Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Aug 31

Elder-Beerman: The Rise and Fall of a Dayton Original

Posted on August 31, 2018 at 9:57 AM by Melissa Dalton

As Elder-Beerman sets to close its doors for the last time this week, we thought it might be interesting to look at the store’s long history in the region, 135 years to be exact.

In 1883, Boston Dry Goods Store opened in Dayton with Thomas Elder as one of the owners. The store moved to the Reibold Building in downtown Dayton in 1896, becoming the Elder & Johnston Co. department store. The department store operated out of their downtown location for more than 60 years.

Article in Dayton Daily News on April 1, 1905 regarding the new Elder & Johnston Co. department stor
Article in Dayton Daily News on April 1, 1905 regarding the new Elder & Johnston Co. department store in the downtown Dayton (ProQuest)

In 1950, Arthur Beerman established his own retail stores, which did very well. Beerman created partnerships in the area, and in 1962, Beermans merged with Elder & Johnston Co., creating Elder-Beerman.

Advertisement from Elder & Johnston Co. in the Dayton Daily News on June 26, 1907 (JPG)
Advertisement from Elder & Johnston Co. in the Dayton Daily News on June 26, 1907 (ProQuest)

Elder-Beerman witnessed growth over the next 30 years, opening a large downtown Dayton location (the five-floor Courthouse Square store), as well as stores in Hamilton County, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. The distribution center in Fairborn opened in 1991 and in 1993, Elder-Beerman opened their 50th store at the Mall at Fairfield Commons.

1990 Architectural Drawing of the Elder-Beerman Distribution Center in Fairborn (JPG)
Floor plan for the Fairborn distribution center dated 1990 (Greene County Archives)

Unfortunately, the company began having financial trouble and filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is classified as a reorganization bankruptcy. This meant that Elder-Beerman didn’t have to liquidate property, but had to implement a structured repayment plan. The reorganization was completed at the end of 1997 and Elder-Beerman did see growth during its first year as a publicly held company. The increase in sales and revenue were short-lived though, and Elder-Beerman reported losses in 2001.

Advertisement in the Hamilton Daily News Journal dated April 21, 1970 (

Elder-Beerman closed their Courthouse Square location in 2002, and in 2003, Bon-Ton acquired the company for just under $100 million. The following year, Bon-Ton eliminated almost three quarters of the jobs at the headquarters in Moraine. By 2009, Bon-Ton eliminated another 1150 positions and over the next several years began closing stores throughout the region, including Hamilton, Centerville, North Dayton, and Springfield. In 2014, many jobs at the Fairborn distribution center were moved as well.

By 2017, Bon-Ton was wrestling with over $900 million in debt. Unable to recover, Bon-Ton filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2018. Bon-Ton hoped to be purchased by another company, but the buy-out fell through when it was determined they wouldn’t be able to pay the associated fees. In April, Bon-Ton filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, requiring the liquidation of all assets. All stores were slated to close by the end of August, and Elder-Beerman stores in the Dayton are closed on Wednesday, August 29, 2018.

Elder-Beerman was one of the region’s first, and last, homegrown department stores, but their story of decline isn’t a new one. Big department stores are addressing similar difficulties, and the future of many malls is bleak. In general, brick-and-mortar stores are facing a crisis. Many have been unable to compete with a growing digital world. Only time will tell if these companies can adapt and find a place in this demanding consumer environment.

Until Next Time…

Greene County Archives
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Dayton Daily News


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