Stanley Simon is in his seat behind the counter of his shop, flanked by a cash register and his all-important lottery machine. A line of customers are queued up in front of him.
He keeps a running commentary going through the nonstop commerce, bantering with customers. “That’s gonna be a winner,” he tells one after handing him a scratch-off ticket.
It’s a familiar sight. The chatty Brooklyn native is a fixture in downtown Youngstown, selling lottery tickets and snacks in the concourse of the 20 Federal Place building. Hundreds of regulars line up daily for cigarettes, soda pop or a chance at a million dollars.
It’s a daily ritual, a small but unique part of the city’s fabric, and a little slice of life that makes this city what it is.
The Shop Downtown, as its officially called, is like a neighborhood bar. And Simon — he’s the bartender.
“I get to hear a lot of their stories,” he said. “People confide in me.”
His customers know what time their friends go to the shop each day, so they show up at the same time. “It’s a meeting place,” he said, “a part of this city.”
But the office workers, bankers, lawyers and cops who frequent the shop are about to get a slight detour in their routine. A Subway franchise has won the lease for Simon’s location. Within a week or so, he’ll move his business about 100 feet down the concourse into the middle of the food court.
Simon doesn’t mind too much. In fact, he’s glad the building management found him a new spot so close by. His customers will be able to find him.
How the native New Yorker, who still bears an unmistakable Brooklyn accent, came to find Youngstown is another story.
“I came for a long weekend 10 years ago, and I’m still here,” he said. Simon was visiting his sister, who at the time had already been running the shop for more than a decade. He began helping her, taking over the operation about eight years ago.
Simon worked in the sportswear business in Manhattan before moving to Ohio, and he recalls sending shipments to Strouss’s in Youngstown. The old department store, of course, occupied the same building that now house’s Simon’s shop. Talk about coincidences.
Lottery tickets and snacks have low profit margins, and one has to do a large volume to make a buck at it. Fortunately, the 20 Federal Place concourse is a hub of activity.
“It’s a nickel and dime business, but somebody’s got to do it,” said Simon. “It’s just satisfying to be a part of this big family.”
Simon has been known to give out candy when his regulars stop in with their kids. He also delivers lottery tickets to some of his homebound regulars.
But the greatest satisfaction comes when one of his customers wins some cash. “I love to see them win,” said Simon. He recently sold a $100,000-prize ticket and many $5,000 winners.
Although his new location will be smaller than his current one, Simon still will offer the same goods: snacks, cigarettes, lottery ... and a place to meet.
“I’m losing a nice location, but it will work out at the new place,” he said.
I expect things will be the same as ever.