Chapter 5: Food, Fashion, and Fertilizer
Toledo’s location was pivotal to the development of its commercial sector. Today, Toledo’s location at the nexus of interstate highways facilitates warehousing, shipping, and selling of consumer goods.
Many Toledoans have fond memories of shopping at the city’s downtown department stores. Most beloved was Tiedtke’s, founded in 1893 by brothers Charles and Ernest Tiedtke. Originally focused on delivering groceries, the store added dry goods to its inventory as the market for such items developed. By 1910 the brothers moved their business into a six-story building located at the corner of Summit and Adams. Tiedtke’s was not just a store—it was a place to meet friends, to socialize, and to be entertained. In 1925, the Tiedtkes sold the store to Columbus business men Jerome and Alfred Kobacker, who chose to keep the Tiedtke name and traditions. In 1961, the Kobachers sold it to Federal, a chain of stores based in Detroit, and the store closed in 1972. The building was destroyed in a spectacular fire in 1975.
The Lion Store began as the F. Eaton and Company dry goods store, founded in 1857 by Frederick Eaton and located on Summit Street downtown. After several owners, George M. Fisher purchased the store outright in 1900 and changed the name to the Lion Dry Goods Company to reflect the life-sized cast iron lions that flanked its entrance. In 1914, the store became a part of the national Mercantile Stores group. The downtown store closed in 1980, and in 1998, the company was bought by Dillard’s. Today, the Lion Store is still fondly remembered by many Toledoans, especially its reputation for service and product quality.
Two other important retailers in Toledo fashion were Lamson Brothers and Lasalle and Koch. Lamson Brothers was founded in 1885 by Julius and John Lamson. Lamson’s was known for its upscale merchandise, and like the Lion Store, the company expanded into suburban stores in the 20th century. Lasalle and Koch, founded in 1898, moved to a building at the corner of Huron and Adams in 1917. The store became affiliated with the R. H. Macy Company in 1924, although it retained its local name until 1982, when Macy’s purchased it outright. In 1985, it was sold to Elder-Beerman.
Today, only The Andersons remains as a locally owned general merchandise store. The company was founded by Harold Anderson in 1937, and began with the construction of a single grain elevator in Maumee. Presently, The Andersons, Inc. owns facilities in Ohio as well as several other states and Puerto Rico. Grain elevators are still a part of the company’s operations, but The Andersons has diversified to include ethanol, fertilizers, railroads, landscaping materials, and retail stores. Today The Andersons is a public corporation, but many members of the family are involved with its operations and continue their tradition of service to the community.