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Wooster Digital History Project

Downtown in Decline

Nearly every aspect of American life changed in the decades following World War II, including the way people shopped. All over the country, downtown shopping districts gave way to suburban shopping centers and family-owned shops were overtaken by large national chains. Although this new model offered convenience for consumers, some lamented the decline of urban shopping districts, which served as community gathering places and social hotspots for many towns, including Wooster.1  In the 1980s and early 1990s, as shopping malls gained popularity and businesses began to open at the north end of town, the economy of Wooster’s downtown suffered. A number of grocery, drug, and clothing stores went out of business, as people found it easier to shop for such staple items at larger chains. In 1985, approximately forty-two percent of downtown storefronts were vacant as well as sixty-seven percent of upper-story apartments, and many buildings were badly in need of renovations. Mike Mariola, the owner of City Square Steakhouse, remembered, “When I was growing up as a kid, there was not much to do downtown”.2  Many Wooster residents, however, remained determined to preserve the economic and cultural vitality of downtown.

1 Lizabeth Cohen, “From Town Center to Shopping Center: The Reconfiguration of Community Marketplaces in Postwar America,” The American Historical Review  Vol.101, No. 4 (Oct. 1996), 1050.
2 Steve Huszai, “Wooster Came Together and Result is Vibrant Downtown,” Daily  Record, Nov. 29, 2011, accessed July 3, 2013,