McDonald’s, Rohrer’s survive & adapt to roadside

My trip last week along the Lincoln Highway near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, took me past many old businesses including a McDonald’s that retains its 1960s arch, and an old family business in a new location. Here’s the McDonald’s on the west end of Lancaster. Few of these single-arch sign survive; a similar one was just removed in Huntsville, Alabama, but was saved by the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.

And here’s the new location in Mountville of Rohrer’s Hardware, a decades-old family business that was profiled recently at Lancaster Online. The story contains interesting insights for anyone interested in preserving non-chain businesses and roadscapes.

Following is an excerpt from the news story:

Jim Rohrer is a die-hard hardware guy — a survivor in an age when big-box retailers are driving family-owned hardware stores to the brink of extinction.

He’s been in the business since 1975, when he and his father, Harry, opened Rohrer’s Hardware off Columbia Avenue between Centerville and Mountville.

Harry, 85, still comes into the store for a couple of hours nearly every day, Jim Rohrer said.

The Rohrers survived a fire in 1992, moving the store down the road to Woods Edge Plaza just in time to see Lowe’s open a home improvement center on nearby Rohrerstown Road.

Now, they have moved Rohrer’s Hardware again, a half-mile away to 2734 Columbia Ave., where the traffic is less congested and the overhead less expensive, but where Lowe’s still looms as the store’s biggest competitor.

“I could look at my sales figures and tell you exactly” when Lowe’s opened six years ago, Rohrer said.

Yet, despite that drastic drop in sales, Rohrer has been able to keep going — move and all — by catering to longtime customers, and by providing some of the services and supplies that big-box stores don’t find profitable….

What they don’t realize, he said, is that very often his prices are actually lower.

“If people shop around, they’re going to find out [the big boxes] cannot sell every product cheaper than everybody else,” Rohrer said. It’s just the “they spend millions to build that perception.”…

“People have to realize if they want stores like us to be here they need to use us as more than just the store of last resort,” he said. [my emphasis]

Here’s an image from the article:

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2 thoughts on “McDonald’s, Rohrer’s survive & adapt to roadside

  1. Nice McDonald’s sign. There use to be one in Harrisburg also. I have shots from around 1989 if I remember correctly of the H-Burg one.

  2. You know, it’s funny, but I never really realized how rare those single-arch signs are, particularly since there were quite a few where I grew up. Haven’t been there in a while, but I believe the McDonald’s I’d occasionally hit up for my double cheeseburger fix while working at the ad agency had a single-arch sign.

    There’s also a “local” hardware store not far from my last apartment back in MI. My father actually had his first job there when he was a kid, and would ride his bike there and back after school to put in his hours. :) They’re great little places, and the staff is MUCH more helpful than many of the sullen, disinterested big box staffers.

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