Pla-Mor Roller Rink (2009-2018)

February 1, 2018

For those of us who skate (quads) on a regular basis, this post will be redundant. The information may or may not be picked up in the local media, and that would be a shame. A business closing is never pleasant to cover, because the lives of those who put their heart and soul into the company are impacted, as well as the workers.  In this case, there were many devoted people who will experience lasting effects of this closing.

Pla-Mor Roller Rink (formerly the Rollerdrome) in Euclid (Cleveland) OH held its last skating sessions this past weekend, and closed forever after a late night session this past Tuesday, January 30. I first wrote about the opening of Pla-Mor in 2009 that followed the abrupt closing of the Rollerdrome. [1]

Interestingly enough, the principal owner, Warren Hatchett, thanked Lynn and I for coming out and being supportive.  He told us that if attendance for the sessions over the past weekend were like this all of the time instead of just after the closing announcement that he would not have had to shut down the business. And so it goes.

Who or what can be blamed for this closing? In 2015, when I wrote about Pla-Mor’s announcement that it was closing/reopening, I was highly critical of the ambiguous communication and their business issues. [2]  That 2015 announcement was a very emotional moment for those who were faithfully attending the skate sessions. While the transparency of Pla-Mor’s sharing with its customers was commendable, it should have been handled differently.  There was too much information shared about the back-and-forth with the landlord at that time.  Pla-Mor was now seen as highly vulnerable and it made many people nervous as to their viability; as a result, it had a detrimental effect on their attendance. Many people started going to United Skates of America in Wickliffe, which also had a Thursday night session at the same time, from that point on.

Could Pla-Mor have done a better job promoting themselves? Yes, but there’s no need to go there now. Pla-Mor owned the business, but not their building, and they were desperately trying to buy it to remain viable. That was the plan revealed to customers back in 2015. Until that occurred, it ultimately had to deal with a landlord and comply with a lease agreement. Was the landlord reasonable? We can’t know all of the details here, but we do know that while the rink floor remained in very good condition right to the end, the building itself was in disrepair. It needed major roof and plumbing upgrades. The lavatories were barely serviceable, if not awful. When there was a hard rain, the leaks were evident even on areas of the floor during skating sessions. Hatchett and his staff had to scurry about with mops, buckets and fresh ceiling tiles to replace the crumbling, water damaged ones. For these issues, the landlord ultimately has to bear responsibility.

We, as customers, also have to consider that more could have been done to support Pla-Mor, the only black-owned roller rink in the area. Many people today often don’t think about supporting black businesses as much as it was encouraged in the past. It was a call to action in the 60s amd 70s for many of us. As with everything in today’s environment, economics and available disposable income can be the deciding factor for skaters to show up or not. Cost was a factor for some Pla-Mor sessions–it was as high as $10 per person on Thursday nights before the cost was rolled back to $8. To their credit, Pla-Mor did a great deal to try to support its customers with a decent environment to come and skate. They were the great beneficiaries of the immaculate floor surface of Keith Broda’s Rollerdrome. Pla-Mor’s floor had some wear and tear over its nine years, but it still had the reputation of being one of the best in the area. It was excellent for fast skaters, dancers and steppers–the trifecta. Not all rinks are equal, of course. Pla-Mor hit all of the buttons for the true rollers.

Today, the owners (Hatchett and three others) had determined that staying open was no longer a viable option, and the announcement was made early in January 2018.  We heard, during the first Thursday session, that the rink would be closing for good at the end of the month, and the last session would take place on Tuesday, January 30. The closing announcement was not a complete surprise to me. I could see that attendance had dropped dramatically over time on key adult sessions. The rink had very light crowds on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and no rink can sustain poor sessions for long without financial repercussions. It’s a very competitive and costly business to operate a roller rink. A lot of people don’t realize that there are costs to leasing a business that have no benefit towards its operation. A huge semi-annual tax bill for the property is passed on to the lessee by the landlord. Insurance is another factor. A business MUST carry insurance. Southgate Skates was rumored to have closed in 1990 because it could no longer afford the premiums. Running a skating rink today is a significant risk for the ownership and it requires a steady stream of regular and new customers, and also a lot of capital. Pla-Mor struggled with this, and it ultimately took its toll.

Now, on a personal level, for veteran skaters like me, Pla-Mor’s closing brings a sense of loss.  It was my home rink. It was special to me.

At first, Southgate was my home rink in the 80s. Then later, it was the Rollerdrome. Now, it was Pla-Mor. Your home rink is your special place. It is emotional for many of us diehard skaters–the true rollers.

Attending the last sessions at Pla-Mor a week ago and this past Tuesday brought out a lot of sadness, but it also created nostalgic images of the good times, the strange times, the different DJ combinations and the music (good and bad), but it also brought out the memories of outright euphoria after a wonderful session. There were many of those to relish.

My wife, Lynn, is more of a stepper. I have always admired her ability to move in sequence within her group of skaters on the inside. I typically move around the rink in the middle to the outside. A fall that I took recently has slowed me down a little where I don’t move with reckless abandon any more, but I have my moments. I can’t forget to mention Mr. Bill Clayton, who is now age 97. He was a REGULAR skater at Pla-Mor until recently. By regular, I mean that he skated at least three times a week when he was 95 years old. I always remember him saying that he was a “teenage senior citizen.” He was an engaging gentleman with a great personality, and he LOVED roller skating. [3]

Those memories stick with you forever, and you wish they could never end.

It’s Thursday as I write this. My normal skate night is Thursdays. I would normally be very excited about going skating tonight at Pla-Mor. There is a HUGE void for today, and for upcoming Thursdays in the short term. My wife knows what this is all about, too. She feels the same way. It will take some time to get over Pla-Mor’s closing. Changes like this are a part of life, but it’s not a welcome change. It’s uncomfortable, no matter how reassuring it is that we will roll once again somewhere else. True rollers know what I mean. It’s in our blood. We are passionate about skating and take it very seriously.

With all of this, perhaps a new chapter of Thursday night skating will be realized with a new adult session beginning this month at United Skates of America in Wickliffe. It’s not my home rink, and we need to see the condition of the floor when we get there, but it is all we have right now, and they have graciously added an adult session for Thursday night. It is also within a reasonable driving distance. I’ve been there before, and for its flaws, it will do for now. We’ve been praying for a reincarnation of the Pla-Mor, but this closing seems much more final this time around. I hope I’m wrong. I miss it already.

The past few days were a good opportunity to remember Pla-Mor, and I thanked Warren for all that he did to share his dream to own a roller rink with all of us. It was his passion, and it had to be a huge sacrifice. I am grateful for him, and the other owners, for their courage and fortitude in keeping Pla-Mor open for as long as they did.

On to a new chapter.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.






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