Roller skating has always been a large part of Jean Leranger’s life — both a profession and a passion.
The profession she will soon part with as her family’s longtime business, Paramount Skating Rink, 1511 Chestnut St., Ottawa, went up for sale.
Her family’s history with skating goes back decades.
“My parents met on roller skates as teenagers,” Leranger said of her parents, Lois Hall and the late Duain Hall.
They met at the Morris roller skating rink where her father worked as a “shoe boy,” she said.
“They had guys that sat there and all they did was put skates on them,” she said. “That’s how he met my mom. He chased her until he caught her.”
Her father worked for different owners of the Morris rink over the years until an owner offered him the chance the purchase the rink in 1976. Then in 1981, the couple moved their business to Ottawa, opening the Paramount.
The rink will be open until it sells, Leranger said, noting her two granddaughters are helping run it. Leranger and her mother are no longer able to help due to their health.
A buyer has the option to buy the business or the just the building.
Leranger is hoping the buyer will want to continue a roller skating business. The building started as a rink, but underwent a long interruption before returning to its original purpose with the Halls.
The business began in 1949 as Roystan Roller Rink. The facility was operated by LeRoy and Ruth Murley and Stanley Hearn. Hearn also was the organist. By 1959, the rink had been replaced by Skoberg’s Furniture Store, which remained in business until 1979. The building was then vacant for two years until the Halls entered the picture.
To continue as a roller skating rink, Leranger recommends at least two people, who both like children, operate it.
“For someone new to come in, they’ve gotta love the kids. They’ve got to have the patience to work with them. A lot of these kids are latchkey kids. They just need someplace where they know people care about them.”
The new buyer also would have to be committed to running a roller skating rink.
“You just have to love that business. I don’t even know how to explain it, because I’ve always loved it. I used to go in with a headache and by the time I came home I was energized. I loved working with the kids.”
Roller skating rink trends have changed over the years — from the live organist, to disco, to the pop and rock music that pulsates across the rink today — but Leranger prefers the old days.
“My favorite memories are from when it was all live organ. They actually did waltzes and fox trots and couple skates.”
The organist, Wayne Knoblich, a Morris native, died, but Leranger recorded his music onto CDs to use for reunions. She said kids would watch the older generation in awe, but noted there are few of the older generation willing to teach the young kids the way they skated.
She also noted kids today prefer to skate to loud, fast-paced music.
Roller Skating Association International lists 34 skating rinks Illinois and has more than 1,000 members nationwide as well as a number of international countries, according to its website.
• THE COMMERCIAL BUILDING at 1511 Chestnut St., Ottawa, is listed for $230,000 with Century 21 Coleman-Hornsby in Morris. For more information, call Realtor Jim Maskel at 815-693-0180. The 18,644-square-foot building includes a hardwood maple skating floor, concession area, skate room, pro shop, semi-private party areas, offices, private quarters and storage. It was built in 1948 with an addition in the 1970s.