I first met Art when I was writing for the Word of Mouth blog. WoM started as a one-man show, with Scott Bakalar, with occasional posts from his wife, Michele, and eventually picked up Kelly Boyer Sagert, Loraine Ritchey, Paula Tobias, Brian Hazelett and myself. Before you could say “Lorain”, the blog was calling people on the carpet, pointing out the city admin’s missteps, and questioning the direction the town was heading. Art Oehlke found us on his desktop in his Broadway store, The 530 Shop.
I believe I had recently done an article about the decaying downtown, and had compared Lorain’s to those of surrounding cities. Out-of-town downtowns were booming, and Lorain’s was gasping its last breath. Art had read it and, I believe, contacted Scott to send me over to the store. I stopped by and we talked (he talked and raised a stink about City Hall’s lack of involvement/concern/etc. for the area). Art vented and I nodded and shook my head and sympathized. Here was a guy who was doing all the right things to resurrect the area, beautifully kept storefront, open year-round, late hours, agreeable, willing to negotiate on prices, just an all-around nice guy, and the city didn’t give a flyin’ you-know-what. They were giving Art a ration of $#&^ and giving other shop owners a bye. I did a story on his shop shortly after, lots of pics and a nice little promo for him. Next time I stopped in, he told me it was the nicest thing anyone had done for him in a long time.
I visited every now and again to say “Hey!” and listen to Art on what was going on. Sometimes my daughter, Kristen accompanied me and shopped a bit while we talked. Art loved WoM so much, he bought a bunch of stickers and stuff to sell in his shop. WoM was now a force to be reckoned with in City Hall, and many were the hits on the blog from that tall building at the corner of Broadway and West Erie. Shortly after his little investment, WoM imploded and I really felt bad for the money Art was going to have to eat. I’d stop in and pick up a little something here and there, and a few years ago, I set up a “Cash Mob” to visit his store one night, and pump a little extra money into his coffers. He enjoyed it, and I was happy to do something for him.
Recently, if I had to stop by the library on the way home from work, I’d drive by The 530 Shop. I’d tell myself I needed to stop in and see how he was doing, but I always had something going on, or dinner was waiting on me, and I kept going. Last week, I drove by and noticed the shop was dark around 5:30pm and thought that was really odd. Figured something must be up, but I didn’t know whom I could contact to see what was going on. A few days ago, I saw an obit for a Henry Oehlke, so I glanced at it, but it didn’t say “Art”, so I breathed a sigh of relief. Today, as I was catching up on the papers for the last few days, I noticed the Oehlke obit now had “Art” in the name, and I was crushed. I didn’t see it until 5 minutes before the 6-8pm visitation hours were ending, and felt even worse.
So, Art, if you’re seeing this from up there, know that you will be missed. I thank you for the friendship we shared, and I’m sorry I didn’t get by again to visit. I’m very sorry you didn’t get to see Broadway come back to life like you and I dreamed it might. The city of Lorain lost someone who set an example for a lot of others to follow.
LORAIN – Henry A. “Art” Oehlke, Jr. 80, of Lorain, passed away Thursday, April 17, 2014, at his home surrounded by his family.
Mr. Oehlke was born in Lorain August 23, 1933, the son of the late Henry A. and Laura L. (nee Berlet) Oehlke, Sr.
He was a graduate of Lorain High School in the class of 1951. Mr. Oehlke, the owner of the 530 Shop, was the 4th generation of his family to own a shop downtown.
He worked at the former Thew Shovel Co. and the Fruehauf Trailer, Co. He also worked as an over the road truck driver for the Southern Express Company of Cicero, Ill.
Mr. Oehlke was the captain of the sand dredge- M.V. James B. Lyons and was a welder for the Erie Sand and Gravel Company in Sandusky before retiring and restoring the family building downtown and opening the 530 Shop. He was a Great Lakes historian and enjoyed woodworking and collecting antiques.
He is survived by daughter, Jani Oehlke of Lorain; sons, Lenny (Cindy) Oehlke of Elyria and Bill Oehlke of Lorain; their mother, Rosa (Curry) Oehlke; and grandchildren, James Maloy, Jason Maloy, Hannah Oehlke, Sam Oehlke and Ash Oehlke.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by sisters, Laura Englehart and Patricia Reed.
Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 21, 2014, at Schwartz, Spence, Boyer & Cool Home For Funerals, 1124 W. 5th Street, Lorain.
Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at the funeral home.
Burial will follow in Elmwood Cemetery.
Online condolences at http://www.boyercool.com.