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November 21, 1994

Driving around town, it is easy to find evidence of change everywhere in the business district. Merchants and other property owners on the streets lining our beautiful courthouse square are making major revisions. Maybe the impetus for some of this was provided by the complete overhaul of the Exchange Bank & Trust Building on the northeast corner. The bank is preparing for its own centennial celebration in 1996. If the building project is an indication of the scope of their plans, it will be something magnificent to anticipate.

The 2001 Video Store has consolidated its two locations on the east side of the square into the west half of the former Coast-to-Coast Hardware Store building at Perry Plaza, filling part of a big vacancy at that shopping center. (Yes, that's what we call it). Coast-to-Coast has moved to the downtown area into the former Dollar Store (ex-M&W Food Store) building in the 700 block of Fir avenue,making that spot once again a "live" business location. Are you still following all this?

Apparently, one of the old 2001 Video Store locations downtown will be occupied soon by Aces High, a recreation parlor which is moving from its former home on the south side of the square. This switch has been preceded by a great fanfare of debate, including letters to the editor of this paper, and it is still unclear if the battle is over. Coffee-shop discussion continues. Meanwhile, Aces High is spending a lot of money to improve the new location, including the construction of a fancy-looking bar. City officials have expressed an interest in the same building, though not necessarily in the bar itself.

Whatever you may think about all this, it is a sign of change in our community. The 2001 store used two buildings on the east side. One was in half of the old J.C. Penney store location at the north end, and the other was toward the south end, next to what used to be Rod and Nancy Stirman's Sears Store. (Penney's and Sears are long gone from Perry. They abandoned cities this size a few years back as part of a major business restructuring, and now we get mailing pieces and TV pleas from them daily, begging for our business. Hah! Fat chance!)

The old 2001 store on the north end is now the home of a lending agency, which gave up its previous space in one of those unique brick buildings-in-the middle of the block. Beenice and Wally Schieffer now have moved their insurance agency to that location from the 700 block on Elm street (which once was the home of L. O. Winters, the long-time fire chief, if you want to go back that far. Stay with us on this, folks).

Republic Supply, which deals in oil field pipelines and the like, for the past several years has been in a large, brick 50-foot building on Seventh street just off the southwest corner of the square, near the Conoco Station. Now, the service station itself is an authentic piece of Perry history, but that is completely beside the point of all this other good information you're getting, so forget about it for a while.

Republic Supply has now moved to a spacious, modern new home in the one-time Loyd Jones building on Fifteenth street. This steel building with it s large concrete parking area in front originally was the home of the local Ford dealership. A few years ago, Richard Randall took over that business and moved it back downtown into the 600 block of Elm street. The Randalls have been in the Ford auto, truck and-or tractor business here for something like 50 years, since Richardís late father, Olin, moved here from Blackwell. But, I digress again.

A little twist of irony here is that the old Republic Supply building downtown next to the Conoco station ALSO used to be the home of a pioneer Perry Ford dealership. How many of you knew that? It was operated by the Johnson family, who, as far as I can tell, were not related to any of our present-day Johnsons. I have home movies showing the venerable old building back in the early 1920s, with brand new model-T Fords whizzing in and out of the large front driveway, which still exists.

Republic has cleaned up and improved the looks of its new location on Fifteenth street, which is between Chuck and Diana Hodge's H&H Welders and Bob O'Halloran's Convenience Corner. The Hodges also have been improving and expanding their business since they took it over and converted it from a miniature golf course and used car lot several years ago. H&H Welders have made it an attractive industrial site. The business appears to be doing well, and the payroll is indeed welcome in our little community. So are all the others, large and small.

Downtown again, James Miller and his son have returned to Perry from Texas to take over the doughnut shop on the south side of the square, which Norman and Frances Boone have been running for some time. (Aside to the new owners: The "100 Percent Columbian Coffee" sign on your front window should be spelled "Colombian." No charge for that tidbit.)

Back to the Aces High move. This has generated a lot of heat in the community and some of that has been directed at the Perry Development Coalition. Some folks, who object to the relocation of that business, seem to feel that this agency has been derelict in not blocking the move.

Karen Wilcox and Betty Warner, interim directors of the Coalition, responded to that complaint very adequately with an explanation of the organization's objectives. The Coalition is a new undertaking in our community. It sprang voluntarily from a movement of Perry residents who were concerned about the drift and seeming aimlessness that had developed here. They clearly saw the need for concerted action to prevent Perry from dying on the vine, as has happened to so many other towns our size. Dozens of people from all walks of life are now engaged through the Coalition in cleaning up Perry, making it more attractive and desirable to visitors and new businesses.

It is a non-partisan effort, still feeling its way. It is struggling to reach out to all elements of this community, at every level. It should not be seen as a zoning enforcement body, or a branch of the police department. The Coalition was started to focus the efforts of all of us in making this a city of pride and renewal. Some of its efforts are bearing fruit. Look at the newly painted light poles around town. Look at the pride being inspired by the "Residence of the Month" and the "Business of the Month." All these are making us proud, but they are just the beginning. Many more embryonic ideas will be nurtured into reality, bringing better things to benefit all of us.

The Perry Development Coalition is just starting its task. It is composed of Perry citizens working to make this a better community in every way, one that will make all of us throw out our chests and be proud It welcomes your input and your contribution of labor and ideas. Let's don't confuse its purpose just as it's getting a running start on its mission.

Be a booster and a builder-upper every chance you get. Give vent to your feelings, but be sure they're not misguided.