As you sit at the traffic light on West Oviatt and Dover Center Roads in Bay Village, facing east, your eyes see a two-story brick building with a sign that reads “Bay Hair.” To the north is a wooden building with a garage behind. Today, these buildings belong to the John Peterson family.
William (Bill) Blaha, who built the buildings, was John Peterson’s grandfather. William Blaha married Mary Januska in 1908 and their daughter, Marie Blaha Peterson, was John Peterson’s mother. In 2007, Marie’s beauty parlor became the longest continuing business in Bay Village when it celebrated 80 years. Five generations of this family have made Bay Village their home.
In 1914, William Blaha was operating a grocery store in Cleveland on East 65th St. when Edwards Foods, a wholesale food distributor, purchased the Cahoon Store from the Wischmeyer family. They approached Bill with an offer to move his grocery business to the Cahoon Store in Bay Village. He accepted and his grocery business opened on the first floor with the family living quarters upstairs.
Bill prospered. With Bill still operating his grocery in the Cahoon location, he purchased a piece of land from the Cahoon family, north of the store. The first building he constructed on the site was a double-bay auto garage with two Sohio gasoline pumps in front. Sohio advertised that it had a dot on its Ohio State road map for every township with a gas pump. When the map came out, however, the Bay Village location wasn’t on it. Bill made sure that the next road map Sohio printed had a dot locating Bay Village. You could say Bill was the man who put Bay Village on the map.
Bill built a brick building, in 1926, south of the garage and moved his grocery business and meat market. The family moved into a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment upstairs. Mary could always be found behind the cash register and Bill behind the meat counter. The family also operated a grocery store on Clague Road. This building no longer exists.
In the apartment on the second floor, Bill and Mary raised their family of four girls and one boy; Marie, Marguerite, Jo Ann, Millie and Bill. While in high school, Marie was a star basketball player on Bay’s championship team in 1926.
After graduation from Parkview School, Marie was asked to play for a semi-pro girl’s basketball team but opted to attend beauty school instead. She opened a beauty parlor in the wooden building north of the alley, in what had been her dad’s meat market.
In 1917, work began on a new bridge over Cahoon Creek on Lake Road. Many workmen came into the village. There being no bank in town, the safe in Bill’s grocery was the place to go to secure their money. This way the workmen had access to their money when the store was open. For an emergency, he would open day or night. This was not your average financial arrangement, however, as true to his nature there would be no charge for the service. This was always done as a courtesy.
When the depression hit in 1929, Bill had a thriving business. Friends and neighbors Bill had lived alongside for years were now losing their jobs or had their wages cut so drastically they didn’t have enough money to feed their families. Bill began carrying a tab for anyone down on his luck. Some tabs were carried for years and some tabs never paid back. This generosity became a hardship on his grocery business, and Bill found himself going into debt. Soon he was not able to keep up with his own bills, and the store closed in 1940 when many customers defaulted on their tabs.
Some tabs were so large that he received the offer of a 40-acre farm near Warren, Ohio, and an apartment building on Madison Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio, in exchange for the tab. Bill closed the store and put his property up for sale. Mrs. Sylvester purchased the property. Marie rented and operated her beauty parlor in the wooden building.
After the grocery store closed, the brick building housed the Bay Village Post Office, a TV Repair Shop, and Neil O’Conner’s Florist on the first floor. In 1963, Marie moved the beauty parlor into the brick building. Mrs. Sylvester, who married Mr. Hanushak, stayed true to her word with Marie. The Peterson family would have the first opportunity to buy back the buildings should her family decide to sell.
In 1985, the buildings were purchased by the Peterson family. The wooden building became ‘Potpourri,’ a popular card and gift store and then a dental lab. The Blaha’s grocery store was a family enterprise. As both the stores and the garage needed workers, grandpas, sisters, brothers, cousins, and brothers and sisters-in-law, became part of the family business.
Joe Januska met his future wife on a delivery run to the Kreb’s farm in Avon Lake. Despite everything that happened with the business, Bill always said, “I wouldn’t have done it any other way.” Bill’s generous heart stayed with him to the end.