Whipple and Sipher's old pulley

Every restored Victorian building surrounding the greensward of Medina’s Public Square has its story.  And occasionally, some remnant, some souvenier from the past, hidden away in an attic or a dusty corner finds the light of day, and it too has a story to tell.

Gramercy Gallery

There is, for example, Gramercy Gallery at 221 South Court Street, one of a row of buildings erected in the aftermath of the devastating 1870 fire.  It is a chic and elegant shop decorated in lush Victorian style and filled with gifts, original art and antiques.  Most of the well-heeled customers who shop here have probably never seen the huge wheel pictured above.  But  proprietor Pam Miller might take you up the the attic — if she’s of a mind to — and show you the large pulley with rope and hook still intact, still ready to raise and lower boxes of glassware and crockery through the trapdoor in the ceiling, as it did the the late 1800’s when the store belonged to a couple of local merchants named Whipple and Sipher.

Their shop was a Medina institution and it supported the Whipple and Sipher families quite handsomely.  (Mr. Sipher’s very large safe remains in the back room — although it is no longer filled with money.) Both men built imposing Victorian homes during those heady days of the Gilded Age when growth and prosperity abounded in the village of Medina.

Pam Miller points out another remembrance of the past — a white fireplace surround in the main room of the shop. “I was told that it came from Doc Strong’s house on the Square, where the new courthouse stands today,” she says. The elaborate wood piece is distinctly Victorian in style — but the house it came from was built before the Civil War.  It was one of several gracious, Western Reserve-style homes that stood on the eastern side of  Public Square before the leading citizens chose to move to quieter, less commercial neighborhoods. As a result, the homes were torn down or moved.

Around the turn of the century, the Whipple and Sipher store was acquired by the Cannon family who sold groceries for two generations. The Cannons left something behind as well — several display cases (like the ones pictured below) that sit forlornly on the floor of the attic, surrounded by seasonal decorations and boxes of wrapping paper.

Ida Cannon stands at the counter.

Ida Cannon was the daughter of the family and an iconic figure in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Senior citizens who grew up in Medina remember her presiding behind the counter like a crusty deity, wrapping purchases in old-fashioned brown paper and tying them neatly with string.

Cannon’s grocery store also delivered.  Ida owned a 1930’s-era station wagon with wood-paneled doors dubbed the “Cannonball” by irreverent delivery boys who, (unbeknownst to Ida), raced it up and down the village streets.

Those were the days when — if a family was not at home — the delivery boy walked into the kitchen and left the groceries on the table, taking care to put the perishables into the ice-box.  (Doors were never locked and “refrigerator” was still an unknown term.)

Today the shop — founded in 1984 and owned by Pam Miller since 1989 — is filled with original art by noted Medina artist Cindy Allman, cards and stationary, jewelry, pillows and throws, Byers Choice Christmas carolers, and framed inspirational quotations. However, like Whipple and Sipher, Pam Miller also  sells “crockery” — that is, hand-made platters and vases by local artists Elaine Lamb and Bonnie Gordon. And, like Ida Cannon, she sells groceries too — the kind that cater to more modern tastes, like gourmet jellies and chipotle dip mixes.

So, to paraphrase a worldly French quotation, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Victorian elegance

South Court Street in days of yore. Note Whipple and Sipher sign on far right.

11 Responses to “Remembrance of Things Past: Shopping in Medina Then and Now”

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  10. Tim Davis Says:

    Any idea which Whipple this was? Spring Grove is full of Whipples of this vintage. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gsr&GSiman=1&GScid=43546&GSfn=&GSln=whipple

  11. Tim Davis Says:

    or Jerusha Whipple ( -1865) in (old) Medina Cemetery. -tcd

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