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Lawson's convenience stores

Posted: 13 May 2007 00:40
by Super S
In the early 1980s I remember a chain of conveinence stores by the name of Lawson's in northern Ohio. It was still open in 1982 when I left the area, but when I returned for a visit ten years later in 1992, I noticed the location in Port Clinton, my hometown, had changed hands. It seems to me they were a somewhat decent-sized chain, as I remember TV commercials (either Toledo or Cleveland stations, possibly both) where a person would open a kitchen pantry door and find a Lawson's inside ( to make a point about their "convenience" I guess)

I did find this article:
It shows that the name is alive in Japan, but what I want to know, is what became of the name in Ohio?

Posted: 13 May 2007 16:01
by rich
Lawson's had stores all over Ohio, with more coverage in the northern part of the state. Cincinnati's United Dairy Farmers was a big competitor in southern Ohio and Lawson's entered that region after they had gotten established in the northern part of the state. The HQ was in Cuyahoga Falls, an older suburb of Akron. United Dairy Farmers owned Franklin Ice Cream stores in Cleveland, which were a relatively small operation and were never much of a factor in northern Ohio. Lawson's had some stores in SE Michigan, but I think they stayed out of Pennsylvania because of the regulation of milk prices there. During their heyday, Lawson's usually charged a little less than what you paid in a super market.

Lawson's was known for milk, orange juice (tv commercials featured their "Big O" tank trucks coming up from Florida), snack foods, soda, bread and inexpensive deli items like chip chopped ham (Isaly's dairy stores sold something similar, it was basically a block of compressed ham--low quality meat and fatty, but cheap and popular). The stores initially carried a very small selection of groceries, plus small selections of wine and beer. They continued selling milk in returnable half gallon bottles until well after even milk deliveries had gone to cartons. They also were slow to sell milk in gallon jugs. Most of the grocery items were Consolidated Foods' brands, early on (and usually second rate products). I don't know who they bought from before Consolidated's ownership. As other convenience store franchises entered their territory (Open Pantry, Convenient Food Mart and later 7-11), with wider selections and more name brand items, Lawson started building larger stores with bigger selections. The brick fronted stores with the Lawson logo and a corrugated concrete roof overhang were typical. These were built in the late 60s into the 70s and many still operate as convenience stores. My impression is that Dairy Mart bought most of the stores sometime in the mid- to late-80s.

There was an oversupply of convenience stores by the late 70s and they began to decline in numbers; 7-11 left Cleveland and other chains pared back. The expansion of super market hours in Cleveland during this period may have been a factor, but convenience stores had done well even where Sunday opening and late night hours were common like Columbus and Cincinnati My own impression is that Lawson's stores were simply less competitive and less able to get through this period. Even the later stores did not match their competitors' selections of food and alcohol. I usually shopped their competitors first. As super markets began using milk as a loss leader (very common in the 70s and early 80s), Lawson lost their previous price advantage over the super market chains. Lawson also invested little in their stores although some of the 1950s stores were relocated or enlarged during the 70s. As a result, the stores seemed neglected and shabby.

The relationship to the stores in Japan is described on the wiki link. I've actually been to Lawson's in Tokyo. They use a variation on the 70s's Lawson's logo which was a shock to see. The stores are much brighter and cleaner than the US Lawson's I remember. They run small even for Japanese convenience stores and they don't have a big selection (7-11 usually has more), but they have pretty good ice cream.

Posted: 15 May 2007 01:50
by Rimes
I used to go to my local Lawson's regularly in the 1980s. The one in Riverview, Michigan, at 15600 King Road, opened sometime around 1980. I used to get all my comics there. It was basically just like a 7-11. On June 25, 1987 (I know the date because I mentioned it in a letter to a friend), they changed the name of this store to Dairy Mart. It closed sometime in the 1990s. The building is still there; for the past few years it has been a child-care center, but that closed early in 2007 and is now vacant. Here's a photo of the building taken last year: ... KingRd.jpg

Another Lawson's in Riverview, MI, was located at 12705 Pennsylvania Road, also opening around 1980. It also later became a Dairy Mart, and then circa 2000 became a Circle K. A recent photo: ... ryMart.jpg

Posted: 15 May 2007 21:54
by rich
These stores look very different from the ones they built in the late 60s and through the 70s. They probably were among the last stores that Lawson opened.

Posted: 16 May 2007 01:58
by Rimes
Here's a couple more details about that Lawson's I mentioned earlier, the one at 15600 King Road.

This is a scan of the letter I had mentioned, from 6/25/87, where I noted to a friend that they were changing the sign at Lawson's to a different name. I had drawn a quick picture in the letter of what I meant: ... rawing.jpg

Don't know how accurate my little sketch (drawn later that day, at home) was to the building. My drawing doesn't show the pointed top that is on the current building, and I have the sign over to the right instead of at the front to the left, as it is now. But I don't recall the present building (and the sign) looking any different than the way they look today. (Other than them not saying "Lawson's" obviously!)

In a letter written on July 16, 1987, I mentioned going to "Dairy Mart (once known as "Lawson's")" and "we went up to "Lawson's"/Dairy Mart."

In a letter dated October 2, 1989, I wrote "Whereas I used to buy Marvels & DCs every time I went to Lawsons, since Lawsons closed, I've stopped buying them." So it would appear that the Dairy Mart at 15600 King Road (which I had still called Lawsons) had closed by October 1989, not "sometime in the 1990s" as I had posted earlier.

Posted: 16 May 2007 11:10
by rich
Your drawing looks a bit more like a 70s Lawson's. Still, they tended to have the entrance offset on the left and the roofs were very different--flat, with a small concrete overhand--no mansard roof. Your stores were probably a prototype designed to be more like a 7-11 that came very late in Lawson's history.

Posted: 16 May 2007 23:36
by jamcool
Another Lawson's in Riverview, MI, was located at 12705 Pennsylvania Road, also opening around 1980. It also later became a Dairy Mart, and then circa 2000 became a Circle K. A recent photo: ... ryMart.jpg[/quote]

Circle K seems to be popping in a lot of areas since being bought by Couche-Tard. They used to be just a "Sunbelt" chain.