I cannot help but think back with fondness of a department store that had once employed upward of 200 people in a 136,000-square-foot building. It was called Valley View Discount Department Store, or just Valley View to us locals.
It first opened in Brookfield in 1959. Since it closed the town has never been the same. The community as a whole lost much more than a store.
With three acres of retail space under one roof, Valley View was the forerunner of such current day big discount stores. It, too, was a discount store, but with much higher quality merchandise than you can find in its present day counterparts.
This store carried just about everything. If you needed to repair your car, it carried auto parts. Sporting goods was one of the bigger departments at Valley View as were plumbing, household goods, furniture and even lumber. Back-to-school shoppers went there. Craft and art supplies were in abundance. There was a huge pharmacy. The hardware department rivaled the ''big box'' hardware stores of today.
There was a paint shop. There was also a seasonal section with decorations for every holiday. There was a garden center. The jewelry counter was not to be missed. The toy department was always a favorite. The list goes on.
Former consumers remember the cafe / snack shop and the smell of fresh popcorn that permeated the store.
Ask anyone who had been there and they are sure to have a memory.
''I used to drive out there with my mother from Warren to buy cake decorating supplies,'' said Bice Comichista of Girard.
Noralee Smiley of Weathersfield recalled that as a newlywed she was able to find any size pot or pan she was looking for, ''and they were all made in America.''
It was not unusual to see buses from as far as Columbus parked there. Out-of-towners often requested their families to include a stop at Valley View during a visit. Their very effective jingle could be heard on nearly every local radio station and urged, ''Let's go Valley Viewing!''
Management encouraged viewing. You really could not see everything there in a day.
Probably the most important aspect of Valley View had nothing to do with its merchandise; it was a place to meet your friends and neighbors While there, you might see your barber, your clergyman or neighbor. You would stop and chat for a few minutes. You never felt rushed or ignored.
Their customer service was the best, with knowledgeable salespersons willing to help in each department. The store was good to its employees, holding a lavish holiday party each year. There was even love in the air as quite a few young men and women who met while working there eventually married.
I Googled ''Valley View'' for this column and found nine pages of references. Many of the references were obituaries. It seems that people working at Valley View served there for many years.
The diversity of the Mahoning and Shenango valleys was evident in the names of some of its former employees. Names like Yassall, Koch, Fencyk, Evans, Pitonyak, and McClafferty reflect the immigrant population that settled here.
Today, there is still a former employees group that meets once a month to commune and reminisce with coworkers and a Facebook page titled, ''Bring Back Valley View Department Store!''
As competition increased in the surrounding suburbs like Niles and Hermitage with malls and chain stores, Valley View began to lose money. The store finally closed in early winter 1995. After that, the founder's company installed an antique mall and flea market that lasted until summer of 2007.
The building sat vacant, badly in need of repair. The costs associated with maintaining an empty structure began to mount. A demolition company was contracted to take the building down. The land was listed with a real estate agent and sits empty to this day.
Joseph Ferrara, the founder and President of Valley View, died in 2001. His wife and co-founder Julia ''Jay'' Ferrara died in 2008. Perhaps that is why the family waited for the demolition.
Fortunately, for the rest of us, we can still ''go Valley Viewing'' in our memories.
O'Connor is a Brookfield resident.