The little store at 1704 Maplewood (FPLA/CADL)
Throughout the history of the United States the corner store was a fixture in the everyday life of an urban neighborhood. With the demise of the general store, and the growth of department stores, the local corner or neighbor store quickly filled this gap in the retail trade.
What was a corner store, well it’s a retail operation tucked into a neighborhood. The stores were not on a main street or a bus route, they were surrounded by the homes of their customers. You didn’t drive to your neighborhood store, you walked or road your bike. It is the place you went as a kid to return the glass bottles you collected for the 5¢, then used your windfall to buy a pop, baseball cards, penny candy or on those hot days a cool treat.
For adults the store stocked ice cold beer, cold cuts, can goods, fresh vegetables and paper products. In the era before the grocery store and for many years afterward, the neighborhood store served the needs of the community. What made these hole in the wall stores interesting is the owner lived above his or her business. That was their appeal, the owner was always around. In Lansing, just to cite a few examples, there were stores at 1529 New York, another at 110 N. Butler and believe it or not, one at 1001 Seymour. Although many of the hole in the wall stores were torn down years ago you can still see an example of what they looked like. There is one that is still standing at 401 Shepard, right across from the Allen Community Center.
The store at 1704 Maplewood first appears in 1924 and was owned by Mrs. Pearl Joel. Pearl was married to George P. Joel. The couple met while Pearl was working as a telephone operator, they married on January 28, 1921, in Lansing. It may have been that George and Pearl intended to operate the store and raise a family, but it was not to be. The 1924 Lansing City Directory listed Pearl as the only operator of the business. George, a World War I veteran was at his parents’ home, in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, slowly wasting away from pulmonary tuberculosis. Pearl would sell the business to Thomas West and move to Pennsylvania to care for her husband. George Parrish Joel passed away on Christmas Day 1925. (Morning Press 12/26/1924)
Pearl Madeline Randel was born in Burns Township, Michigan on June 5, 1898, to Henry J. and Dora B. (nee Wriggelsworth) Randell. Little is known about Pearl’s early life except that she married Volney M. Vorce in Lansing on November 24, 1915, he was 20 she was just 17. The couple had one child, Maxine R. Vorce. Volney served in the 119thField Artillery in World War I with Carlton Randell, Peral’s brother. The couple divorced in 1920, Volney was cited for extreme and repeated cruelty. After George’s death in 1925, Pearl married Harvey D. Hincher in Novi, Michigan on January 1, 1925. The couple settled in Lansing where Harvey worked for Hill Diesel Engine Company. Harvey adopted Maxine in 1931. (LSJ 12/10/1931) Unfortunately Harvey died of a heart attack on July 6, 1946, at the age of 47. Pearl met the widower, Paul Edgar Fancher and the couple married on April 19, 1947, in Lansing. Paul worked for Oldsmobile for 35 years and when he retired in 1965, he and Pearl moved to Englewood, Florida. One bit of information that is known about Pearl is she was an accomplished amateur photographer, who won several awards. After Paul’s death in 1971, Pearl ,oved to Atlanta, Michigan where she lived with her daughter. Pearl died at the age of 91 on July 9, 1989. (LSJ7/11/1989)
That was quite a rabbit hole to dive down, but Pearl’s life was an interesting, especially how fate brought George and her to open a little store on Maplewood, which reflected the dreams of many veterans and their wives following World War I.
So, a little more about 1704 Maplewood. In 1927 the business became part of a loose affiliation of local corner stores called the Lansing Service Stores, with A. E. Thomas as proprietor. In the 1940s Earl V. Osgood acquired the business which he operated for several years until the mid-1950s when he sold the building to Village Cleaners. In the 1960s Harry Penton bought the building and established Penton Upholstering. In the 1970s the building became the site of the Emmanuel Tabernacle, with Pastor Harold Wonders. The city of Lansing issued a make safe or raze, order in 1980 resulting is the building being torn down. So ended the dream of a young married couple.