THE COLMAR BUILDING & J. C. PENNEY
C. Penney was once located in Downtown Sandusky, 1955. Image courtesy of Sandusky Library Archives Research Center
Columbus Avenue businesses in the picture include: LaSalle’s, Marsh Shoes, J.C. Penney, Gray Drugs, Holzaepfel Brothers, and Burns & Gove Jewelers.
To the south of Gray Drug, the two-story Colmar Building was constructed in the late 1920s for retail tenants.
On March 27-28, 1929, the J.C. Penney Company opened its first Sandusky store in part of this building, with an estimated 5,000 people attending the opening. the northern part of the storefront houses Montgomery Ward.
This photo was taken on April 30, 1938 for the North West Territory celebration. It shows Montgomery Ward, J. C. Penney, Home Services Station, Merit Shoes and Carl Kromer.
In 1955, J.C. Penney expanded its downtown store to fill the entire Colmar Building in a project that included the store installing the city’s first escalator. The renovation also covered the Colmar Building’s exterior with green and white porcelain panels to give it a more modern streamlined look.
In August of 1974, J.C. Penney announced its plans to open a new store at the planned Sandusky Mall, and its downtown store closed when the mall store opened in the late 1970s. After the closure of J.C. Penney its building remained vacant, and in December 1981 the Sandusky city government agreed to purchase both the former Penney’s building as well as the Gray Drug building for one dollar. The city additionally purchased the Graham-Ritter Building in 1984.
Gray Drug was acquired by Rite-Aid in the late 1980s and its downtown store was moved to the former Woolworth building on the opposite side of Columbus Avenue. Faced with an entire block of empty retail storefronts, the Sandusky City Commission voted in December 1990 to demolish all three buildings. This demolition was completed during 1991 and created a large hole along Columbus Avenue which was filled with the Erie County Parking Garage, a joint Sandusky-Erie County project that opened to the public in 1996.