Geiger’s calling it quits downtown, for now

Yesterday, Tuesday, Feb. 2, Geiger’s Department Store officials announced they are closing their downtown location at 1020 Euclid Ave. The store has been closed since June 10, after the May 30 George Floyd march turned riotous—leaving much downtown Cleveland destroyed.

But the coronavirus, quarantines, and curfews made it impossible for Geiger’s Greater Cleveland to reopen its doors in the city, says company president Chas Geiger, who manages the 89-yearold chain of Geiger’s stores with his brother, Gordon and their wives, Patti and Susan.

“We didn’t want this to happen, but COVID has really changed the downtown dynamic,” he says. We had to do the right thing and put a pause on that store.”

The existing stores in Lakewood and Chagrin Falls remain open, and Geiger says they may revisit the idea of opening again in downtown sometime in the future. “Hopefully, we will be back in downtown Cleveland, but our lease was coming due and we had to make a decision. All of COVID put a damper on downtown Cleveland. We’re sorry we’re not going to be there for the downtown residents, because they’ve been very supportive.”

Geiger says the store also depends on full hotels and office employee foot traffic for survival. Right now, that traffic is gone. “We received a lot of great support from the business community, the residents, and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance,” he says. “But we just couldn’t do it.”

The Geigers opened their third location downtown in November 2015—wanting to be a part of the revitalization happening within the city. Business at the store was brisk, Geiger says.

“We were really proud of that store and the renaissance of what downtown Cleveland was going through,” he says. “With the downtown businesses, residents coming, the renovations, and the rehabilitations going on. We saw bright lights ahead of us.”

But after opening for just 10 days after the governor lifted his initial stay-at-home orders for retail businesses, the protests forced Geiger's to close again, and the future for the location looked bleak.

“With the supply chain, we knew we couldn’t get our summer merchandise [in time for the season] and we didn’t even know if we’d get all of our fall merchandise,” Geiger explains. “Our stuff needs to be ordered months and months in advance.”

Now, Geiger says they will focus on the stores in Lakewood and Chagrin Falls. But he says they are not ruling out a return to downtown, pointing out that his grandfather owned Geiger's stores downtown over a century ago.

“We’re always looking to our next adventure,” he says. “We’re always doing different things, and I’m confident [downtown] will come back. And when it does, we will reconsider coming back to downtown Cleveland.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.