to go by myself. It was within walking distance of my grandmother’s, and that first walk to Rink’s on my own was my first lurch towards independence as an adult. I think I was 8 or 9-years-old, it was a very different world then. Anyone remember Rink’s? Rinks is no more…neither is Zayre, and Hills…ah my Aunt Anna worked the snack bar in Hill’s for years in our town, their popcorn was as good as any movie theater’s.
3) THE HOT SHOPPE/CAMBRIDGE INN: These were both cafeteria chains…You’d grab your tray, move through the line and order your stuff. Very much like a school cafeteria for adults. It was more sanitary, probably, than the sneeze-guard shielded buffets of today. I just don’t think they could compete with the “endless trough” of buffets that began to muscle their way into the restaurant chain world. But I miss these places, both of which I spent plenty of suppers with my grandparents when I was a kid.
4) BURGER CHEF: Your run of the mill fast-food burger joint. But they had locations everywhere, and I consumed plenty of “Super Shef’s” when I was a kid.
5) FARRELL’S: This was an old-fashioned ice cream parlor chain which featured waiters and waitresses in pin-striped uniforms and hats and I think a massive sundae called a “zoo?” It was a very festive place, that’s for sure.
I could go on, these are just some that come to mind. Do you have any long-gone businesses that occupy a sentimental spot in your heart? If so, what are they?