We have been going through some changes on the Centerville Square lately, and it’s caused some low-level, not-quite-to-a-panic rumblings.
After completing the captions for our new book, “Appanoose County,” I feel much less distressed about the vacant buildings than I would have a few years ago. This subject has come up amongst local residents on Facebook, and our discussions have been lively.
This is my viewpoint: The Square is a living, breathing, changing, evolving place. We cannot expect any business to be open forever, so businesses will naturally close. But the Square has survived for 150 years, and it’s still going strong. Yes, there may be a few vacant buildings, but they won’t be vacant forever. They eventually will become an opportunity for a new business. Our Square is a buzzing hub of activity daily, and visitors from out of town love to come here just to see it.
Rumors of the Square’s demise have cropped up from time to time, most recently when JC Penney closed, and also when the original Walmart was built. Before that, there were those who didn’t believe the Square could withstand the opening of Lake Center Mall. But the Square has survived all of that in grand fashion.
Changing times require a changing Square. Have you noticed that there are not general stores on every side of the Square anymore like there were in 1905? The kind of general stores where you bought your groceries, fabric and hardware. Those shops were eventually replaced by grocery stores and department stores on the Square. When the first chain stores like J.C. Penney came to town, the general stores had to fight to stay alive. Eventually, change gave way to the chain stores — JC Penneys, S&L, Brody’s, Jensen’s, Woolworth’s, and Ben Franklin all found homes on the Square. Now their time has expired, and we’re evolving again.
Now is a new era, where the Square will fill back up with other shops, restaurants and other businesses. It’s just what our changing times calls for. It is sad to see a few of our old familiar stores shut their doors, but we will look forward to welcoming the new ones.
Information submitted by Lisa Eddy, curator, Appanoose County Historical Society, 100 West Maple, Centerville, 856-8040, www.appanoosehistory.com.