Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Smith & Gerhart – 1955

Here's an article about another well-remembered Downtown Lorain store: Smith and Gerhart. The article appeared in the Lorain Journal on June 21, 1955 and provides a nice history of the store, as well as a description of what it was like in the mid-50's.


S&G Store Founded in 1893

Courtesy Black River
Historical Society
Many changes in merchandising, alleviation of parking problems and added conveniences for the modern day shoppers have taken place since almost 58 years ago when Smith and Gerhart, Inc., then known as the Boston Store, opened its doors.

The depression of 1893 was over and business was just picking up when three men in their twenties, Henry F. Smith, J. F. (Jake) Gerhart and John Opfer, opened the Boston Store in less than 3,000 square feet of space.

Popular Store
Many old-timers still refer to Smith and Gerhart as the Boston Store, which was popular because of the finest ready-made attire and yard goods which was brought in from Boston and England.

The original Boston Store was located on the present site of the Woolworth Co. in the 500 block of Broadway. The land on which the store stood was owned by another Henry Smith, an Oberlin resident and an uncle of one of the founders.

When the store opened coal was delivered anywhere in the city at $1.75 per ton, men's work shirts were selling at 29 cents each and one bakery was giving away bread to attract customers.

Long Hours
In those early days charge accounts were filed on a spindle, clerks worked about 65 hours per week and took home a five dollar bill at the end of each week.

Today, Smith and Gerhart has a large corps of girls in a modern accounting department, a small army of trained clerks and supervisors, merchandising methods are up-to-the-minute and the 36,000 square feet of space is systematically utilized for convenient and easy shopping.

The Boston Store grew from the start. In 1903, the firm purchased from the Wickens family a building at 506-508 Broadway which adjoins the present structure.

Name Changed
1957 version of S&G logo
In 1927, the Boston Store name was changed to Smith and Gerhart, Inc., but continues to remain on the company letterheads and some of the advertising. In this year a three floor store at 510-520 Broadway was erected. With the one floor in the adjacent building added and called the "second floor annex," the firm had floor floors.

A third floor was added to the old building of which the first floor was occupied by another company and a children's department was opened in March, 1939.

In 1941, 1944, 1945 and 1946 the second and main floors were modernized, a fourth floor was added to the 506-598 Broadway structure and a "Youth Center" was added.

Air Conditioning
In the summer of 1946, a warehouse was established in the basement of that building.

Current view of the S&G Bldg
Modern shopping in recent years resulted in Smith and Gerhart becoming the first commercial establishment to install air conditioning throughout the building and the first retail outlet to open a parking area for customers.

Dan C. Smith, the present owner and son of one of the founders, said Smith and Gerhart is continuing to progress and live up to the reputation established more than half a century ago for excellence in stock, quality of goods at low prices.

In early July 1980, it was announced that Smith & Gerhart was going out of business when its present inventory was sold. At the time, the store was the oldest business in downtown Lorain.

A Chronicle-Telegram article of July 4, 1980 stated, "The store has gone from a four-floor operation with 119 employees to nine employees working on two floors."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have photos of inside of smith and gerhart store?