Rikes, The Met, Donenfeld’s, and now Elder-Beerman, to name just a few local stores that will never be forgotten.
Though Elder-Beerman has been a fixture in the community for many years, it won’t be long until shopping there will just be a memory. Elder-Beerman is far from the first major retailer in Dayton to close. It’s in good company of others stores that will never be forgotten.
Everyone who is old enough has memories of shopping at the downtown Rike’s, which for generations was the mecca of area retail stores. Rike’s moved to Second and Main Streets in 1912, where it remained until its implosion in 1999. Rike’s stretched across a city block, in the space where the Schuster Center now resides, and was over 9 stories tall. Everything from furniture, antiques, housewares, sporting equipment, televisions, pets and clothing for all members of the family was sold.
Rike’s also had several eateries, including the Gold Coin Room, where models would walk around displaying the latest fashions. I must have been too young, because instead I remember eating at the cafeteria in the mezzanine. My best memories of Rike’s is from Christmas time and pictures with Santa. A whole Winter Wonderland was developed, highlighted by the historic christmas window displays of robotic elves and animals (still displayed during the holiday season at the Schuster Center). In addition to downtown, Rike’s had branch stores in Kettering, at the Salem Mall, Upper Valley Mall, and the Dayton Mall. At the time of its closing, Rike’s had changed its name to Lazarus, but was never resurrected.
Another well-remembered shopping destination is the Arcade. Even those who never visited, is familiar with the building from all the discussion over the seemingly last 20 years about what to do with the building. The Arcade opened in 1904 and has been closed since 1991. It originally housed a major food market, with retail stores, offices and apartments on the upper floors. A renovation in the 80’s transformed the Arcade into a retail shopping and food center. It featured a collection of boutiques, kitchen supply stores, book stores, a Coca-Cola museum and several other stores. My fondest memories of the Arcade is the fresh fish that my dad would buy at its Seafood Store to fry at home. It was really good fish. The Seafood Store and McCrory’s, a nickel and dime store, were the last two remaining tenants of the Arcade.
I was in the Arcade at least once, and though I’m rarely struck by the architectural design of a building, I remember being awed by the Arcade. A particularly stunning site that left an impression on me was the glass-domed rotunda atop the building. The Arcade is on the National Register of Historical Places. The opportunity to make a new of memory of the Arcade, or be reminded of old ones, is Saturday May 5, as the Arcade will be open for tours during the Downtown Housing Tour from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Information about the tour, organized by the Downtown Dayton Partnership.
There are also a couple well remembered stores from downtown Dayton that were more high-end. I don’t believe I ever stepped foot in them, but anyone who was shopping for a fur coat, three piece suit, designer dresses or anything else elegant was a frequent visitor. One of those retailers was Donenfeld’s. The largest homegrown women’s clothing store in the region, Donenfeld’s billed itself as a complete store for women, misses, teens, and tots. Men’s clothing was also carried. Donenfeld’s was opened from 1924 to 1992, and had outlets in the Salem Mall and Dayton Mall. When it closed, Donenfeld’s was still profitable, but its owner was ready to retire and he couldn’t find a suitable buyer.
The other high-end retail store, brings New York City to mind, but was actually in the Gem City. On Main Street, where The Loft Theatre and Uno Pizzeria & Grill are was home of The Metropolitan (The Met). The Met was one of the first stores to branch out into the suburbs and anchor other shopping malls. In the seventies, there were also Met’s at the Town & Country in Kettering and in the Salem Mall.
While remembering the shopping trends of the past, mention must also be made of Downtown Dayton Day. Held twice a year. Downtown Dayton Day was when the stores held big sales and the area was bustling with women shoppers (some men too). Downtown Dayton Day was also profitable for RTA as they had a rise in bus riders to downtown. Rike’s would also have White Flag Days at the end of every months, when white flags were hung along the outside of the building to pronounce the month end clearance event.
Other stores that longtime shoppers may remember from downtown are Thal’s, DH Peer, Giddings, Lenore Zapolean, and Billy Lewis’s. The memories from shopping at such stores will forever remain priceless.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.