Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mahoning National Bank

It was the one bank whose name showed its connection to the Youngstown area. Its main offices graced the southwest part of Central Square, designed by one of the distinguished architects of the day. A fiscally sound institution, it operated 132 years until it merged with another bank. It was my mother-in-law’s bank, and at the end of her life, we had professional and efficient dealings with them as we helped her manage her finances. The tellers at her branch were like family to her and a number had worked there for years. That was the Mahoning National Bank many of us knew.

The Mahoning National Bank was established in 1868 as the Youngstown Savings and Loan Association. The founding directors were a veritable who’s who of business leaders in Youngstown: David Tod, Chauncey Andrews, W. J. Hitchcock, F.O. Arms, T. K. Hall, Joseph G. Butler, Jr., T. H. Wells, John Stambaugh, David Theobald, Richard Brown, A. B. Cornell, B. F. Hoffman, and William Powers formed the board of directors. David Tod was elected president but died two months later to be succeeded by F. O. Arms.

They first operated on the northwest part of Central Square until moving to the southwest part in 1873 in a building connected with Andrews and Hitchcock. In 1877, the association adopted a national bank charter under the name Mahoning National Bank. Then in 1909, the bank bought out the Andrews & Hitchcock interest in the property and razed the old structure to erect a modern high rise building.

The building was designed by Alfred Kahn, known at the time as one America’s foremost industrial architects. He also designed the Stambaugh Building and North Side Hospital. He designed a number of industrial facilities in Detroit including Ford’s Highland Park plant where the Model T was assembled. The building was completed in 1910. You will note that the building above is only part of the present day complex. A four story addition was added on the site of the old Opera House, and the building was extended southward by 72 feet. This video, produced by Metro Monthly shows the stately lobby of the bank as well as giving information about its architect:

The bank grew with Youngstown, opening branches as the city expanded and people moved into the surrounding suburban community. In 1924 the bank had assets of $6.3 million. By 2000, its assets had grown to 818 million and it had twenty-one offices.

The end of the twentieth century was marked by numerous bank mergers. In June of 1999, it merged with Sky Bank, part of Sky Financial Services, an upstart company formed in 1998 in northwest Ohio that grew rapidly through mergers. At the end of 2001, it changed its name to Sky Bank. Then in 2007, Sky Bank was acquired by Huntington Bank, based in Columbus.

Huntington Bank had offices in the old Mahoning National Bank building but has moved to smaller offices in the Stambaugh building. In December 2022, The Business Journal reported the sale of the building for $2.3 million to a New York based investment group operating under the name 22 Market Street Ohio LLC. The company intends to use the bottom four stories for office space and convert the upper nine floors to residential units, preserving the historic character of the building.

It sounds wonderful if it unfolds as promoted. There do seem to be the beginnings of a downtown renaissance. But I wonder if the Youngstown economy can yet sustain it and whether there is sufficient “draw” to live downtown. I, for one, would love to see historic buildings like this and the Stambaugh buildings (both Kahn designed) preserved and used well.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fredonia Manufacturing Company

Many of us think the Mahoning Valley’s history of automobile manufacturing began in the 1960’s at GM’s Lordstown Assembly Plant. Actually, the history of automobile manufacturing in Youngstown goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century–and maybe a little before.

The Fredonia Carriage and Manufacturing Company was a carriage builder with a factory just east of the Market Street bridge near the present location of the Covelli Center. In 1895, Dr. Carlos Booth, a local physician, commissioned the company to build him an automobile that he had designed. They helped him become the world’s first doctor to use an automobile to make house calls–a Youngstown first. He eventually gave it up, claiming it made “a commotion among the horses.”

In 1902, the company changed its name to The Fredonia Manufacturing Company and started making automobiles. In their first year, Fredonia automobiles came in “neck and neck” claiming the top two spots in a 500 mile reliability run from New York to Boston. A Packard was also among the top finishers. Then in 1903, a Fredonia set an unofficial speed record on a run between Youngstown and Tyrell Hill, covering the 36 mile distance in 35 minutes, nearly 62 miles per hour or 100 kilometers per hour. Pretty fast in 1903!

The reliability and speed of the cars reflected the work of the company’s engineer, Charles T. Gaither, who also worked as a pressman for The Vindicator, where he invented a process for photo engraving pictures for printing. The engine he designed was a single cylinder 5 inch piston with a 5 inch stroke. The engine was flat mounted, water-cooled, and set up as a mid-engine design, just in front of the rear axle, with a two speed planetary gear transmission.

The company manufactured both a two seat touring car and a five seat tonneau. In all they built about 200 cars between 1902 and 1904 when the company went bankrupt. The factory where they were built was destroyed in a fire in 1907.

Howard C. Aley, in A Heritage to Share, records that Charles Stewart, who was known for many years as “Youngstown’s safest driver” bought his first car in 1904, a five seat Fredonia. He sold it a year later, but it continued to appear in parades, running under its own power for 75 years.

We may think that Detroit was a good place to build cars, but Youngstown has a century-plus history of building cars. Now it is electric vehicles and batteries at Lordstown. We’ll see if the Mahoning Valley will become a new “Motor City.”

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — McGuffey Mall

McGuffey Mall at the time of its Grand Opening in 1972. Screen capture from Youngstown Vindicator, October 22, 1972 via Google News Archive.

It seems that I have been writing a lot about the East side of Youngstown of late. I’m back there this week because it was fifty years ago this week that the McGuffey Mall had its grand opening. There was no big fanfare but simply a sparkling new shopping mall covering over one of the first plazas in the Youngstown area and adding 10,000 square feet of retail space.

In 1954, William Cafaro built one of his first shopping centers at the intersection of McGuffey Road and North Garland. It was a location that was special to Cafaro, who grew up on the East side. They added the Garland Plaza in 1960. For many years the plazas were a thriving shopping location but by the early 1970’s, a number of tenants were leaving at the end of their leases for the new malls. Eastwood Mall, another Cafaro property, opened in 1969 and Southern Park Mall, operated by the DeBartolo Corporation, opened in 1970.

The Cafaro firm took an unusual step that reflected their ties to the area. They admitted that they could have signed a few leases and sold off the property. Instead, they made a major investment, enclosing the old retail space and adding additional retail space. They worked with the community to gain their buy-in and in the fall of 1972 opened a glittering new space at the site of the nearly 20 year-old plaza.

This move certainly extended the life of shopping in this area. Over the years shops, banks, drug stores, supermarkets, a bowling alley, and a post office occupied the site. But by the early 2000’s, the site was clearly struggling. In a 2007 video of low video quality, it shows only four open businesses that I can see, anchored by a Family Dollar and a National City Bank. Much of the retailed space was closed off.

2007 Video of McGuffey Mall

The Garland Plaza was occupied by Mahoning County Department of Job & Family Services from 1988 until 2007. In 2012, the Cafaro firm decided to sell both the mall and the plaza. On October 25, 2013, it was acquired by Highway Contracting of Boardman, a demolition contractor, who proceeded with demolition beginning in December, completing it in 2014.

The site has been idle since, but 2022 brought news that the Western Reserve Port Authority (WRPA) planned to acquire the site for $162,250. They had no immediate plans for the property but Anthony Trevena, representing WRPA, observes that the nearby freeway access makes it a desirable location for redevelopment. Viewing the site on Google street view reveals a significant amount of workers and vehicles on the site, suggesting the first steps of preparing the location for redevelopment.

Nothing is firm yet, but this would be a shot in the arm for the area, recalling the years where this was a center of bustling commercial activity. That might be the best news this area has had in fifty years.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Hills Department Store

“Hills is where the toys are!” You probably remember that jingle if you grew up in Youngstown. While most stores expanded their toy selection at Christmas, Hills had a great toy department year round, and an attractive layaway program for parents who couldn’t afford all those toys in the month or so before Christmas.

For many years, Hills was the discount department store in the Valley. The first store, founded by Herbert H. Goldberger in 1957, was in Youngstown. By 1964, there were seven stores in the area. They focused their merchandising on clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, seasonal, beauty products, electronics, toys, and housewares.

In 1964, Goldberger sold the company to Shoe Company of America (SCOA) of Columbus. Goldberger stayed on as president until 1981 when his son, Stephen A. Goldberger succeeded him. When Herbert Goldberger turned the chain over to his son, it had expanded to 99 stores. It would grow to 125 stores by the mid-1980’s. A series of business decisions from this time onward led to the eventual demise of the Hills name, and its successor in turn.

In 1985, Stephen Goldberger led management in a leveraged buyout of SCOA, subsequently selling off everything but the Hills stores. This left the company with $642 million in debt to which it added when it acquired 33 Gold Circle Stores and opened 8 more in 1989. This came right at the time of an economic downturn and led to Stephen Goldberger’s departure in 1990 and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in 1991.

Thomas Lee, who helped engineer the buyout of SCOA remained as board chair of Hills and brought in Michael Bozic in 1991. Bozic was a Sears veteran and led a turnaround that focused on remodeling stores, focusing and enhancing key merchandise lines, including its own American Spirit clothing line as well as its toy sales which accounted for 10 percent of sales, while leaving other merchandise departments like sporting goods, appliances, automotive products, and lawn and garden supplies to competitors. They also closed unprofitable stores, focusing on the places they were strongest: Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Ohio towns like Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown.

They emerged from bankruptcy in 1993 to a banner year with $1.76 billion of sales. In 1994 they actually returned to opening new stores. Almost immediately, they became embroiled in a stockholder dispute, and in 1995, Bozic and most of the senior executive team resigned, leaving the company in turmoil as they tried to change numerous systems. In 1998, Ames Department Stores acquired Hills, with nearly all of the stores renamed as Ames stores by 1999. This created the fourth largest discount chain after Walmart, K-Mart, and Target. By 2002, however, Ames was out of business, leaving a number of empty stores that were once thriving Hills operations.

Hills hosted special sales and events throughout the year. It was a great place to buy those Easter Lilies for mom. But many remember two other events. One was the fireworks displays on the fourth of July in their parking lot and the arrival of Santa on Thanksgiving Day. Of course, it was also a good place to find reasonably priced school clothes, fashionable but inexpensive adult clothing, and household goods. As teens, Hills had some of the best prices on music and electronics. And of course there was that toy department. But what many of us remember the most was the popcorn!

Born in Youngstown, Hills just seemed to fit with its original market. Sadly the combination of bigger competitors like Walmart and Target, and some questionable business decisions spelled the end to the store whose motto was “Save every way, save every day at Hills.” But they sure gave us some great memories!

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Consolidated Warehouse

Consolidated Warehouse ad in the Youngstown Vindicator, August 7, 1961

One of my memories of growing up in Youngstown was Saturday morning trips to the Consolidate Warehouse in downtown Youngstown. It was located on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and West Commerce Street, what is now the site of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and Jail. As you can see from the ad above, the building closest to Fifth Avenue was a six floor cube, connected by what looks like a two-story building and a third three-story building where loading docks were located. The downtown store also had a tire and paint sales facility across the street behind the downtown fire station.

As I recall, dad usually went there for whatever supplies he needed for household jobs–paint, tools, hardware, seal coat for the driveway, caulk–you name it. Mom usually gave him a list of cleaning supplies that often sold for better prices than at the local grocery. As their ad said “we are never undersold.” It was kind of an overwhelming place–you could find school clothes, casual clothes, work clothes, personal care items, appliances, automotive supplies, and garden supplies. It was the closest thing we had to Walmart. Sears was a pricier version. K-Mart, Almart, Montgomery Ward, Woolco, and Walmart were all in the future.

Eventually Consolidated opened stores, under the name Consolidated Discount Stores, at 5635 South Avenue, where Petiti’s Garden Center is located, and at 1729 S. Raccoon Rd, in the Wedgewood Plaza. Later on, they opened a store in Salem and after the downtown store closed in the early 1980’s, there was a store for a few years in the McGuffey Mall on the East side. This no longer appeared in their ads by 1984. Obviously these stores as well as the downtown store are long gone. I could not find information about when they finally went out of business. I suspect the buying power of the national stores who came into the area led to their closure.

Consolidated was way ahead of the times. In a way, it was the “proof of concept” for all these other stores. It wasn’t fancy. It was a warehouse. My memory is that it wasn’t brightly lit. It was no frills. It didn’t need to be. All that mattered for my parents was good prices. As far as I know, they were not undersold!

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Plakie Toy and the Hoover Family

The Hoover Family: Frank, Dorothy, and Dean as a child, photographed with a Plakie toy for a 1940 catalog

Fifty years ago tomorrow, one of Youngstown’s most famous newswoman, Esther Hamilton, wrote about one of the leading businesswomen in Youngstown, Mrs. Frank (Dorothy) M. Hoover, president of Plakie Toy. She and her son Dean, who was vice president, led a company of 175 employees with $1 million in sales. At peak, this grew to over $4 million in sales. Hamilton notes that many of her employees were women as well.

Dorothy Hoover is portrayed as a religious woman with a Bible on her desk, the host of a non-sectarian devotional service at 7:45 am, and a traveler to the Holy Land and committed church member. Her religious values translated into a strong emphasis on the manufacturing of safe toys tested in the homes of her employees before they hit the market.

Her husband Frank sold insurance before working in sales at Truscon working with the automotive industry in Detroit. This led to launching a business selling custom gear shift knobs until the automatic transmission made them obsolete around 1935. The idea for a new business, initially Frank M. Hoover, Inc. came from observing his son Dean play with plastic sample chips. His first toy was a set of multi-colored disks strung on a silver chain. He patented the toy, and by 1943 changed the name of his company to Plakie (a form of “play key”). The business grew rapidly from an initial investment of $1400.

During World War 2, he converted to making wood toys, including a work bench with pegs and a mallet, pull toys, and toy trains. As plastic once again became available, the company began manufacturing plastic toys including rattles and ducklings. The emphasis of the company was “Play Safe.” Hoover believed a good toy combined color, sound, and motion.

For a time in the 1950’s, Plakie teamed up with local inventor John Garver to produce the Christmas Tree Twinkler. After receiving a box of them from friends who knew our Youngstown connection, I wrote about them here. All Frank Hoover’s expertise in plastics went into this one!

A Twinkler set. Photo by Bob Trube © 2019

The enterprise was a family business from the start, with Dorothy as a working director. In 1952, the company built a building at 4105 Simon Rd. for $200,000. It was designed for expansion. The Hoover’s foresight, and involvement together meant a seamless transition and continued growth when Frank died in 1960. Over time, Dorothy transitioned the company to manufacturing more nursery decorations and cloth toys including wall hangings, crib sheets, bumpers, dust ruffles and canopies as well as soft toys, musical toys, and crib gyms. One of the most popular soft toys was the Humpty Dumpty, examples of which can be found for sale on the internet. In 1976, the company name was changed to Plakie, Inc. to reflect that they were about more than toys.

Increased competition in a global market and production costs led to the company ceasing operations in 1992. But the safe and durable toys this company manufactured have lasted. For over fifty years the Hoover family gave Youngstown its own “toy story.”


Discover the History of Youngstown’s Plakie Toys.” The Daily Buzz, Youngstown Business Journal, 11-04-20.

Esther Hamilton, “Mrs Hoover Keeps Staff of 175 Busy Putting Out Safe Plakie ToysThe Vindicator, June 27, 1971.

Ted Heineman, “The Hoover FamilyRiverside Cemetery Journal.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Ohio Leather Company

The Ohio Leather Company

The Mahoning Valley is known as the Steel Valley because of all the mills lining the river at one time. There was one stretch of along the Mahoning in Girard that might well have been called “The Leather Valley.” Girard was home to the Ohio Leather Company, which at one time was the largest processor of calf leather in the United States.

The tannery business in Girard traces back to the Krehl Tannery in 1868. They manufactured harness and sole leather. They first developed the chrome tanning process with patents submitted by August Schultz in 1884. They were followed in 1899 by what became the Ohio Leather Company. In that year the Mahoning Leather Company (the name was changed to Ohio Leather a few years later) was started using a new chrome tanning process patented by Joseph Smith. The process shortened the tanning process from four months to ten hours. The business thrived in Smith’s few remaining years, before his death in 1903.

The following year, the Krehl Tannery burned down in a spectacular fire leaving The Ohio Leather Company without a local competitor. The Ohio Leather Company grew to employing 500-600 workers. In 1917 the company declared a 33.3 percent dividend, a hefty return on investment in any era. The company continued to thrive during the 1920’s under president V.G. Lumbard, who joined the company as General Manager, with background as an expert tanning engineer. In 1933, during the Depression, the company was valued at 1,666,143.38 and did most of its business on a cash basis. They even sponsored a Marching Band which performed at the Mahoning Country Club. Throughout this time it was known for its fine leather products including leather gloves.

One of the challenges in the tanning business was the smell which clung to workers’ clothing. After a while the workers didn’t notice it but their families did. The more serious challenge, as in other industries, was the rise of unions seeking better conditions and wages. Workers with 10-15 years experience were laid off in 1934 under the guise of lack of business while new employees remain. Their complaints were not upheld however. By 1936, employment was up to 800 and they were voted an extra week’s bonus pay. This did not quell union activity. In March 1937, they staged a sitdown strike demanding recognition of the Boot, Shoe, & Leather Workers Union. On March 23, Ohio Leather agreed to recognize the union along with raising wages and agreeing to a 40 hour week.

The war brought contracts for manufacturing high quality leather for shoes. By 1943, 8,000 calfskins a day were processed by the plant. The company continued to thrive after the war until the late 1950’s when profits began to slip. The problem continued into the 1960’s and in 1963, Beggs and Cobb of Boston acquired a controlling interest in the company. Then in November of 1968, Talcott National of New York acquired the company as foreign competition further imperiled profits. Conditions worsened, layoffs followed, and finally operations ceased November 1, 1971.

The building stood vacant for the next two and a half decades with several fires occurring, and finally a blaze in 1995 that gutted the building. In the years since, the property has been in litigation with the city of Girard over cleanup of industrial wastes from the tanning processes, which has sought the acquisition of the land for parks and bike and walking trails. By 2013, much of this land had finally been acquired, with additional negotiations ongoing for some adjacent railway property.

Perhaps one day people will walk or cycle through this area. Will they remember when one of the largest leather businesses in the country operated here? At least they won’t have to contend with the smell.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Dollar Savings & Trust

Early postcard of Dollar Savings and Trust Building

Somewhere around fifth grade, I decided my allowance wasn’t quite enough for my baseball card collecting (wish I still had that collection). So with dad fronting me the money for a lawn mower, I went door to door and convinced ten people within a couple blocks of my house to let me cut their grass and pay me for it. Back in the sixties, I earned about $20 a week. One of the best things my father did was insist I set up a savings account at the bank down the street from our home, the Dollar Savings and Trust. Our branch was located a few blocks from our home in the same block on Mahoning Avenue as Stambaugh-Thompson’s and an Isaly store. When I was young, I’d go to the bank with my dad sometimes, then we’d pick up some hardware for the house, and finish with ice cream. I had good memories of going to the bank.

I received my own passbook (with my dad’s name also on the account). Most weeks, I’d deposit $5 unless I had a very good week. And then something magical happened. Once a month the teller would add some money to my account that I didn’t deposit. It was interest and my first exposure to the idea that first you work for your money, and then you let your money work for you. I learned to set goals. I remember when I saw a stereo at Dave’s Appliance. I saved for months until I had enough money. I withdrew it from the bank and took it up to Dave’s and bought that stereo. Music never sounded so good!

Later in junior high and high school other jobs followed. I still cut lawns, raked leaves, shoveled snow, delivered papers, and then worked at McKelvey’s. I wanted to go to college, so I kept saving. It paid off. Between savings and scholarships, I ended college debt-free–thanks to dad’s lessons and my local Dollar Savings & Trust, which later gave me a small loan for my first used car after college.

The Dollar Savings and Trust Company (the “and” was replace with “&” only in 1975) was established in 1887. Asael Adams, originally from Cleveland, was one of the early presidents, beginning in 1895. He oversaw the construction of their downtown headquarters on the northwest corner of Central Square in 1901-1902. Charles H. Owsley was the building architect. Owsley and his son Charles F. designed some of the iconic buildings in Youngstown. During this time it reached $1,500,000 in capital.

One of the first tenants of the building beside the bank was the Youngstown Club which occupied the seventh and eighth floors of the building until 1926. In 1947 the bank had grown to the point that it acquired City Trust and Savings for $1.3 million. By 1970, with the opening of an Austintown branch, the bank had thirteen branches. Between 1972 and 1975 the downtown bank was completely remodeled, including refacing the building with a modern looking granite face. At the time of its acquisition by National City Bank in Cleveland in 1994, it had 32 branches, having acquired some other regional banks with $1,052,621,000 in assets and $838,150,000 in deposits. In turn PNC Bank acquired National City Bank in 2008.

About the time PNC acquired National City Bank parts of the granite façade deteriorated and crumbling pieces started falling, endangering pedestrians. Scaffolding was erected and repairs were made by 2011. However PNC moved the downtown bank to City Centre One in 2012, leaving the old building, now rebranded 16 Wick Avenue nearly 90% unoccupied. Several office leasing companies list the whole building as available and held by NYO Properties, developer of many downtown properties, that recently has been trying to sell a number of these. It is also listed on the “Abandoned” website which has a number of images of the interior including the bank vault.

Today, PNC has four branches in the Youngstown area, a far cry from Dollar Savings and Trust at its height. It reflects both the changed landscape of banking and the changed economics of Youngstown. None of the banks we grew up with remain under the familiar names of that time, nor are any under local control. But that doesn’t mean we can’t remember the role they played in teaching us to save, giving us our first loan or mortgage, helping us to manage our earnings and investments, putting our money to work for us.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Wick Six

Wick Six
Car Ads from the Wick Six

At one time, if you wanted to buy a new car in Youngstown, you most likely would have at least looked at the dealerships on Wick Avenue known as the “Wick Six.” We had a ’56 Dodge from Strausbaugh’s and my wife’s father, who worked nearby at General Fireproofing, bought all his cars at State Chevrolet, and my wife’s first car, a ’76 Nova, came from State Chevrolet.

Actually a number of automobiles with legendary names like Nash and Huppmobile were once sold at dealerships along Wick Avenue. Volume 58 of Motor World from 1919 announced that:

Stearns Auto Sales Co., Youngstown, Ohio has purchased 70 feet on Wick Avenue where it will build a new salesroom.

There is a direct connection from Stearns Auto Sales to the Wick Six. Gene Hopper was one of the founders of Stearns. His sister married Arthur Sweeney, who, in 1955, founded the State Chevrolet dealership. The Sweeney family also was connected with the beginnings of Buick Youngstown, through the Sterns Company’s acquisition of the Buick franchise for the area in 1931.

Other franchisees followed. Hugh Kroehle, a classic car guy founded the Kroehle Lincoln-Mercury franchise. W. O. Stausbaugh launched Strausbaugh Dodge. Richard Barrett, who was in the auto business for 40 years owned Barrett Cadillac. Stackhouse Olds, also named after its founder rounded out the six.

I also found evidence of  Pontiac franchises along Wick Avenue during this time, first Buckeye Pontiac, and later Valley Pontiac. But they were never considered a part of the “Wick Six.”

Buckeye Pontiac
Pontiac ad listing Buckeye Pontiac on Wick Avenue.

Some classic cars were sold at these dealerships: all the finned “boats” of the late ’50’s and early sixties, the Mercury Comet and the Dodge Dart, Corvairs and Corvettes, the Olds 88 and the Cutlass, and all the muscle cars of the late ’60’s.

During this period, Youngstown was changing as people moved into the suburbs west and south of the city. A number of these dealerships followed, most moving to the Boardman area where a new concentration of dealerships formed. Buick Youngstown hung on until 1986 when they relocated to Market Street. State Chevrolet closed in 1998.

The buildings where these dealerships were located became derelict, and in 2016, the City of Youngstown began demolishing them. But at the Sweeney Chevrolet and Buick dealerships a couple of the Wick Six families are carrying on the car business, according to a 2019 Business Journal article. Doug Sweeney, who dusted parts shelves at State Chevrolet as a 14 year old owns these GM Franchises, buying out brother Dave’s Buick franchise in 2009. Doug had taken over the State Chevrolet franchise in 1981 until selling it in 1998. In 2009, GM awarded Doug with a Chevrolet franchise once again. His daughter Alexa Sweeney Blackann is vice president of the company. Bobby Stackhouse, grandson of the founder of Stackhouse Olds is also a managing partner. [Update: Since this article was written, Sweeney Chevrolet and Buick has become #1 Cochran Chevrolet Buick GMC Youngstown, operating at the same location. The Cochran family has a hundred year history in the automobile business and has been selling General Motors vehicles since 1965.]

The “Wick Six” recalls a different era that connects all the way back to the infancy of the automotive industry. It is a reminder of a time when Wick Avenue north of the mansions, the Butler, and what was then Youngstown University consisted of a thriving business district where Youngstown bought its cars.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — East Federal Street

East Federal Street

East Federal Street, probably some time in the 1940’s or early 50’s. Stambaugh Building and Realty Building are in the foreground. Photo source unknown.

One of the things that I’ve discovered is that there is a real gap in my memories of Youngstown east of Central Square. For a short time in the 1960’s my father worked at Haber’s Furniture at 200 East Federal and as a kid, I went to the YMCA on North Champion every Saturday for a couple years. I honestly have a hard time remembering much else. I remember the Stambaugh and Realty Buildings opposite each other just east of the square. Most of my memories of downtown, particularly because I worked at McKelvey’s during high school and college, were west of the square. I went to an orthodontist in Central Tower and remember stores like Strouss,’ Lustig’s, Reicharts, Fanny Farmers, Stambaugh-Thompson’s, Record Rendezvous, and of course, the Home Savings Building.

89.119 B1aF325 N. View from Walnut and Federal Streets looking W

East Federal Street in the 1960’s. Photo from Mahoning Valley Historical Society archives.

Looking at old photographs of East Federal Street, I am amazed at the sheer number of stores and businesses, many with awning fronts, that lined East Federal from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. In one photo, I can make out Rocky’s Tavern, Castle Jewelers, East Federal Furniture Company, Factory Shoe Store, Lewis Apparel on Credit, Volunteers of America Opportunity Store, Fishers Dry Goods, and a partially obscured sign for Modern…. Another has signs for the Bargain Store, Marlane, The Atlas Grille, and Downtown Tile Center. Others have signs for Nick’s Shoe Repair, a camera and jewelry store, Leonard’s Clothes Shop, Best Cleaners, Philco/Royal TV Service, the Regent Theater, LeCar Furniture Store, an Army-Navy store, and a Sherwin-Williams paint and wallpaper store. All of these can be seen in a Homeplate TV/MetroMonthly video of East Federal Street in the 1960’s. At one time Rulli Brothers had two stores on East Federal, at 345 and at 21. Eventually the consolidated to the 21 E. Federal location.

I noticed two things from the pictures. One was that this was usually a busy place, cars lining the streets and a number of people on the sidewalks. The other was that the names suggested that these stores may have served a more economically-challenged part of Youngstown than the stores on the other side of Central Square. Bargain stores, stores offering apparel on credit, repair shops for shoes and appliances probably served those who lived paycheck to paycheck.

All these old storefronts are gone. The Realty and Stambaugh Buildings remain (the latter now a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel) as does the Haber Building now owned by Ohio One with an additional story. East Gateway Community College now occupies the block between South Champion and South Walnut. The YMCA is still on North Champion. But the cityscape has totally changed.

The gap in my own memories of East Federal seems to be matched with a lack of information in books I have or online articles apart from a few videos. I’d love to hear from others who have memories of downtown east of Central Square. It’s plain to me that downtown wasn’t just on West Federal back then. I’d like to know more about what I missed.