02/27/2015 § Leave a comment
An update on the “closing/still open” news regarding Pla-Mor Roller Rink in Euclid OH, Friday, February 27, 2015:
According to one of the owners* of the business, the rink was scheduled to close this past Saturday, February 21. The lease was up at the end of February, and it was decided, at that time, that they could not continue to stay in business as it remained unprofitable after six years of operation. The last two skating sessions that my wife and I would attend were this past Tuesday and yesterday evening. (This past Tuesday was a good skate session, but it also felt like a wake before a funeral.)
It was not until literally yesterday afternoon when another owner made a comment on his personal Facebook page stating “problem solved…open for business as usual.” From that announcement, word got out to everyone involved with the rink that disaster was averted. The previous preparations for a farewell skating session last night turned into a joyous celebration! I was less optimistic but I never rule out miracles! A lot of people, including me and my wife, were praying for a great outcome, and it happened!
There is a very good reason to celebrate Pla-Mor and its survival to remain open for business. The Pla-Mor name is significant in Cleveland roller skating history. Back in the ’60s, it was the first black-owned roller skating rink in Cleveland, and it was a venue that was supported mostly by blacks when there was a fair amount of “private” segregation from other roller rinks.  Today’s reincarnation of the Pla-Mor is the only black-owned rink in the area, as well. It is a resurrection of the old Rollerdrome that closed in 2008. Pla-Mor opened in 2009 and, by all visible accounts, was moving along well. While there were some warning signs that items within the building needed repair (roof, air conditioning and plumbing), everyone wants to see the business succeed and grow. It continues to provide all skaters, young and old, with one of the finest venues for roller skating in the entire area.
After the euphoria of Pla-Mor staying open dies down, there are some significant issues and even criticism that I have with yesterday’s announcement that should hopefully call for some changes by Pla-Mor management going forward.
If the business was unprofitable for six years, then why did it take the threat of closing to marshal some much-needed support for the business? While I admire the candor behind the announcement that the business is struggling, I’m curious as to why nothing was mentioned well before now about where things were headed. Even if it meant doing something as simple as raising admission prices over the past couple of years, I think the vast majority of people would understand–especially if you are effectively communicating with them. I don’t expect owners to openly tell people that things aren’t going well, but consideration needs to be given to the uniqueness of the roller skating business and its customers. I note this because skaters make up a very close-knit group of people of all ages. They will drive considerable distances to different rinks just to have a chance to skate and have a good time (even travel together out-of-state). Pla-Mor certainly has this type of following. People who have been loyally supporting them over the years have continued to come out in all types of weather to skate and fellowship together.
In retrospect, I believe that the ownership did not fully understand the loyalty and goodwill that they had with their core group of skaters. It is regrettable that the communication throughout this entire process from the business to its customers was poor to non-existent. When rumors had surfaced that the business would close last week, there was no announcement whatsoever from the owners to address or counter the rumors, and social media was very quiet–except for people who were loyal Pla-Mor skaters who had learned that the business was in serious trouble. They were the ones who were reaching out to others to provide information as to what was going on. The internal communication was also extremely poor. One of the employees who I spoke to did not even know that the business was staying open until just before the evening skating session last night. Others, including my wife and I, had heard the news well before then.
There was some initial skepticism about the timing of these events, but the closing of the rink was a definite possibility. Pla-Mor’s competition, United Skates of America in Wickliffe, must have known something for them to start up a new roller skating session on Thursday nights (via a post on their own Facebook page) that was to begin last night. They were previously hosting only private parties on Thursdays. It wasn’t a coincidence. They must have gotten word that Pla-Mor was closing, or at the very least, was on the ropes.
There is now a price increase for admission for the Thursday night skate session from $7 per person to $10 per person. The business is losing money and needs to raise its prices. I get it. It’s tough to make money in the roller skating business. It’s an older building that has good bones but it needs repairs, has high utility and operating costs, and it also requires costly insurance premiums. Most existing rinks, like United Skates of America, use pay-to-play events like laser tag to supplement their income. With that said, what is Pla-Mor going to do to maintain or even improve the present skating environment within its four walls? Skaters enjoy skating, for sure, and we will do it as often as we can as long as the floor remains in very good to excellent condition. Pla-Mor needs a little TLC in spots; however, the most important part of the rink, its floor, has been dirty at times and its quality is slightly removed from the old Rollerdrome floor, which by all accounts was nothing short of pristine. Even with this, it still has, in my opinion, the best floor in town. If anything needs to be done, it must be to keep the floor and its surface in tip-top condition. Once the floor starts going bad, everything else will follow it. (As a comparison, Rocky’s in Tallmadge had a horribly buckled floor by the time it closed in early 2013. It was a safety hazard that drove many skaters away.)
The owners stated that they need to buy the existing building in order to reduce their monthly obligation, which makes perfect sense. According to a previous news article about Pla-Mor, it was strongly implied that they were purchasing the building from the former owner.  It now appears that this did not happen.
In addition to doing a better overall job with communication, Pla-Mor should revisit its marketing/advertising strategy. It doesn’t need to be anything tremendously expensive, but it needs to happen. Running a rink is more than just having a DJ play music. Up until now, the business has relied strictly on word-of-mouth to bring people in. Sending out flyers is also not going to get people to show up. The rink should absolutely take advantage of radio advertising to reach its demographic audience and even cater special skating sessions to specific audience demographics; for example, have sessions for adults 25 and over. There should be strong consideration given to operating more open skating sessions and marketing private parties to shore up revenues.
In addition, while social media has its own criticisms for its level of effectiveness, Pla-Mor has not posted anything on their own Facebook page, which is a mistake that is being compounded due to inactivity (Why go to the trouble of starting a page and asking for members of the page to only let it sit idle?). If it wasn’t for the social media outcry that the rink was closing and the desire of many to fight for it to remain open (even with the posting of a GoFundMe page  by a skater–astounding!), the rink would likely be silent today. The rink website is now down completely when it was up as recently as a couple of weeks ago. An inexpensive alternative to a website is the use of the Facebook page to market their business. It is reaching its most important group right now. If you don’t have time to run social media or manage a website, then ask someone to help you. I’m confident that loyal skaters who are web and social media-savvy will do it for free. It will require trust to a certain degree, but at this point you don’t have anything to lose and much more to gain.
All of this is under the assumption that the owners are making all of the prudent decisions to run their business. Pla-Mor successfully got past the dreaded 2-3 year window where small businesses fail. The daunting task will be how they can overcome a significant deterrent for some people (higher admission prices) while delivering a quality product for its loyal group of skaters.
I’m really happy they are still open, but it is with a cautious optimism. As long as they’re open for business, my wife and I will be there.
*Owners names withheld.
1 Mark Souther, “Pla-Mor,” Cleveland Historical, accessed February 27, 2015, http://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/621.
2 Blogpost – Ray Jablonski (2009). Northeast Ohio Media Group. http://blog.cleveland.com/euclidsunjournal/2009/06/euclid_new_owners_hope_skaters.html
12/08/2012 § 1 Comment
It’s been a year since the revival of Cleveland’s Smooth FM 107.3 The Wave. Rubber City Radio Group, Inc. revived the smooth music format just after the closing of the purchase of the station from Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting on December 16, 2011. The “celebration” began with an all-Christmas smooth jazz format through the holiday season until the official debut of the format on January 4, 2012. Since that time, and after some adjustments to listener requests and likes, The Wave sounds better every day.
In reality, the previous version of The Wave and its Smooth jazz format should never have disappeared in the first place. In my opinion, it’s all in your perspective and interpretation of ratings (and the audience that you are trying to reach). While it’s undeniable that the smooth jazz format was in an overall decline nationwide, The Wave had consistently favorable ratings for its demographic of adults (mostly urban) age 45+ years. Radio stations, in general, have suffered a decline in listeners as many of us who have loved radio over the years now also have many more choices in how we listen to our favorites (even old folks like me have an iPod, an iPhone and a Nook with a music player). When you couple this reality with many stations across the country bolting from Smooth Jazz because of the perceived aging target audience, it was apparent that there was a movement of change to reach a slightly younger demographic. In addition, an indictment of Smooth Jazz performers during this decline was that there was not much new material that was appealing to radio formats. As a result of a combination of all of these factors, Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting decided to make its move from Smooth Jazz to the AAA (Adult Album Alternative) format in 2009 to reach a slightly younger demographic for its potential advertisers—the new format failed to catch on and essentially flopped within 20 months. WNWV was put up for sale in October 2011, leading to Rubber City Radio’s purchase.
As radio stations compete for listeners, it is important for stations to pay attention to those who care to make suggestions on improvements. The Wave’s return to the Smooth AC (Smooth Adult Contemporary) format has had some tweaks over the past year, and all of the tweaks were sensitive to what listeners wanted to hear. One of the great strengths of the original Wave was its ability to move outside of the typical Smooth Jazz format with some classic music that you would also hear on other adult-contemporary stations. After the initial launch of the station this January, there were a lot of Smooth AC vocalists that were less familiar to Cleveland listeners, and some of the music didn’t seem to fit well within the format. The change from Smooth Jazz to Smooth AC took some time to gel this year. Thankfully, the tweaks over the months have brought back more of the smooth jazz artists that we had grown accustomed to (Kenny G, Alicia Keys, and Norman Brown) and phased out some of the artists that sounded more like pop and soft rock than Smooth AC. The result has been a “smoother” (pun intended) music experience with an influx of new and classic Soul, R&B, and adult contemporary jazz. The overall listening experience is now more enjoyable and captures one’s attention longer than before. The plusses of the Smooth AC format are the talented vocalists like Adele and Anita Baker, whose new releases have provided a spark to the format. Artists such as Boney James, Luther Vandross, Joyce Cooling and even Michael Jackson have been worked into the rotation with a playlist of their hits. I’m looking forward to the introduction of new music from these and other Smooth AC artists to keep the music fresh.
Initially, the weekend broadcasts were dominated by more of a network “feel” than local on-air talent. It was a good move for the station to lessen the network presence and hear more of the local DJs on the air through the weekend. It’s also great to hear the lone holdover from the original Wave, Mark Ribbins, in the director’s chair every day. The weekday piloting of Ribbins, Dan Deely, Bobby Thomas and Lynn Kelly, all Cleveland radio veterans, makes for a very appealing listening experience throughout the day.
The greatest appeal of The Wave as we approach the one-year anniversary of its return is the development of the station into its own personality within the Smooth AC format. It has improved as the year has progressed and it is great background music throughout my busy workday. Here’s to everyone at WNWV for bringing smooth music back to the airwaves in 2012 and a most satisfying listening experience.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.
07/22/2012 § Leave a comment
I was listening to 107.3 The Wave this morning and heard that this Monday through Friday–beginning tomorrow, Monday, July 23–former WNWV and Soft Rock 102.1 WDOK personality Nancy Alden will be on The Wave! Best known as Cleveland’s Lady In Red, Ms. Alden will be on during Mark Ribbins’ 10am – 2pm time slot. Mark will be covering Dan Deely’s morning drive program for this week while Dan is on vacation.
It’s ironic that 107.3 FM’s return to the airwaves in their Smooth AC format on January 4, 2012 was also the day that Alden left WDOK after 18 years. Interestingly, both Dan Deely and the Wave’s afternoon drive host, Bobby Thomas, were also at WDOK.
Ms. Alden was on The Wave earlier this year for one broadcast during a special “reunion” week of former Wave personalities. It will be nice to hear her for an entire week this time around. Feel free to listen in and make her feel welcome back on Cleveland’s Smooth FM!
05/04/2012 § Leave a comment
It’s been 120 days since the official return of Cleveland’s Smooth AC radio station, 107.3 The Wave. It has been a joy to listen to new and classic favorites in this format, which has seen a recent growth spurt in popularity nationwide, and is largely responsible for a resurgence in the smooth music format on mainstream radio. Smooth AC (Adult Contemporary) is the modern evolution of the classic Smooth Jazz format (which can still be heard on The Wave’s 107.3 HD2 station). The Wave’s return was a pleasant (and unexpected) surprise after the purchase of the station in late 2011 by Rubber City Radio Group, Inc. Since it’s return, The Wave got off to a fast start in the ratings books and has continued to evolve with a great mix of new Smooth AC hit artists (Maysa, Conya Doss, Adele and Sarah’s Girl) along with newer Smooth Jazz (Chieli Minucci and Special EFX, Terry Wollman) and a touch of classic Smooth Jazz and R&B favorites. The Smooth AC format is predominantly smooth vocals with about two or three instrumentals played for every broadcast hour. There is something for every listener if you listen for just a short time. While I prefer the classic Smooth Jazz format, I also enjoy listening to Earth, Wind & Fire, Maxwell, Erykah Badu and Bobby Caldwell. I tune in throughout the day and listen on a radio at my desk at work. It is also online via The Wave’s website. Either way, it makes for great, relaxing background music.
It’s good to hear some familiar voices during the day, too. Dan Deely is a veteran of Cleveland radio and is heard each day during morning drive and also on Saturday afternoon. Mark Ribbins is the midday personality and the lone holdover from the original Wave. Bobby Thomas is the evening rush hour host, and Lynn Kelly handles the evening duties. Other on-air personalities provide local programming via the Smooth Jazz Network. On weekends, Allen Kepler (Smooth Jazz Top 20), Dave Koz (The Dave Koz Radio Show) and Ramsey Lewis (Legends of Jazz) return from the original Wave with more smooth sounds to enjoy.
The station is also broadcasting on its HD2 channel, but the online feed has not yet been restored. It is likely that the online feed will return once the station moves to its new studio in Independence, Ohio, which is still under construction as of this writing.
I am very pleased to hear The Wave back on the air once more and the transition from Smooth Jazz to Smooth AC has been relatively “smooth.” Be sure to listen and help spread the word!
01/31/2012 § 2 Comments
The return of Cleveland’s Smooth FM – 107.3 The Wave (WNWV) is in full swing, and it has been a pleasant listening experience since it’s launch on January 4. I missed the Smooth Jazz format from the “Old Wave” when it was pulled in favor of the alternative (AAA) format in December 2009. The Smooth Jazz format never completely disappeared (it moved to WNWV 107.3’s HD2 radio channel and was streamed online), but the migration of the format to HD2 radio mirrored many other Smooth Jazz stations across the country. Smooth Jazz is still popular, but its appeal is less friendly to mainstream radio as it appeals to an older demographic (the over 50 crowd). Upon WNWV’s purchase from Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting by Rubber City Radio Group of Akron in December 2011, it was immediately announced that the station would be changed to the modern “Smooth AC (Adult Contemporary)” format, which appeals to the key 25-54 age demographic best suited for mainstream radio. The Wave just started running short television spots this week. Here is the promo.
There has not been a recent update as to the status of the station’s HD2 channel, but the last report was that it was broadcasting a Smooth Jazz format; however, the Wave has pulled all references to the Wave Classics HD2 channel from its website, including its logo. While the main HD channel is streaming live online, the HD2 channel’s online streaming is presently unavailable.
What is the Smooth AC format and how does it sound when compared to the Smooth Jazz format? The difference is evident if you like vocal artists. Smooth AC is dominated by vocal artists singing a variety of smooth pop songs, jazz and R&B music, with a peppering of instrumental jazz approximately 3-4 times per hour of airplay. The Wave playlist, as a result, is larger and more versatile than the original Wave jazz playlist. A sampling of Smooth AC music can be found online on the website and also on the Smooth AC Radio Network website, where The Wave pulls much of the Smooth AC network format on evenings and weekends. There is, however, a full slate of local personalities during the key weekday daytime hours that keep the station from sounding like a network feed, which is very refreshing (and reassuring) to hear. I find myself diving in and out all day long while at work, in the car, and at home, and the music sounds fantastic every time I tune in.
As time goes on, I look forward to the ongoing development of the station’s playlist and tweaking of the format to keep it fresh and appealing. I’m listening every day (even to who is sponsoring radio time), and it’s great to have The Wave back.
01/09/2012 § Leave a comment
Cleveland’s Smooth FM, WNWV, 107.3 The Wave, is now streaming live online via 1073thewave.net or through the website’s media player link. The Wave returned to the airwaves officially this past Wednesday, January 4 after a two-year hiatus with the new Smooth AC format.
Personally, I am still waiting for the reconnection of the The Wave Classics online streaming (107.3 HD2), which is the “classic” smooth jazz radio station, which is a revival of the original Wave that was on for over two decades before the programming change to AAA alternative rock two years ago. The HD2 online streaming is still down after running the Christmas classic jazz programming over the holidays.
The station had reported technical difficulties with both online streaming channels after the transition to new temporary studios. Now that the main station is streaming once more, I can take the station with me wherever I go with my WunderRadio app on my iPhone or iPod Touch (with wifi).
By the way, I’m thoroughly enjoying the new Wave and the Smooth AC format! It has been a pleasure to listen to new songs and old favorites once more.