This Saturday we were honored to host the Upper Arlington Historical Society. Former co-owner, Dick Argo, appeared as our guest speaker and discussed Argo & Lehne’s history in the Columbus area. After listening to his talk, I thought it would be interesting to our readers to revisit Columbus through the eyes of a thriving jewelry store which has had multiple locations during the years. I’ve collected the information to make a two part series: “The History of Shopping in Columbus: Downtown to Kingsdale” and “Argo & Lehne Unveiled: The Secrets to our Continued Success”.
From Downtown to Kingsdale
Argo & Lehne Jewelers opened in downtown Columbus in 1924. At that time in Columbus, shopping and dwelling were centered in the downtown area. However, as automobile use increased, the concept of shopping changed. Customers who had walked or taken public transportation to stores along the sidewalks began to migrate outside of the downtown area as they had access to cars. To adapt, developers thought of new ways to bring shopping closer and more accessible to all.
The First US Shopping Center Opens
It was actually here in Columbus that the first strip shopping mall in the US became available to the consumer, located nearby in Grandview Heights and named the Grandview Avenue Shopping Center (aka the Grandview Avenue Bank Block), established in 1928. Today, you can still see the remnants of the shopping center and part of the parking lot that at one time had spaces for up to 400 cars.
The center housed 30 shops including 4 national grocers. The man behind the development was Don Casto Sr. Due to the success and convenience of this shopping center others began to sprout up both in Columbus and across the nation. Town and Country Shopping Center in Whitehall and Lane Avenue Shopping Center in Upper Arlington would be among the earliest of those centers.
Argo & Lehne Opens in Kingsdale
Just as the shopping center was a by-product of changing times, Argo & Lehne felt the need to meet our customers’ demands and opened doors in Upper Arlington and Bexley in the 50’s and 60’s. Dick Argo states, “Looking back I knew we were part of something big in Columbus at the Kingsdale Shopping Center but it wouldn’t be long before we knew how prolific the mall concept would become.” For those who aren’t familiar with the Kingsdale Shopping Center, it was developed by King Thompson in 1959, located on 38 acres of what was once Galbreath’s farm (between what’s now Tremont Road and Northwest Boulevard). Although the suburb was established in 1918, the majority of the area was farmland for many years.
Two of the flagship stores of the center were Big Bear Grocery and Walker’s Suburban. Other original stores were Swan Cleaners, Argo & Lehne Jewelers, Youthland (children’s clothing), Madison’s and Kiddie Korner (toy store). Not an original but very influential to the fashion-focused was The Union, an upscale clothing store that catered to the men and women of the area. Les Wexner borrowed $5k from his aunt to open the first Limited (now a billion dollar retailing operation). Just six years later, in 1965, the world’s first Automated Teller Machine (ATM) was installed by Bank One. Later, Lazarus Department store opened here in 1970. The first Victoria’s Secret and even Cheryl’s Cookies have come and gone.
Argo & Lehne was situated just north of where the current Giant Eagle Marketplace resides and just south of the Outdoor Source. We neighbored Madison’s clothing store to the north and had floor to ceiling windows on our south and east sides. The decision to open the Upper Arlington store was based upon market research which suggested the majority of our customer base from our downtown store resided in the Arlington area.
Community & Tradition in Upper Arlington
Not only did marriages begin with Argo & Lehne engagement rings, but also many brides selected their wedding china, silver and crystal at the store. Upper Arlington High School senior girls received a sterling teaspoon in her choice of pattern. When a new neighbor moved into the area, we offered an engraved brass door knocker as a welcome gift. When bundles of joy came home, a relative would generally purchase a sterling cup from Argo & Lehne. The trust in the Argo & Lehne name continued to grow and we found we had quickly become the jeweler of Upper Arlington.
Argo & Lehne Today
As the tides turn, the movement from shopping in the suburbs again returned to downtown with the building of City Center Mall, a Capitol South development, opening on August 18, 1989. Argo & Lehne remained in the neighborhood of the families who have supported us most. We are now located just outside of the Kingsdale Shopping Center at 3100 Tremont Road, situated between the current Caffe Da Vinci and Key Bank.
As our customer base continues to grow, we are pleased to serve the grandchildren of our original customers and welcome new faces to the Columbus area. Our name continues to spread throughout the community despite the competition that pops up in the area. With such strong roots, we have remained a success because of our solid relationships with our customers and the community. They know our quality, trust our products and desire items that are personalized and unique. We are grateful for over 90 years of retail success in the Columbus area and look forward to adapting and changing with our ever growing community.
If you enjoyed reading about Argo & Lehne’s history in Columbus, watch for our next blog, Argo & Lehne Unveiled: The Secrets to our Continued Success.