Titgemeier's Feed & Garden Center

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Our Mission Statement:
We at Titgemeier's Inc. are commited to the time honored traditions of hard work, integrity, and loyalty as we strive to serve our customers needs with innovative, quality, and value added products and services.
 
We also trust in God to instill in us the respect, gratitude, and wisdom to positively contribute to our fellow employees, customers, vendors, and community at large.

Hours of Operation:
9 a.m.-6 p.m.  M-F
9 a.m.-4 p.m.  Saturday
Closed Sunday

The Story of Titgemeier's:

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A south Toledo landmark has had the same location since it was established over a century ago and has been in the same family for four generations!  It is well known as the "most unusual store" that urges the public to "take a bird to lunch". 

Nestled in a neighborhood of predominately German immigrants on the outskirts of Toledo, Fred Titgemeier opened the feed and flour store in 1888.  The new venture was located in a wooden house on the southwest corner of Western Avenue and Marion Street. 

One year later, Fred decided to open a grocery store across the street, and his brother Henry became the new owner of Titgemeier's.  Using the two front rooms of the house, Henry supplied hay, straw, oats, flour, and feed to the families who owned horses, cows, and chickens.  All baking was done at home, and Titgemeier's sold Camp's Pansy flour in half, quarter, and full barrels.  Henry purchased flour from the Armade Mills, located on Mill Street, between the Miami Canal and Vinton Street, and feed from Conkey's on Nebraska Avenue.  Delivery to homes was customary business practice, and Henry's son Harry handled this with a wagon and a team of horses, who were named Tom and Jerry.  These horses were the pride and joy of the store, and many offers to sell them were refused.  Even the fire department wanted to buy them, and Mortician H.H. Birkenkamp claimed that he would have bought them at any price, had they been black! 

In the early 1900's, a two-story brick building replaced the wooden house.  The stable behind the house(Tom and Jerry's home) was connected to the new building, and provided storage for hay and straw.  When Henry's youngest daughter Elsie married Frank Strohbeck in 1916, their reception was held in the second floor of the store.  It was an ideal location for that event, because sliding the bales of hay across the floor for years had prepared it well for smooth dancing.  The two sons from that marriage would own the firm 31 years later. 

How the grandchildren enjoyed playing around the store, with baby chicks in an incubator, bales of hay, straw, and the necessary cats and kittens to control mice.  The neighborhood men frequently visited the corner front office, not just for store business.  Since Henry was President of the St. Lucas Lutheran Church Council for thirty years, there were more than a few church matters discussed there.  The entire German community trusted him for advice and confidences.  Telephones were rare in the homes, so neighbors were welcome to make important calls in the office. 

When son Harry inherited the business in 1918, he converted the second floor of the retail store into a three-bedroom apartment, and made it available for rent.  Bakeries were opening for business, and home baking was declining.  Titgemeier's had to change with the times!  Harry connected with the King Midas Flour Mills in Hastings, Minnesota.  This company sold high quality spring wheat flour, which was the choice of the professional bakers.  In a few years, the store was buying full boxcars of 100# bags from King Midas to sell to restaurants, hotels, and bakeries.  Now deliveries were made with trucks. 

As with any business, not every venture was successful.  During the depression, a feed company, named Raisinbrook, devised a plan to spur their sales.  Titgemeier's were to sell rabbit pellets to customers who would breed rabbits to sell for meat, to be comparable to the chicken market.  Using the pyramid system, breeders would sell their excess live rabbits to others.  They in turn would develop their own customers that would buy the meat.  It sounded like a winner!  But when the breeders could not pay for their feed, payment was acquired with rabbits.  At one time, full hutches were crowded in the back barn.  This was a venture that failed.

Following Henry's death in 1935, his wife Julia and daughter Ida moved into the second floor apartment.  An unusual business opportunity developed during World War II.  The armed forces needed the textile mills, so a serious shortage of cloth developed.  At this time, all feed products were packed and shipped in 100# cotton or burlap bags.  The market had not yet developed strong paper bags, so the feed companies turned to fancy cotton prints.  Homemakers loved the quality fabric, and found many uses for those empty bags.  Titgemeier's packaged some of the feed into smaller sacks, and sold the empty bags to the eager ladies.  Did they want a printed bag at the BOTTOM of a tall stack of full 100# bags of feed?  It happened! 

In 1947, Harry bought the building from the Titgemeier estate, and asked his sister Elsie's oldest son, Bob Strohbeck, if he would be interested in the business.  Both he and his brother Don were home from World War II service, so a partnership was formed.  They paid Harry for the inventory, the business, and rented the building from him for 31 years.  Their Aunt Ida was then living in the upstairs apartment.  When they heard a clatter of pans, they knew that she was preparing a tasty desert to share with them. 

The new owners were forced to make major improvements to the building, in the business were to survive.  All of these were made at the expense of the Strohbeck Partnership.  In 1951, the old stable was jacked up and a new foundation was secured, and additional footers were dug to support the second floor.  A new heating system was installed, and new glass and stainless steel updated the front entrance.  The center wall that divided the store into two rooms was eliminated. 

This generation had to change with the times too.  In the early 1950's, garden power equipment was introduced to the market.  John Recht Distributors sold Titgemeiers its first Toro lawnmowers.  Shortly after, Century Toro Company became Toledo distributors, and this line, as well as Lawnboy mowers became the best sellers for the business. 

In March 1958, a young man walked into the store and asked for a job.  Newly discharged from the Navy, Jim Stelzer was hired and stayed with the business for forty years.  Sharpening blades for hand and power mowers was one of the specialties of an added shop equipped to service what they sold.  Each winter, Titgemeiers stored power mowers for customers.  These were serviced, and delivered in the spring in tip-top shape ready for the first grass cutting.  Selling snow blowers, snow shovels, salt, wild bird feed and pet supplies provided winter business.  The sale of flour was discontinued.  It did not fit in with the direction the business was going, and involved enormous, time, labor, and small return on investment. 

New markets were opening for the feed business.  The neighbors now had dogs, cats, canaries, parakeets, and gold fish.  Titgemeier's carried specialty feeds for all.  In 1953, a new company in Dayton that manufactured quality dog food was contacted, and the business was given the opportunity to sell their product.  The store eventually became one of the first two distributors for Iams pet food.  From that very small beginning, Iams has become an international company, keeping pace with the expanding pet business.  Hay, straw, and oats were still needed by the rag peddlers for their horses.  It was a special treat to deliver to these customers.  While Don and Bob could not understand the Jewish language, they could nod, smile, and enjoy the cookies and a small glass of wine in the kitchen when the delivery was completed!

The Story of Titgemeier's Part 2

Titgemeier's* 701 Western Avenue * Toledo, OH *  43609

titgemeiers@hotmail.com