Brass Railings, Silver Grilles, and the Golden Days of Cleveland Shopping

We are happy to have a guest blogger with us today.  Callie Surrarrer, from Polka Dots and Leopard Spots, is a Cleveland-based fashion blogger.  With her knowledge of fashion history, she has written a piece on the history, and future, of Cleveland shopping.  Just in time for Black Friday:

“Where’s the store restaurant?”

That’s something you would’ve heard someone ask 50, 30, even 20 years ago at the Downtown Higbees.

“A restaurant??” you might be wondering.  Yes. A restaurant. In a department store.  Something not so unusual back then.  Most department stores came equipped with restaurants…and furriers, and milliners, and shoe shiners!  My, how far we’ve come here in Cleveland…and maybe not in a good way.

Downtown Cleveland used to be a Mecca for shopping.  We had Higbees, Halle’s, May Company.  So what happened?

Good question.  Growing suburbs? Politics? Economic downturn?  A combination perhaps?

Shopping in Cleveland is now limited to Tower City Center.  And when I say limited, I mean LIMITED…there’s really not much of a variety to choose from.  Tower City- located within the Terminal Tower, a beautifully designed Art Deco style building, has 3 floors of shopping and brass decoration, and includes the ever glamorous Ritz-Carlton, and Morton’s Steak House.  It’s also a convenient stop off of the city’s transit system-the Rapid.Tower City used to be the home of some very high end retailers, such as Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton…but right now, the retailers that take up Tower City are mostly no-name stores, a candy shop, and the seemingly out of place…Brooks Brothers.  Which brings up the valid point, why did Brooks Brothers survive?  It’s an established, higher end retailer and has been at the Tower City location for many years…but how did they survive and the equally as shoppable department stores and the like didn’t?The Higbee’s building, which was connected to Tower City, is now the home of our newest Cleveland addition, Horseshoe Casino.  Too bad Tower City and the surrounding locations are lacking reputable retailers, otherwise all those gamblers might spend their winnings at those (non-existent) locations, and actually keep the money in the local economy, which all of us Clevelanders know, is definitely needed.Cleveland is a metropolis with A LOT of potential.  We have a lakefront, we have a decent transit system, we have beautiful architecture, museums, an orchestra, botanical gardens, AND we have some AWESOME food-some of which are the creations of world renowned chefs.  We have all the resources to be something wonderful…like a Chicago, a D.C.  Cleveland could be a destination city.  We have it all, except the shopping.

Think about it, wonderful cities also come with some wonderful shopping.  Why can’t Cleveland?  We used to.  So who says 2012 Clevelanders don’t want the same retailers as Chicagoans or New Yorkers?  Personally, I’d love that!  Downtown Cleveland is much closer for me than the East Side…which is where all the good stuff now resides.

The East Side is home of the high end stores, the stores you walk past while strolling down Michigan Avenue in Chicago, or 34th in NYC.  Beachwood has Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Dillard’s (the once, Higbee’s) plus all the little stores inside Beachwood Place, like Sephora, J. Crew, L’Occitane, Banana Republic.

Now, over on the West Side, we’ve got the rather young Crocker Park.  An outdoor mall, if you will…a suburbia trend that has emerged over the past 10 years.  Crocker Park is a good day of shopping.  You’ve got some good restaurants, Cheesecake Factory, Brio, Michael Symon’s B. Spot, plus you have the stores…Barnes and Noble, Anthropologie, J. Crew, Banana Republic.  But Crocker Park is in the middle of Westlake, an outer Cleveland suburb. So there you have it, Downtown Cleveland shopping hasn’t disappeared…it’s relocated! To the suburbs!  But, who comes to Cleveland for say, a business trip, and then wants to go shopping in the suburbs?!  My guess is not many.  Right now, Cleveland’s main draw is the Medical Industry.  We’ve got the Cleveland Clinic, one of the BEST medical institutions in the WORLD.  I bet those doctors flying in to our great city wouldn’t mind a little bit of shopping R&R after a long day of conferences or performing surgery.

I’m sure many would agree that Cleveland is ready.  Cleveland is ready to be something even more.  Something really amazing.  And if we’d like to head in that direction, Cleveland needs a fashion makeover.  Literally.

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One thought on “Brass Railings, Silver Grilles, and the Golden Days of Cleveland Shopping

  1. Pingback: A History of Cleveland Shopping… « polka dots and leopard spots

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