With Valentine’s Day arriving next week, we’d like to toss a few bouquets to some folks in our community who have made a difference, in big ways and small, that deserve recognition.
Like most in Gainesville, we were sad to learn that Saul’s on the downtown square will be closing soon. Owner Lorry Schrage, who took over the 79-year-old store from when his father and founder William Schrage died in 2001, made the decision recently based on the changing habits of retail shoppers, plus the likely upheaval from the planned downtown development. The store is holding a final liquidation sale until the inventory is gone; he’ll then look to sell the property.
“For me, the problem is I know I’m going to miss my customers,” Schrage said. “And that’s difficult, to say the least.”
Saul’s is yet another throwback to a time when local shops dominated retail shopping, before malls and online options took over. Schrage offered personal service that put store owner and shopper on a first-name basis. Women who themselves bought their first formal dresses at Saul’s would often take their daughters for a similar experience.
Sadly, though, established brick-and-mortar stores are finding it hard to compete in the modern marketplace, even when they offer more than one can get from a point-and-click experience.
“Used to be, you’d go into stores and you’d know everybody,” Schrage said. “Our customers are our friends. They come in and they know us, and that’s hard to do in a big-box store. We know what they like and what they don’t like.”
Schrage even sent a letter to his loyal customers explaining his decision, a stark contrast to national corporations that often pull out of an area with no notice at all.
We salute Schrage and his family for the service they provided Gainesville customers over the years, and we hope the days of such personal service aren’t gone for good.
Also of note from last weekend were honorees at the annual Junior Achievement Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame Gala, John Addison and Ed Schrader.
Addison, of Clermont, served as co-chief executive officer at Primerica from 1999-2015. Since leaving that position at Primerica, where he still serves on the board, he has educated business professionals through speaking events, a book, as editor of Success Magazine and the CEO of Addison Leadership Group Inc. He has been involved in numerous community efforts as well, including the Georgia Conservancy, the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce and the Gwinnett Children’s Shelter.
“I want to thank Junior Achievement because that organization focuses on making the next generation achieve, which is an important word,” Addison said.
Schrader, president of Brenau University since 2005, has overseen the school’s enrollment growth by more than 30 percent along with expansions to Fairburn and Jacksonville, Fla., and the continued growth of the main Gainesville campus.
”The trustees of Brenau were extremely generous in 2004 when they offered me the opportunity to come to Gainesville,” Schrader said. “I have loved Gainesville ever since.”
Other honorees at the Gala were Brian Daniel as the Gus Whalen Rising Star, Valery Lowe as the Educator of the Year and Cindy Askounis as the Volunteer of the Year.
And a final dozen roses go to Barry and Ginger Stinson, who last week donated four sets of pet oxygen masks to Hall County Fire Services. The kits include three masks each of varying sizes that can be hooked to an oxygen cylinder to save pets who are caught in a house fire and suffer from smoke inhalation, the main killer in a fire.
Their effort not only saved Hall taxpayers from purchasing such kits, but may also save the lives of some beloved companions.
“I wanted to do something to get invested in the community rather than expect the county to provide for the people,” Barry Stinson said. “I think the people need to be providing stuff where opportunities are available.”
Each of these people have, in their own ways, made our communities stronger, kinder, safer and more prosperous. We offer a Valentine of gratitude to all.
Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.