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

The roots of Elder-Beerman can be traced back to a Dayton dry goods store.

The Elder and Johnston Co. was located in the Reibold Building for more than six decades. DAYTON METRO LIBRARY LUTZENBERGER COLLECTION

An advertisement in the Dayton Daily Journal in 1883 heralded the opening of the new Boston Dry Goods Store. 

In the late 1880s, two dozen of such establishments - filled with textiles, ready to wear clothing and groceries - filled downtown store fronts. Dayton’s growing population ensured there was room for one more.

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The store was opened by Thomas Elder, William Hunter, Jr. and Russell Johnston on East Third Street. That early ad stated the store’s aim was “to present to the public good, dependable merchandise at sensible prices.” 

In 1896, the store moved to Dayton’s newest skyscraper, the Reibold Building, at the corner of Fourth and Main streets. The company became the Elder & Johnston Co. and remained there for more than six decades. 

The Beerman's department store in Trotwood photographed in 1962. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

In 1962, Dayton businessman Arthur Beerman, who had opened two Beermans for Bargains junior department stores in 1950, merged his store with the Elder & Johnston Co. 

During the 1960s the Elder-Beerman Co. opened numerous department stores in the region, including Hamilton and Richmond, Ind. 

The Courthouse Square store, the flagship for the company, opened in downtown Dayton in 1976.

“The store will be geared to contemporary people,” a company spokesman said at the concept unveiling in 1975. “It is going to be a real challenge.” 

The company continued to expand, acquiring department stores in Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky. In 1993 the 50th store opened at the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek. 

In 2003, Elder-Beerman was acquired by Bon-Ton Stores, Inc.

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