Built in 1878, 133 W Elder St was home to many different types of commercial businesses such as a clothing store and a grocery store.
Early Years of 133 W. Elder
Built in 1878, according to the Hamilton County Auditor, 133 W. Elder brought early commercial activity to Findlay Market. Some of its first inhabitants included a cobbler, a furniture store and a grocery. From the 1880s until the turn of the 20th century, as many families lived upstairs, the Salomon family teamed up with the Levy family to sell clothing and tailor items from 133 W. Elder.
Around the early 1900s, several grocery stores had their turn at the building, including Albert Technow’s short-lived Western Dairy Company, politician Gus Loewenstein Jr.’s Great China Tea Company and, from the 1910s to the 1930s, Kroger’s. Thereafter, the Kisker family owned the building and used the space for its poultry business. From the 1980s until recently, the building sat vacant.
In 2000, the city purchased it, and in 2015, Eli’s Barbeque opened its doors there. The Hamilton County Auditor lists the building’s construction date as 1878. Prior to this, an earlier iteration of the building existed, most likely a single-family house in size, with wood-frame construction.
Such architecture characterized the vast majority of Over-the-Rhine buildings prior to the 1870s and ‘80s. The commercial uses of this version of 133 W. Elder—then listed as 69 Elder—included a cobbler, a furniture store and a grocery. Henry J. Uderstadt, born in 1812 in Prussia, was one of the first inhabitants of 69 Elder, working out of the structure in the early 1860s.
A shoe maker by profession, he was an early and affluent Over-the-Rhine immigrant. Joseph Schueler (1837-1909) was another early tenant. Born in 1837 in Hesse-Darmstadt, he ran a furniture store in the Market, first out of 71 Elder (135 W. Elder) in 1862 and then out of 67 Elder (131 W. Elder) in 1863. He served in the Union Army from early 1864 to spring of 1865 as a Private during the Civil War. Thereafter, his furniture operation started afresh at 69 Elder. Briefly, in the early 1870s, Ernst Cohrs’ grocery could be found at 69 Elder.
Ernst, a German immigrant like the majority of tenants at the building, did not stay long, for within a few years he purchased land nearby on Elm Street and ran his grocery store there until his death. Upon that event, his wife Sophia Maria inherited his Elm Street property.
By 1875, Bernard Eha (1849-1884) used the first floor of 133 W. Elder for a grocery. Bernard was born in 1849 in Baden-Württemberg and fluctuated in his life between managing groceries and saloons. In 1880, the building went up for auction, listed as “A Valuable Three-Story Brick Business House,” “containing Store and 10 rooms, good Cellar, Attic, Gas and Water, good Cistern.” The version of 133 W. Elder in 1880 is the same version that stands today. This auction was the result of foreclosure as the Enquirer noted “Title perfect and sale positive.” Thereafter, the Salomon family moved in with its tailoring business.
The Salomon Clothing Business
In the 1880s, Nephtalie Salomon (1819-1887) ran a clothing store at 69 Elder (he had previously operated his store at 67 Elder in the 1870s). From the French-German area of Alsace-Lorain, he was a Jewish immigrant and a peddler by trade. He married his wife Rachel Blum (1836-1913) in the summer of 1859. While working out of the storefront at 69 Elder, the family lived upstairs. He and Rachel had two children, Melina “Millie,” born in Alabama, and Alexander, born in Ohio. Including the Salomon family, twenty-five people in total lived inside 133 W. Elder in 1880.
Over the course of the late 19th and early 20th century, on average, five to six families lived upstairs, indicating 133 W. Elder’s dense use as tenement-style housing. In the summer of 1887, Nepthali suffered from a stroke at home and passed away. Thereafter, his son Alexander Salomon (1865-1935) and Moses Lionel Levy—Alexander’s brother-in-law—took over, maintaining a merchant tailor and clothing store at 69 Elder. The Salomons and the Levy family continued to live upstairs at 69 Elder.
Moses, born in 1867 in what is now Germany, immigrated to the U.S. in 1883 and married Alexander’s sister Millie and together they started a family at 69 Elder. Not all of their children survived infancy.
The Turn of the 20th Century
Just before the new century, Albert Technow (1857-1919) operated one of his dairy company locations at 69 Elder. He was a dealer in eggs and butter but also carried other groceries.
The primary store was at 312 W. 6th Street, although he operated his business from other spots downtown, such as on Pearl Street, and in Over-the-Rhine on Main Street near 12th. In expanding his Western Dairy Company to eight different locations, he overextended his resources. He sought and received credit from New York lenders to keep his business afloat on the grounds that he had more assets than liabilities. It turned out that Albert had falsified such information. He wound up in “insolvency court” by 1897, and with this declared bankruptcy, he was forced to sell the stock at all of his locations.
More sympathetically, the U.S. had been in an economic depression since the stock market panic of 1893. Many companies like Albert’s had borrowed on credit and when the crisis hit, banks sought to collect. The Western Dairy Company was one of the thousands of businesses to collapse in the mid-1890s. Thereafter, in 1897, Gus Loewenstein Jr. opened one of several branches of his Great China Tea Company at 69 Elder—then renumbered to 133 W. Elder. First, in the mid-1890s, Gus’ Great China Tea Company—a grocery store despite the name—utilized the first floor of 111 W. Elder through the end of the century at which point Gus transferred the operation to 133 W. Elder.
With multiple locations in addition to the Findlay Market address—including the northeast corner of 6th and Mound, 75 Court near Vine Street, 117 Wade near Cutter, and at 528 McMillan—the Great China Tea Company was one of Gus’ many business ventures throughout his life. August “Gus,” born on February 21st, 1854 in what is now Germany, immigrated in 1870 to America.
His family soon became prominent German Jews in Cincinnati. Their home was in—and remained in for generations to come—Avondale, a neighborhood then populated by many other Jewish immigrant families. Gus’ first business was that of butchering, though he went on to run multiple grocery businesses. During his time at 111 W. Elder, he graduated from Hebrew Union College, located on W. 6th Street under Rabbi Isaac Wise.
After some scholarly time in Natchez, Mississippi, his consecration as a rabbi took place in 1896 at the Mound Street Temple. In 1905, Kroger acquired the Great China Tea Co. Thereafter, Gus—free of that business venture—continued to sell tea and grocery goods under his own name. While he did not utilize a Findlay Market storefront anymore, he continued to work downtown and in Walnut Hills, like he had for the Great China Tea Company. He passed away in 1928, ten years after his wife. Both were buried at the Clifton United Jewish Cemetery.
The B. H. Kroger Company at 133 W. Elder
Since Kroger bought the Great China Tea Company, Kroger’s use of 133 W. Elder by 1910 logically followed. In addition to multiple other locations throughout the city, Kroger used 133 W. Elder and 117 W. Elder as grocery storefronts from the 1910s to the 1930s. The son of German immigrants, Bernard H. Kroger (1860-1938) grew up in the dry goods business with his father being in the trade. Sadly, his father’s store ended with the financial panic of 1873 and the subsequent economic depression. Bernard—commonly called Barney—then worked in his teenage years in a drugstore and on a farm to support his family. He soon became a door-to-door salesman for the Imperial Tea Company on W. 6th Street in Cincinnati, selling tea and coffee for that business. But in the early 1880s, he branched out on his own and, with his friend and fellow grocery clerk Barney Branagan, started the Great Western Tea Company at 66 East Pearl Street. Bernard himself for a time went out every day on a wagon to solicit people’s orders around town. First selling only tea and coffee, Bernard installed a store apparatus for brewing and tasting the coffee and tea onsite. He soon expanded to offer affordably-priced groceries (as a way to cut out the competition) and grew his stores to thirty by 1900. In 1902, the name was changed to the Kroger Grocery and Baking Company. By the time Kroger absorbed the Great China Tea Company, it owned 119 stores. Innovative and hardworking, Bernard also sought to have an edge on his market. He ordered the construction of Kroger bakeries and a packing-house so his stores had fresh bread and meat departments. In the midst of Kroger having a chain store at 133 W. Elder, George J. Schrauder leased the storefront in the mid-1920s (he also leased other property along the Market). A second-generation German immigrant born around 1860, George first worked in Cincinnati as a pork-packer and then became a successful dairyman who owned his own business. Married to Josephine, George had four children, George, Dell, Frank and Margaret, with his wife. George purchased the building prior to his death and, along with other family members, including his daughter Margaret (Lenhart) (1893-1994), held the property until 1937 at which point it sold again. Despite the Schrauder involvement in the Elder Street building, city directories again listed the site being used by Kroger in the early Great Depression. Operations were then managed by Albert H. Morrill (1875-1942), a lawyer by training. Locations, among hundreds, also included the storefront at 101 W. Elder. But by the mid-1930s, Kroger left 133 W. Elder and the space transitioned briefly to Smitty’s Poultry Market where Findlay Market shoppers could find eggs, butter and poultry.
The Kisker Family’s Poultry Market
From the late 1930s until the early 1980s, the Elder Street Poultry Market—also called the John V. Kisker Company—inhabited the first floor of 133 W. Elder, owned by William Kisker (1878-1954) and his younger brother Charles “Carl” (1880-1965). The duo purchased 133 W. Elder in 1937, and their family held onto it until 1980. There, the brothers ran a wholesale poultry and egg business. They initially opened a store at 11 Main Street down near the riverfront. As the Main Street location kept enduring flooding and as the company grew, the Kisker brothers expanded to their Findlay Market location.
While public mentioning of the company did not cite him, William and Charles had a much older half-brother, John Viktor, born in 1860. It seems likely that the business was started by John given it carried his name. In 1950, William retired from the poultry business and moved to Florida. He passed away there four years later. His business partner and brother Charles died in 1965. Thereafter, the business persisted for another fifteen years or so, surviving as Findlay Market did at a time when Cincinnati’s urban core was losing population and buildings.
133 W. Elder More Recently
By the mid-1980s until recently, 133 W. Elder went unlisted in city directories. In 1980, David C. Hardin purchased the building, and a year later, Karkadoulias Bronze Art Inc., under the ownership of master Greek sculptor Eleftherios Karkadoulis and his wife Mercene, bought the building. Eleftherios and Mercene were well-known artists (particularly, in bronze statue rehabilitation), having refurnished the Tyler Davidson Fountain on Fountain Square.
The couple got involved in real estate in the 1980s, purchasing as many as thirty lots by 1985. In 2000, the city of Cincinnati bought the structure and, happily, in 2015, Eli’s Barbeque opened its second location there where the business continues to see heavy lunchtime and dinner crowds on all days of the week.