Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "Hardware Wars"

Tom Bosley and Marion Ross on Happy Days.

I've written about this before, but my family owned a small business in the late 1970s and early '80s. It was a children's clothing store called the See Saw, and it was located in the (still-existent!) Carman Plaza shopping center on Corunna Road in Flint, Michigan. This was a somewhat seedy strip mall anchored by a Kroger, you understand, not one of those fancy enclosed malls that were all the rage back then. I remember my parents being very upset when a video arcade moved into the Plaza just a few doors down from us. They claimed it attracted an undesirable element. (Read: teenage potheads.)

Even with the undesirables, the See Saw managed to turn a tidy profit, and my parents had biggish dreams for the place. We talked about moving the See Saw into the indoor Genesee Valley mall a few miles away and ditching the poorly-maintained Carman Plaza, but these plans were scuttled by my strong-willed grandmother, who ran the clothing store alongside my mother. Grandma wanted to retire in the mid-1980s, so that was the end of the See Saw. My mom happily went back to teaching.

I have fond memories of the clothing store, but I have even fonder memories of the Genesee Valley mall on Linden Road in Flint. Oh, the hours I spent at that place. We just called it "the Valley," and it was pretty much the center of our lives back then.

As a kid, my favorite place at the Valley was the toy store Circus World, even though I was a little intimidated by the clown-headed helium tanks in front that were always overinflating balloons and causing them to POP loudly. I also dearly loved Woolworth, which had a very decent toy section of its own and was my source for Garbage Pail Kids cards, too. Not to mention it was attached to a restaurant called Harvest House, which served the best chocolate milkshakes I have ever had. As I grew older, I started frequenting Record Town and Tape World. Those places truly shaped my musical tastes, probably for the rest of my life.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're talking about the Season 10 episode "There's No Business Like No Business," whose plot revolves around both small businesses and malls. Specifically, Howard (Tom Bosley) is worried that the local mall is going to put his store, Cunningham Hardware, out of business forever. Is he right? Is this the end of one of Happy Days' iconic locations? Listen to our latest episode and find out!