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5 Questions for Lawrence Lorry Schrage
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Lorry Schrage is the owner of Saul’s, a family business, in downtown Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

About Lorry Schrage

Age: 67
Hometown: Gainesville
Length of time in Gainesville: Other than when I went to college, was activated for the (1968) Pueblo crisis in the Air Force, and one year in Dalton, I have lived and worked in Gainesville.
Education: Gainesville public schools, bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Occupation: Owner of Saul’s in downtown Gainesville
Most interesting job: Keeping a family-owned-and-operated retail clothing business viable
Family information: Married to Sherrie Nathan Schrage since 1976

Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone in our community to answer five questions about their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, send their name and contact information to askthetimes@gainesvilletimes.com.

Lorry Schrage grew up in Gainesville, was educated in its schools and today run Saul’s, the family business that has been a Gainesville fixture for more than seven decades.

Schrage uses the lessons his parents taught him in all aspects of his life, from running his business to his work serving the community.

Today, The Times asks Schrage five questions about his business, downtown Gainesville and what motivates him to give back.

 

1. Saul’s has been in downtown Gainesville for a long time. What is the story behind the business?

Bill and Gussie Schrage, my parents, started Saul’s in August 1939. The first location was on Washington Street where Atlas Pizza is today. In 1945, Saul’s moved to Spring Street on the square where the parking lot is now. In 1976, Saul’s moved to its present location at 100 Main St. I became full-time manager in 1970. Sherrie began helping in 1976 after we were married.

Bill and Gussie Schrage came to Gainesville shortly after the tornado (in 1936) from New York City. Bill was a freelance writer and Gussie taught piano, but Gussie’s family was in the retail business in Griffin and Dalton.

They felt there was a business opportunity as the city was being rebuilt. They soon learned that to succeed, they needed to stock quality merchandise and give personal professional service.

Some of the early lines were Simplex children’s shoes that they trained their sales associates to expertly fit, and Rothmoor coats and suits.

Incidentally a year or two ago, Lydia Sartain (a local attorney) came to show me a jacket that had been her grandmother’s that she was proudly wearing that day. It was a Rothmoor!

Even though these lines are no longer in existence, the standards my parents set with quality merchandise are still maintained at Saul’s today. Care is taken to buy unique, quality items that are not found in every department or specialty store. Sherrie and I also are fortunate to have friendly, well-trained sales associates who care about our customers.

 

2. Downtown has seen a lot of changes over the years. What have been the challenges of operating a business on the square?

Downtown Gainesville was, at one time, the only shopping area in northeast Georgia. It was the center of activity for both Gainesville and Hall County. Today, the community and surrounding area have grown and there are numerous shopping and entertainment areas.

We, as a business, survive because of the lessons my parents taught me. Fashion changes with the times, but tasteful, quality merchandise is timeless. Always listen to your customers. Sell the best products you can; be honest, sincere and professional.

If you are successful, give back to your community with your time, talents and financial means so that your customers and your community benefit.

The community, the city and county governments, local merchants and the Gainesville Redevelopment Authority have all played and continue to play a part in keeping Gainesville prosperous. To that end, it is always a challenge to keep the interests high, the economic advantage of a strong downtown in the forefront and the ability to keep the downtown flexible to accommodate change and take the opportunities that change provides.

 

3. What do you see as the future of downtown Gainesville?

How fortunate we are! All the downtown players are open to change and welcome the opportunity that change brings. Brenau University’s presence as a new occupant of the Georgia Mountains Center promises to provide untold opportunities for rejuvenation and redevelopment of our area.

New audiences will be coming to downtown, new hotels and residential developments as well as new retail venues will evolve and mature. It’s exciting to see the downtown being connected to our parks on one side and midtown on the other.

Saul’s is in its 73rd year and we are grateful for the loyalty and patronage of the people of Gainesville-Hall County and Northeast Georgia who are making it possible for us to be a part.

 

4. What’s the most unusual fashion trend you have sold in your store over the years?

Each season sees trends come and go and finally return. One fashion trend in the 1980s that comes to mind was the first plastic shoes that were fashion phenomena — Grendha jelly shoes. As the forerunners of numerous synthetic shoes such as garden shoes and Crocs, today they are considered “vintage.”

 

5. You are very instrumental in making sure the Kiwanis Club’s dictionary project — that gives a new dictionary to every third-grader in Hall County — happens each year. Why is this such an important project for you?

The Gainesville Kiwanis Club members made this program the success that it is. They have provided students with approximately 23,000 dictionaries in eight years.

Perhaps two reasons resonate with me personally that make this program important to me. One is that I have a learning disability that has been a challenge since childhood. Being fascinated with words but not being able to always spell or correctly pronounce them has created a great deal of empathy for kids who might have a challenge of any kind, whether because of a learning disability or an even greater challenge of living in a home with no books readily available to them (much less a computer).

The second reason is that both Sherrie and I grew up in homes where the value of an education, the value of reading and comprehending the meaning of words, were considered necessities so that we could broaden our world, so that we could understand other cultures and people different from ourselves, and so that we could learn tolerance.

These dictionaries have become tools to aid kids to become good readers, writers and creative thinkers.

Communication skills are imperative for success. Dictionaries are a wonderful gift that can help each student do all these things.

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