Corner the market

I thought of a good business to open: a dollar store. I think it would be good because I was driving around one day and I noticed a corner that didn’t have one.

Remember when almost every corner had a drugstore—I guess it was in the 1980s. A Gray Drugs on one corner of an intersection, a Revco on another, a Medic on yet another. The concept was to build your store right near the other ones and just hope you’d be the eventual winner. And that was building them from the ground up, not taking over an existing space. It was a big gamble, especially when you multiplied it by, say, 100 stores around the region.

Before that, all those corners held gas stations. You know the intersection of Coventry and Mayfield, where there are two gas stations? Once there were three, the third standing on the south-west corner, where the convenience store is located now. That one was heavily damaged in the early ’70s by a car bomb intended for a friend of legendary Cleveland mobster Danny Greene. The guy had become an enemy of Greene’s, and evidence indicated that Greene himself detonated the bomb from a block away. The intended victim was not killed, but the garage was destroyed and then replaced by a new building housing stores. (A couple of years later, Greene was killed by a car bomb in Lyndhurst after a dentist appointment. That’s why I never go to a dentist. You just never know.)

The fourth corner—where Pacific East Restaurant now stands—never was a gas station. From the ’30s till the late ’60s, it was a large drugstore—almost a small department store—called Coventry Drugs. (“Coventry drugs” took on new meaning in the late ’60s and ’70s, but that may be another column.)

When I was a kid, in the ’50s and ’60s, Coventry Road—the section now known as Coventry Village—featured three drugstores: Coventry Drugs, plus Uberstein’s (at the corner of Coventry and Hampshire; later called Carroll Drugs, and now Hunan Coventry), and Merit Drugs at the bend (where Coventry melds into Euclid Heights Boulevard, home now of the Grog Shop and the Inn on Coventry). Merit became Ace Drugs and then the original location of Tommy’s restaurant. The shopping district was also home to three bakeries, and two each of several other types of shops—fish markets, delis, butcher shops and others. So I guess that trend of placing multiple versions of similar businesses is not any kind of new phenomenon, at least not here.

After the gas stations and the drugstores came bagel shops and then coffee shops. Or were the bagel shops after the coffee shops? Anyway, now it’s dollar stores. When I was a kid, these kinds of places were called dime stores. Apparently dollar stores are 10 times better than those.

I read in a recent Sun Press police blotter section that a cashier at a Cleveland Heights dollar store was robbed. I guess the robber got away with a big bag of dollar bills. Danny Greene would not approve. I’m sure he’d advise the robber to think much bigger than that.

When the Dollar General opened on the corner of Lee Road and East Overlook Road, I read in a newspaper that a man was arrested while walking down the street after stealing $72.50 worth of merchandise from that store. Well, first of all, of course you’re going to get caught walking down the street with $72.50 worth of stuff from a dollar store, because $72.50 worth of stuff from the dollar store comes out to 72 and a half items. I did the math. And you can’t hide 72 and a half items—not most of them, anyway. Anyone could see that you stole those things, if you’re walking down the street with them, and without bags from the store. A smarter thief would have thought to steal some bags, too.

But a smarter thief would also know that, while $72.50 worth of merchandise from a better store—a place like Saks Fifth Avenue—might equal one-half of a shirt, it’s also true, and much more significant, that 72 and a half items from Saks Fifth Avenue could be worth $15,000.

So, if I could talk to that thief (because Danny Greene is no longer around to counsel him), I’d tell him that if you’re the kind of person who steals things, then you probably understand that there is always a good chance you’ll get caught. And you understand that if you get caught, you’ll get arrested—whether you’re stealing from a dollar store or Saks Fifth Avenue. So if you understand that, if you know and understand the risks involved, and you’re still willing to take that chance, here’s my advice: Steal better stuff.

Oh, and, you know . . . don’t break the law.

David Budin

David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history.

Read More on Songs and Stories
Volume 9, Issue 5, Posted 12:08 PM, 04.30.2016