I read with interest “Our Opinion” in the Feb. 20 issue of the Times Online, and wanted to respond. Yes, it’s sad that Shopko is closing, especially for the employees, but Imlay City has always evolved and been a resilient community.
“When I was a boy” in the ’50s and ’60s, Imlay City had a downtown where everything was available. Two drug stores, Dean’s and Ray’s (that alternated being open on Sunday), Kempf’s Shoe Store, Brownites family clothing, Bowen’s Menswear, McDonald’s Jewelry, Ben Franklin and Thayer’s “dime” stores, Baird’s hardware, Western Auto, Rankin’s IGA (yes, downtown, two aisles!), a dress shop, a TV and radio store, the bank, a Shell gas station, dry cleaners, meat market, movie theater, a restaurant and the Imlay City Times, owned by my parents. Even the Ford dealer was downtown on the corner of 4th and Almont Ave., and a Dodge/Plymouth dealer at M-53 and 3rd, and a Chevy dealer at 4th and M-53. In 1965 our family boarded the Grand Trunk train in downtown Imlay City and took a trip to Los Angeles (Disneyland) on the El Capitan, up to San Francisco and back home on the California Zephyr (switching trains coming and going in Chicago, of course.) My mom did all of her shopping in town, except for one trip a year to Hudson’s in downtown Detroit.
“Out on the highway” at the corner of M-21 and M-53 we even had a 24-hour restaurant (Hi Speed/Pure Oil) and truck stop, A&W and Tietz’s restaurants, and an A&P. The fair was the highlight of the summer, with harness racing nearly every night, a tractor pull, but one wild night was reserved for Dan Fleenor’s Hurricane Hell Drivers!
Then a K-Mart opened in Lapeer. And a few years later the Oakland Mall opened. They were every bit as devastating to Imlay City’s downtown businesses then as e-commerce is today. It was a difficult time for awhile, but Imlay City evolved. It will continue to evolve.