First it was bars. Then it was beauty salons. Now churches are running neck-in-neck with the two previous categories.
When the Ohio Valley was teeming with population from the 1950s through the 1970s, you could walk down any street in any town and have your choice of hairdressers or bartenders.
Neighborhood bars - the kind that offered some delicious food and Saturday night entertainment alongside your draft beer - were the norm. Most were family-owned for a couple of generations. Everyone from ironworkers to attorneys visited those places for their noontime meals, saving their beer drinking for 5 p.m. and after.
Each place had its special attraction, whether it was hot roast beef and mashed potatoes, ribs or a plate of homemade goulash, the regulars knew the daily lunch menu by heart.
Some of those places have survived - Ye Olde Alpha in Wheeling, Bill's in Yorkville and the Vets Clubs in Warwood. The list goes on but it's much shorter than in years past.
As for the beauty salons, you have to love the inventive names shop owners come up with to bring in customers. While some shops carry the owner's name in the title such as Patti's Hair Place or Lisa's Hairum, many others enjoy a play on words. How about Shear Friends or Total E Clips? With so many barbers and stylists in the valley there is no excuse for not looking our best.
Churches are still plentiful, judging by the listings of places of worship in today's Faith section of the newspaper.
There have been some noticeable changes in those listings as the area has lost population and church memberships continue to dwindle in just about all denominations. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston was the first among them to bite the bullet and shutter churches in lieu of maintaining smaller congregations in large church buildings.
Anyone who has gone through the emotional loss of their church as they had known it all of their lives will tell you it is painful.
Now, other denominations are following suit. They are forced to combine congregations at one location, leaving sad hearts as church buildings are stripped and doors are closed.
As with any drastic change in life, it takes time to heal the emotional and spiritual wounds that follow such church closings. But religion is much more than four walls.
It should be about the community of people who make a "church" family. It is through that community that we can rely on one another to bolster our faith when the going gets tough.
Even with shrinking communities and fewer people in the pews, you can still get your hair done on Saturday afternoon, enjoy meeting with friends at the local pub on Saturday night and still get up in time for church on Sunday morning. There are still plenty of them out there.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at email@example.com.