The rise and fall of Elder-Beerman: A timeline of Dayton’s dying store


Elder-Beerman, which grew from a Dayton dry goods store to one of downtown’s great emporiums before a decades-long dirge through bankruptcies and quarterly losses, appears ready to fold without a bid from a buyer.

The retailer, established 135-years-ago in Dayton and the city’s last hometown department store, will close after failing to receive an offer from a going-concern bidder for parent company Bon-Ton Stores Inc. 

» Elder-Beerman likely going out of business without bid from buyer

» Elder-Beerman history: A journey from simple downtown dry goods store

Reuters reported that the only two bidders were liquidators. Bon-Ton executives hoped a buyer would turn around the future of the company.

It may be the beginning of the final chapter in the store’s storied existence: Liquidation.

What follows is a look at the store’s history in Dayton and Ohio. The timeline is built using Dayton Daily News and Journal-Herald archives.

1883: An advertisement in the Dayton Daily Journal announces the establishment of the Boston Dry Goods Store. One of the owners is Thomas Elder.

1896: Elder moves his store to the Reibold Building at Fourth and Main streets. This becomes the Elder & Johnston Co. department store’s home for more than six decades.

1950: Arthur Beerman enters the retail store ownership business and soon opens “Beermans for Bargains” junior department stores in the McCook and Northtown shopping centers.

1953: Bee-Gee Shoes formed in Beerman partnership with Max Gutmann.

1956: Beerman buys the downtown Home Store.

1962: Beerman merges his Beerman stores with the Elder & Johnston Co.

1963: The Northwest store at Philadelphia Drive and Siebenthaler Avenue opens.

1968: The Hamilton store opens in the downtown redevelopment area. Shortly thereafter, the Richmond, Ind., store opens.

1970: Arthur Beerman dies; Max Gutmann becomes president.

1976: The Courthouse Square store in downtown Dayton opens. The store is five floors, including the basement.

1978: The chain moves into Hamilton County with the purchase of the downtown and suburban Cincinnati Mabley & Carew stores.

1981: Margos La Mode chain purchased.

1987: Elder-Beerman stores open in Michigan.

1989: Elder-Beerman acquires 10 Meis department stores located in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, bringing the total number of the companys department stores to 43.

1991: Total number of Elder-Beerman department stores rises to 47. Gutmann retires; Milton Hartley named president; distribution center opens in Fairborn.

1992: Newspaper reports Elder-Beerman Co. is negotiating to buy the 25-store H.C. Prange Co. department store chain of Green Bay, Wis.

1993: 50th store opens at the Mall on Fairfield Commons, Beavercreek.

1994: Beermans widow, Jessie Beerman, dies; Eastown store closes.

1995: Milton Hartley resigns; Max Gutmann and Herbert Glaser return from retirement as chief executives.

1996: With 52 stores, Elder-Beerman files five-year plan asking court to remain independent. Company asks for second extension of time to file reorganization plan.

1997: Frederick J. Mershad hired from Proffitt’s Inc. as new president and chief executive. The company files reorganization plan. A settlement is reached that prevents Carson Pirie Scott and Proffitt’s from attempting a takeover of Elder-Beerman, at least until after Jan. 31, 1999. The company completes bankruptcy reorganization on Dec. 30.

1998: Elder-Beerman is an independent company with stock, held largely by creditors, traded on Nasdaq. In a surprise announcement, Elder-Beerman unveiled plans to replace McAlpin’s in the Dayton Mall. After 17 months in the mall, McAlpin’s said it failed to find a suitable site for a second Dayton area store. In the fall, Elder-Beerman signed a 10-year lease on the 82,000-square-foot Lazarus department store at the Lazarus Kettering Shopping Center.

1999: Elder-Beerman finished its first year as a publicly held company following bankruptcy proceedings with rising sales and growing profits. Later, a Washington state-based investment group purchased a large chunk of Elder-Beerman Stores Corp. stock and demanded that the board either fire top management or sell the company.

2000: Elder-Beerman sells Shoebilee Inc. for $10 million. Elder-Beerman’s board begins looking for a buyer, entering into confidentiality agreements with eight parties.

2001: Reynolds & Reynolds moves into three floors of the five-floor Courthouse Square store, leaving the department store with two selling floors. Elder-Beerman reports losses.

2002: Former Mead Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Steven C. Mason, is named Elder-Beerman chairman. Former Belk Inc. executive Byron “Bud” Bergren is named president and chief executive. Elder-Beerman closes its Courthouse Square store, downtown Dayton’s last department store, amid a dispute over lease rates.

2003: After a lengthy bidding war, York, Pa.-based Bon-Ton acquired Elder-Beerman for $92.8 million. The acquisition is Bon-Ton’s largest, doubling the size of the company from 72 stores to 140 stores across 17 states.

2004: Bon-Ton announced the elimination of 311 of 450 jobs at the Elder-Beerman Stores Corp. headquarters in Moraine. Bon-Ton management acknoledges the company “did not properly anticipate” challenges with the merger. Bergren, who engaged in a bidding war against Bon-Ton and lost, is named the company’s chief executive and president.

2006: Bon-Ton announced plans to purchase four Parisian department stores — including the Beavercreek store— from Belk Inc.

2007: Bon-Ton announced plans to renovate and reconfigure its Elder-Beerman and recently acquired Parisian stores at Fairfield Commons Mall and operate both under the Elder-Beerman nameplate.

2009: Bon-Ton announces the elimination of 1,150 positions and announces plans to close its Elder-Beerman store in Hamilton.

2010: Elder-Beerman in Centerville closes to make way for Kroger.

2011: Bon-Ton announces closure of the Northwest Plaza shopping center, scheduled to close in 2012. Bergren announces retirement as chief executive to become chairman of the board. He is replaced as chief executive by Brendan Hoffman.

2012: Elder-Beerman store at Upper Valley Mall set for closure.

2013: Springfield’s Elder-Beerman store closes.

2014: Two Elder-Beerman stores at Fairfield Commons are combined under a consolidated store. Bon-Ton announces move of jobs from Fairborn distribution center to a new distribution center in West Jefferson, near Columbus. Kathryn Bufano is named president and chief executive officer.

2017: Middletown Elder-Beerman store closes. Bon-Ton president and chief executive Bufano resigns, and former chief operating officer William Tracy takes over. Bon-Ton hires a restructuring firm to look into bankruptcy as it grapples with more than $900 million of debt.

2018: Bon-Ton files for bankruptcy. Elder-Beerman stores will close within the next 10 to 12 weeks, Tracy announced April 17.

Read more stories from the Dayton Daily News:

» Fairborn’s first roundabout planned

» Schuster CEO says no need to beef up security; Experts urge ‘hard look’ after fight

» Greene County congressional district no longer ‘solid’ for GOP, report says



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