Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cincinnati's last "greenhouse" Kroger

I forget exactly how I stumbled upon this, but in the Walnut Hills area of Cincinnati stands a "greenhouse" style Kroger, so named by us retail fanatics because the overhang looks like a greenhouse.  I don't know if that's the official term, but it works.

Of all of the styles of Kroger buildings I've seen, this is my favorite.  A lot of these were white brick, but I know of at least one that is more of a yellowish color.  They tended to be on the smaller side of things, but still managed to have a florist, bakery, and deli, along with standard grocery offerings.  One I know of even has a pharmacy!

In any case, I headed down toward downtown Cincinnati one April 2016 afternoon after scoping out all of the Krogers in the greater Cincinnati area and seeing that this one was very likely the last of its kind (full disclosure: there is/was at least one in Northern Kentucky; my focus is on the Ohio side of the river).

I say WAS because as of March 8, 2017, the store had closed for good.  Kroger completed a rebuild of its Corryville store, which opened on March 9, 2017.  The fact that this new store was around a mile away from the Walnut Hills store, coupled with the fact that Walnut Hills hadn't turned a profit since 1991, pretty much sealed the fate of Cincinnati's last greenhouse store.

I got a handful of exterior photos of the store, but only about 3 inside, as there was a fair amount of people and I hadn't quite perfected my art of store photography.  My plan was to make it down another time, but that never materialized.  Once I caught wind of the closing, I knew I had until sometime in March to make it down there, but by the time I realized when the last day was, I couldn't make it work.  Something is better than nothing, right?

R.I.P. Walnut Hills, Cincinnati, Kroger - 1983(ish)-2017

Further reading:
Kroger closing Cincinnati store
Take an early tour of Kroger’s new Corryville store

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Signature Inn - gone but not forgotten

For those who have been following along with The History of Signature Inn, much of what I have presented here has already been explained and this is going to be almost a cross-post of my recent blog entry over there.

For those of you who have NOT been following along, Signature Inn was a hotel chain formed in the late 70s intended to be a mid-priced brand geared toward the business traveler, but with amenities that  leisure travelers could enjoy as well.  By the end of 1989, the chain had grown to 32 hotels in seven states, with most of them being in Indiana where the chain was founded.

In the early 90s, the chain faced some financial difficulties and bankruptcy filing; as of 1994, the chain was down to 23 locations.  A merger with Jameson Inns took place in 1999 to bring Signature and Jameson under one corporate umbrella.  A couple of mergers and acquisitions had taken place in 2004 and 2006.  In 2005, more hotels began to be sold off and the Signature Inn name was replaced by the Jameson Inn name on most of their properties in 2006, though a few hotels were still branded as Signature Inn.  In 2011, Jameson had over 100 of its properties foreclosed upon due to financial difficulties it faced, in part because of the loan the company took out to finance a 2006 merger.  By early 2013, none of the original hotels were a part of their parent company.

Two hotels in particular were close to my heart, one in Cincinnati/Sharonville, where we had stayed as a family in 1991, and one in Canton, that I had seen during our many family outings to Belden Village Mall.  After seeing the name disappear from the Canton hotel, I had wondered whatever happened to them.  But because I was 14 and the internet was still just someone's pipe dream, all I could do was wonder.  Then in mid-2014 after happening upon the Cincinnati location where we stayed years ago (which has become another hotel brand), my interest was rekindled.  It was further piqued later on that year when I came upon a billboard whose original vinyl overlay had been removed, revealing an ad for a Signature Inn in Dayton.  At that point, I wanted to see what others were out there and thus began the advent of the Signature Inn blog.

My job requires a certain amount of travel during the summer and during the summer and fall of 2015, I was able to photograph the exteriors of many of the Indiana and Ohio locations.  One of my goals besides being able to visit all of the locations at some point has been to actually spend a night (or more) in a former Signature Inn.  That dream finally came true in June 2016.

It was a dark and stormy night...

Well, it was dark and rainy anyway. I had a slightly challenging back-roads drive to the hotel, but my spirits were hardly dampened.  "I get to stay in a former Signature Inn!" was pretty much my thought the entire way there.  That, and "I hope no one hits me."  But, I digress...

Upon my arrival at the hotel, I was so thankful that things had aligned to make this visit possible.  I had stopped by here in December 2014 for some exterior photos, but this was great.  I got to go in as a legal, paying guest!

I think what may have been my favorite feature of the hotels, besides their exterior design, is the lobby.  The curved staircase that sits front and center, as well as the glass wall that lines the staircase and balcony definitely add a touch of class to the hotel.  Even though they were designed as a mid-priced hotel, the atmosphere (at least for its time, back in the mid-1980s) was a little more upscale.
the hotel's lobby and staircase
The hotel's front desk had been updated, but it still retains its general layout.
The lobby's upper level included (and still does include) a computer for business use and a sitting area.  Of course, the front windows let in plenty of natural light during the daytime.

The hallways are pretty nondescript:

A photo of one of the guest rooms:

The room was clean, comfortable, and about what one would expect for a mid-range hotel.  One of the neater features about the room was something I like to think was original to the building -- the room's lockset:

This hotel retains its S-shaped pool, a typical feature of Signature Inns.  Most of them, like this one, were outdoor pools.

Newspaper goodies...

newspaper photo showing the hotel's construction progress 

A May 31, 1989 photo of the hotel's manager on the spiral staircase

I took the photo from the newspaper advertisement above and tried to get one of my own photos from about the same vantage point.  LEFT: 5/31/1989   RIGHT: 6/8/2016

7/26/1993 advertisement for the sale of this particular hotel, along with the one in Cleveland.
Even though this hotel wasn't the first Signature Inn I stayed at (in fact, it wasn't a Signature Inn when I DID stay here), seeing this hotel perched atop its hill on my many trips to the Canton area does warrant this hotel a special place in my heart as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Buehler's, Delaware (Ohio)

One of my morning rituals is to check the news in the Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus areas.  I used to live in the Columbus area and am still somehow interested in what goes on there even though I haven't lived there since 2013.  On the morning of January 4, 2016, I read a headline in one of the Columbus area papers that shocked me.  Buehler's will close its Delaware store. (ThisWeek Community News, Delaware edition, 1/4/2016).  It's important to note at this point that the hardware store and the bank, both attached to the store, will remain open.

Buehler's is a small chain grocery store that began in New Philadelphia in 1929 and eventually moved to Wooster, Ohio, in 1932.  More locations would be added through 2014.  Including the Delaware store, Buehler's is comprised of 15 locations, mainly in Northeast Ohio, with a couple of outlying locations in Coshocton and Delaware (information from Buehler's website).  The chain is still family-owned, and with so many big box stores opening all over the place, it's nice to see them still in place.  Delaware's store was built in 1969 and moved to its current location in 1986.

My attachment to Buehler's began in 1998 when I started working there.  I began as a grocery bagger for a year and then a cashier for four more years before moving on to other ventures.  Overall I would rate my experience there as a positive one and I certainly have nothing bad to say about them.  In fact, if I were at a different stage of my life, I would definitely consider working there again.  Despite not having worked at the Delaware store, it IS Buehler's and I'm a little saddened to see one of their stores close.

As stated in the above linked article, the main reason for the closure is increased grocery competition.  Along with Buehler's, Delaware is home to at least 5 major grocery stores which include Buehler's, Aldi, Meijer, and two Kroger locations; one 10 minutes away and another two minutes to the west.  Despite the family-owned atmosphere and services such as the Load & Go where your groceries are loaded into tubs and sent outside via a conveyor belt, shoppers began to shop at other stores.

After the January 4 announcement, I knew I had to get up there for some photos before the store closed for good.  At that time, the closing date hadn't been announced.  By January 12, ThisWeek posted an article stating the store's restaurant was set to close for good on January 17.  The next major announcement came on January 26: Delaware Buehler's to close at end of day Feb. 13.  My plans to visit were thrown into high gear and I was able to make a visit on February 7, just six days before the store closed for the last time.

Upon arriving at the store, I realized that there is not much other retail close by, which may have also contributed to the store's demise.  I immediately noticed that there were no "STORE CLOSING!!!" signs plastered all over the front of the store, thankfully.  Other than the nearly-empty parking lot, the only other signs from the outside that the store is closing would be the notification that all the prescriptions had been transferred to CVS.  Going out in style would be a good way to describe it.
Buehler's on its final Sunday in operation.  The pharmacy is already shut down; the bank is to remain open after the store closes.
The hardware store's entrance is at the far left, nearly obscured by the trees.  The parcel pick-up is in the left-center of the photo.
The store's entrance.
Once I entered the store, however, it became painfully clear what was going on.  All of the perimeter departments had been nearly cleared of their goods.  There was very little left on the grocery shelves, but we were able to pick up a few things.  While I was there, I saw one person working the store shelves, one person in the service center, and one cashier.

At this point, I would post a handful of my better interior shots here, EXCEPT, I won't be posting any.  At least not any from this visit...

I began posting my Sunday evening photos on Flickr to the tune of about 6 a day and as I progressed through the week, I had this urge to pay a visit on the store's last day.  I ended up leaving super early in the morning so I could make it to Delaware and still be back home by noon.  What would've REALLY been something was to be their last customer, but I wasn't interested in coming up later in the day to do that.  Visiting on the last day was good enough for me.

Buehler's on its last day open
The restaurant (left) and sandwich shop closed about a month prior to the store's final day
empty produce department
the pharmacy closed early on in the closing process as well
empty meat & seafood department
One of many empty aisles.  This one was more empty than others.
As stated in the above caption, many of the aisles had been cleared out of their goods.  I read somewhere that the store hadn't restocked anything since the announcement was made to close the store.  Honestly, it makes perfect sense.  Despite that, I was still able to find a few things I needed and some I didn't.
empty freezer shelves...
...though one could've thrown a frozen pizza party
empty dairy department.  I love the signage
As one entered the store, they were greeted with a fresh, modern decor.  The same could be said of most of the perimeter departments.  Dairy, however, seemed to be stuck in the 70s (or would it be 80s?)  I honestly don't mind it because the signs remind me of something out of The Price Is Right.  My only guess is that by the time shoppers get through to this side of the store, they're more concerned with what they are buying than they are with the scenery around them.  Even though the grocery aisles have this vintage feel in many of their stores (which I don't mind at all), the stores are kept neat and clean.
Closed registers.  In the background are the openings for the totes to be put on the conveyor system
None of the registers were open except for one lone self-checkout stand.  One person was in the service center, everyone else was busy cleaning off the shelves.

As I left the store for the last time, I felt some sadness for Buehler's that they had to close a store, and for the employees that worked there as they will have to find other employment.  I've been to this store only 3 times, but it's still going to be weird to think of Delaware not having Buehler's.

These and other photos can be found here: Buehler's, Delaware, OH.  The final day photos can be found in the aforementioned album, but they are also in Buehler's, Delaware, OH - FINAL DAY

Friday, January 29, 2016

A little brother to the Eastgate McDonald's

In what is most likely going to be a rare occurrence for Ryan Road, I am presenting you with my SECOND post IN ONE WEEK!  I figured I'd be lucky to post an update every month or two, but today was just one of those days and I figured what the hey.

As I'm writing this sentence I realized this is the perfect follow-up to this week's earlier post.  Back in December 2015, I was out toward the I-275 & US 127 interchange on the north side of town chasing after something else when I happened across this McDonald's:

Upon seeing it, I was immediately reminded of the Eastgate McDonald's that I posted earlier this week.  I dug up some property records and found out that the two restaurants were both built the same year, 1984.  This one is slightly smaller at 4612 square feet, vs. Eastgate's 4946.  I realize that there are a few differences between the two, but the resemblance is quite striking.

This place did not have an indoor playplace and I don't think the front patio was ever anything else.  When I took a look at the property records, the image they have on file from 1992 doesn't show any type of play equipment outside.  The next image is from 2003 and there was nothing other than tables there even then.

So, faced with a day of feeling blah, I decided it was time to pay this McDonald's a lunchtime visit and scope out the interior.  Thankfully it was before noon and not very busy, so I was able to get some photographic documentation of this great-looking restaurant.

My favorite part of this is the solarium.  It was nice being able to eat in the sun without freezing my tail off.

The decor wasn't anything spectacular, but it's a nice throwback to the classic fast-food restaurant look.

There were just enough people there, including the custodian who really takes his job seriously (and I mean that in a positive way), so interior photos were not necessarily as many as I would have liked.  Even still, what I do have pretty well captures the restaurant.  Even though I don't spend much time out this way, it'll still be a sad day when/if this is stripped of all its, I mean, "modernized."

More photos can be found here: McDonald's, Waycross Rd, Cincinnati, OH on Flickr

This blog post requires no refrigeration

Monday, January 25, 2016

Death of a McDonald's

Toward the latter part of October 2015, I was browsing through photos of a Flickr contact of mine who had just uploaded photos of a recently-closed McDonald's on the east side of Cincinnati.  Property records show it being built in 1984.  I'm the type of person who likes to take their own photos of stuff, so I decided to pay a visit in late October (the 26th).

When I visited the first time, there were some people in the building doing final closing-up activities, so I didn't want to venture too close to the building.  I was a little disappointed that I drove all the way there and couldn't get too close, but something is better than nothing.
Eastgate McDonald's, days after closing
the parking lot was blocked off and activity was still going on inside
a very unique shed on the property; many weren't as elaborate
playground equipment and the roof sign, heaped onto the patio

Most notable about the whole closing process was the treatment of the wasn't simply removed and carted away.  The posts were cut off and the signs were shoved to the ground and smashed to pieces in the name of asset protection.  The drive-through boards received the same treatment.  In fact, the parking lot lights and flagpole were also sawn off above the bases.
McSign McCarnage...
In any case, because of the activity going on, I snapped a few quick photos and then left.

One week later I decided to make another visit in hopes of getting more and better photos.  That ended up paying off, as the lot was empty.  I was able to take some better photos of the outside and some through-the-window shots.

remnants of the drive-through
one of McDonald's two sign corpses was dragged to the drive-through lane
labelscar from the McDonald's sign.  Shame they painted the brick; I always liked the look of unpainted brick
looking into what appears to be an indoor play area
looking in through one of the front windows
looking through drive-through window #1
looking through drive-through window #2
looking through one of the side windows
For whatever reason I ended up skipping a week in visiting this place.  Maybe I decided that I had enough photos and didn't need to return.  Whatever the reason, something told me to go back on the 16th of November.  Upon my return, I was a little surprised by what I saw...but only a little.  It used to be that when McDonald's relocated to a nearby location, the building is re-roofed and made to look less McDonalds-like and then marketed to other businesses.  Lately, though, it seems like most of the buildings are torn down.  The latter was the case here.  And like my first visit, someone was around; this time the excavator operator was still in the machine.  I snapped a few photos and left.
no more McDonald's here :(

Not satisfied with being unable to walk the site one last time, I made a fourth visit a week later.  By that time, there was very little left of the building.  There were a few traces left of what once was, but not many.
The playplace would have been right here
the former location of drive-through window #1
looking toward where the rear of the building used to be.  Drive-through window #2 would have been to my left.
former front and entrance side of McDonald's
an overview of the building's former location.  I was standing in the playplace area.
finally, a parting shot.  Looking at what would have been the rear of the building.

More photos can be found here: former McDonald's, Eastgate/Cincinnati, OH on Flickr

This blog post should not be used as a placemat.  Bits of food may become stuck in the crevices and cause an unsanitary condition.