Saturday, May 15, 2004

Latonia's classic car show shut down

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ron Bradley of Park Hills poses with a 1957 Corvette he restored, in the parking lot of Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppe.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
LATONIA - Ron Bradley's restored red 1957 Corvette was meant to spend warm Saturday nights cruising the streets and showing off along a busy boulevard.

But instead of turning heads tonight in Latonia, Bradley's sweet street sled will be tucked away in the garage at his Park Hills home. Also out of sight will be the hot rods, low-rider Mercs, '32 Fords and the other 125 or so vintage cars that for the last four years have gathered on Saturday nights in the parking lot of a Winston Avenue shopping center.

The center's landlord is no longer allowing the parking lot at the Latonia Centre strip mall to be used for the regular car show.

"Last week was our last car show," lamented Bradley, 60, the owner of a Cincinnati jewelry manufacturing company. "It's a shame, because people really enjoyed it."We started with just a few cars four years ago and it grew to 130 or so on good weeks."

At the Long John Silver's restaurant, which helped keep the show going, manager Linda Elmore will miss the Saturday night crowds that packed her parking lot and dining room.

"The shows were great for business, not just here but at a lot of the stores in the center," Elmore said.

"It was very family-oriented, and it really grew into one of the biggest cruising shows around. We had people coming in from all over Cincinnati, parts of Indiana, southern Kentucky. Word was really getting around."

Bradley and his wife, Lynn, a legal secretary, helped start the cruising show four years ago. They and a few car owners would meet for dinner every Saturday night at Long John's.

Other car owners noticed and started dropping in.

"What started as three grew to 10 and eventually went to over 100," Bradley said.

As the crowds grew, Elmore began offering free food samples and gave away dishes of ice cream to the kids.

A DJ became a regular feature.

Participants held a split-the-pot jackpot, with the money split between the winner and a local charity. Door prizes were given away.

From late April to early October, the Saturday night car-cruising show was a given.

"There was never any trouble," Elmore said. "The people who came just loved cars and loved getting together."

But the crowds became so large that they began spilling over into the parking lot at Frank's Nursery and Crafts, Long John's shopping center neighbor.

Spring is obviously a busy time for a nursery, and Frank's management was concerned about losing customer parking to the car show.

Frank's managers met with Elmore, and it was decided that car show organizers would keep spectators out of Frank's lot. Signs were put up directing car show folks away from Frank's, and the DJ made periodic reminders about parking.

But the center's owner, Schottenstein Property Management of Columbus, heard about the show and about Frank's concerns. It informed Elmore that holding promotions or festivals such as a car show were against Long John Silver's lease.

"We didn't have a choice. We had to stop the show," Elmore said.

Schottenstein did not return phone calls to comment.

Frank's is satisfied with the parking agreement it had with Long John's and is disappointed the show had to end, said company spokeswoman Alissa Pinck.

"The company thought it had come to an agreement with Long John Silver's," Pinck said. "Unfortunately, this did not work out.

"The company is still very interested in working with the landlord and the restaurant to come up with an amicable solution to this issue," Pinck said.

The last show was May 8. Lynn Bradley passed around petitions that night, collecting about 350 signatures. She plans to send them to Schottenstein in hopes of changing the company's mind.

"This was a family-oriented, community-oriented event put on by a bunch of people who just love cars and love getting together," she said.

"We've looked for other places to go, but the shopping center has been so perfect. We are trying to convince the owners to reconsider. We don't want it to end."


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