Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Endangered Cleveland: The Lancer Steakhouse Destroyed and Vidstar Video to Close

This week, we lost two historic Cleveland businesses. First, The Lancer Steakhouse, located at 7707 Carnegie Avenue, was destroyed by fire:
The Lancer Steakhouse -- a popular nightspot for almost five decades where notables in the black community rallied Cleveland's first black mayor and celebrated the country's first black president -- was destroyed by fire Sunday.

"The Lancer is very important to the city and it's always been a symbol in the African American community," [said owner George] Dixon....

"When people came into town, they'd stop at the Lancer -- everyone from politicians to athletes to just the regular guy off the street," he said. "It was a melting pot where everybody rubbed shoulders and talked about the topics of the day."

And then yesterday, the owner of Vidstar Video on Coventry announced that he is closing the store:
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio - Vidstar Video, an independent video store and fixture on Coventry Road for nearly 27 years, will turn off its neon sign for the last time at the end of the year.

"We really had a lot of good customers, but half of them weren't as loyal as they once were, and the economy just put a nail in it," said founder and owner Les Groynom.

Now you might say, I know why The Lancer is historic. The Lancer is an important landmark in African American history! But Vidstar? It's just a video store. Does that really count as historic?

Although it is certainly not as significant as the Lancer -- which served as 'strategy central' for Carl Stokes' successful mayoral campaign -- Vidstar deserves at least a footnote in Cleveland history. Why? Because Vidstar helped to define the Coventry of the 1980s and 1990s, a neighborhood that had morphed from the beatnik hangout of the 1960s and 1970s, but was not yet the slick, yuppified Coventry of today. It was a place where Generation X Clevelanders came of age. And because of the steady Brain Drain of younger people from Cleveland, the Gen X Cleveland cultural memory is in terrible danger of getting lost.

But there is a silver lining: while Vidstar may be closing for good, the owner of The Lancer hopes to rebuild. The editors of Cleveland Area History will keep you posted on what you can do to help. In the meantime, we urge you to show your support by becoming their fan on Facebook.

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