Powers & Dawley closes after 60 years of retail business

by Hanna Miller

Jack Cochrane is going to take a short nap. "I've been going like gangbusters for an hour, and I'm tired," he says. End of an era

It's hard to believe. Even as he edges towards the stairs, Cochrane, the owner of Powers and Dawley, is energetically greeting the customers who have come to bid farewell to his shop. He grabs hands, pats backs and embraces old friends..

"There are people here I don't know," Cochrane said. "But about 75 percent of them I know. I've made a lot of friends over the years."

Powers and Dawley has been an Oberlin institution for 60 years.

Cochrane's family has owned Powers and Dawley since 1969. Relatives persuaded Cochrane, then living in Chicago, to come home and run the store. After almost 30 years, Cochrane's failing health has forced him to shut the doors forever.

"It's a health issue," Debbie Cochrane said. Debbie Cochrane has been kept busy arranging the store's sudden closure. Clothes had to be put on clearance. A grand closing, replete with prizes, had to be planned.

"You can spell my name any way you want," she said. "Mundane things like that don't matter anymore."

"We're the only place in Oberlin you can get a legitimate $600 suit," Jack Cochrane said. "We're one of Lorain County's premier better clothing stores."

Cochrane recounted with pride the many customers who had traveled great distances to shop at Powers and Dawley. "We have a judge that comes all the way from Akron," Cochrane said. "He's been with us for 20 years."

At Powers and Dowley, 20 years of patronage barely qualifies a shopper for veteran status.

"I've shopped here for 40 years," Priscilla Steinberg of the Oberlin Chamber of Commerce said. "I'm very, very sorry to see it go."

Steinberg was one of the many shoppers who crowded into Powers and Dawley on Thursday morning to take advantage of the final sales.

"I'm just looking at the nice things they have here," Louis Pollard said. "And I'll come back a little later and see what's left."

Dave Parsh of the Oberlin Merchant's Association spoke partly obscured by a clothing rack he picked up for $25.

"It was a shock, it happened so quickly," Parsh said. "It has been an anchor store in the community. Soon these shelves will be bare."

Judging from the throng of eager shoppers snapping up mittens, slippers and ties, Parsh was right. Two petite women surveying a rack of plaid blazers cooed wildly. "This jacket is beautiful! Do you think it will fit?" one asked. "It's a size 14."

"We've shopped her for years and years and years," said Christina Johannsen of Wakeman. "I have all good memories. This is where we bought most of our Christmas gifts."

"Now my daughter's shopping," Johannsen said, scanning the crowd. "I don't know where she went."

"I've lost my wife," growled one shopper in a new suit jacket. "I can't find her."

Debbie Cochrane said the soon-to-be-vacant space will be rented, although she doesn't know who will occupy the building.

"I just hope it's a retail store," Steinberg said.

Jack Cochrane said he is sorry to see the store close.

"I don't like at all," he said. "But the customers don't like us going, which makes us feel pretty good."

End of an era: Powers and Dawley, a 60-year-old establishment, is having its final sale before it closes forever. Owner Jack Cochrane has been in charge of the business for 30 years. (photo by James Cochran)


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Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 17, March 6, 1998

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