Big Bear

Big Bear was an original tenant when Graceland Shopping Center was built in 1954. Wayne Brown had opened the first large, self-serve grocery store with separate departments in a former roller skating rink on Lane Avenue near the Olentangy River Bridge only twenty years earlier. Brown's concept was a big hit, and he continued to expand and innovate through his long career.

Big Bear actually occupied two locations at Graceland during its 50 year run. Shown below is the original Big Bear (I photographed it after it had been abandoned for a new store located across the alley, about 300 feet to the west of the old store). Today an Office Max occupies the same location.

 

Left: The original Big Bear, built in 1954, and renovated in 1960 and 1984. Right: an Office Max occupies the site today.
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In December, 1995, Big Bear closed its original Graceland store and opened in a brand new super center just to the west where the former Union Department Store stood. The Big Bear store was purchased by Kroger during Big Bear's 2003 bankruptcy sale.

This photo, from 1968, shows the Union Department Store located where today's Graceland Kroger is located. The Union closed about the same time Woolco did - 1982. Seasonal Concepts was located here before the building was torn down in 1994. To the right of the Union in this picture is Goodman's Fashions and Happy House Gift Shop.
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In 1995, a new Big Bear Plus replaced the old Union Department Store.
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Renovation from Big Bear to Kroger, July 2004.
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In November, 2005, Kroger opened. The eight months it took to renovate the store left Graceland with no supermarket, the only time that has happened since 1954.

The famous Big Bear sign was originally located on top of the first Graceland Big Bear store (where the Office Max is located today). By 1968 it was located in front of the store. In the 1980's, with the departure of Kroger from Graceland bear sign was moved to the front of the shopping center near High Street. When the sign was removed in 2003 with the bankruptcy of Big Bear, one half of the bear was saved by Northland High School boosters to serve as their mascot.

 

Left: The Big Bear sign in front of the store in the back of the center. Across the way is the Kroger, where the bowling and Jerry Lewis Cinema was later located. Right: The Big Bear sign out front of Graceland Shopping Center in November, 2003. Actually, every sign in this picture is for a business no longer in operation in 2007. The Taco Bell (formerly a Farrell's Ice Cream Store) is being demolished. The Pizza Hut is gone. The Melting Pot, located in the former Ground Round (and, dating back to the 1930's, a HoJo's) has moved to Easton.
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Another view of the Big Bear sign, from October, 2004. The Pier One Imports across High Street is now a PetSmart.
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Standing in line at the Big Bear (left, 2003) and Kroger (right, 2007). Same difference?
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