Yes, everyone celebrated the holidays at Lazarus and a visit to one of the store’s restaurants is an experience shared by practically everyone in Columbus. The Lazarus store molded this community in many other ways, too.
Simon Lazarus changed the nature of retail sales in Columbus shortly after he opened the store in 1851 when he instituted a set price for his merchandise. Until then, each customer bargained for each item. Because of Simon Lazarus, the model for running a business in Columbus was transformed.
Millions of people shopped at the downtown store in its 153 year history, and thousands upon thousands worked there. Many enjoyed long careers with this retail giant, benefiting from the collegial management style and the progressive employee benefits pioneered by Lazarus. Many others, however, had a short relationship with the store, as seasonal workers at Christmas or during summer vacations from school. Nonetheless, many recall their brief time with the Lazarus organization as a seminal experience.
Many of the people who worked at Lazarus remember it is as an important element of their vocational education. They say working at the store with a management team that allowed them a role in decision making was worth more than any business or marketing degree. Several generations of retailers in Columbus opened their own stores after working at Lazarus. In a sense, their commitment to customer service is part of the legacy of the downtown Lazarus store.
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We are indebted to several institutions for sharing the wonderful images that bring this story to life: The Ohio Historical Society, WBNS, and The Columbus Dispatch. In addition, we are grateful to The Columbus Foundation for supporting this production.