Woolco

Woolco, from left to right, 1970, 2003 and 2007.
Click each picture to enlarge.

At the back of Graceland Shopping Center, a large discount chain named Woolco built a store in 1961. In the late 1950's, two mainstay discount chains were in trouble. Woolworth's and Kresge's ran small five and dime stores, mainly in downtown areas. The move to the suburbs had left the two chains in decline. To respond, Woolworth's started building Woolco stores in suburban locations, while Kresge's did the same with their K-Mart stores. Both started construction in the early 1960's.

In 1982 there was a terrible recession, and Woolco succumbed, closing all of its stores. The Woolco at Graceland was subdivided, with a Burlington Coat Factory and a Drug Emporium taking up residence. Drug Emporium was sold to Rite Aid and closed its Graceland location in October 2003. In January, 2004, Burlington Coat Factory moved to a new store near 161 and Sawmill Roads.

By the beginning of 2008, this structure was the only unoccupied portion of Graceland Shopping Center. Rumors came and went that a Home Depot or a Kohl's would take up residence. There was also a plan to tear down the store to make way for a bridge across the Olentangy River, with a major 4-lane road running right through the center of Graceland. This scheme died after the 1998 referendum killed any plans for an Olentangy river bridge to connect Morse Road to Bethel Road.

The mystery finally ended, however, in August, 2008, as the end came for the Woolco building. All but a small chunk of it on the north side was raised so that a slick new Urban Active Fitness Center could be built. And the portion of the building they saved? It is occupied by a tenant that grades standardized tests for public schools.


Here is a painting made around 1968 by a talented artist, Edward Hewett. Yes, this is the Graceland Woolco.
Click to enlarge.

Don Casto supervises the construction of the Graceland Woolco building in 1961.
Click picture to enlarge.

Woolco Building, October, 2003. The Drug Emporium was going out of business.
Click picture to enlarge.

Woolco Building, July 2004. Big Lots Furniture took up a brief residence during the renovation of the entire center.
Click picture to enlarge.

Woolco Building, October 2004. That zig-zag porch with the tall, simple sign screams 1960's modernism. The future sure ain't what it used to be!
Click picture to enlarge.

Woolco Building, November 2004. The Drug Emporium sign is gone.
Click picture to enlarge.

Woolco Building, December, 2007. The white and aquamarine, porcelain clad building has been painted brown to match the rest of the new brickface center. The sign points to the Kroger, which gutted and rebuilt the Big Bear, and opened on November 14, 2004.
Click picture to enlarge.

Its May, 2008 and a demolition contractor has begun removing the porcelain panels on the front of the store. These days, buildings aren't demolished so much as recycled.
Click picture to enlarge.

The demolition team is still sorting the cinder blocks from the beams, but the Woolco is mostly gone (July 29, 2008).
Click picture to enlarge.

The north end of the Woolco will live on as it is leased to a company that grades standardized public school test. It is considered bad form in the retail industry to tear down a building with a client in it. Check out the colors on that (formerly) interior wall - it must have livened up the Drug Emporium that used to be there. (July 28, 2008)
Click picture to enlarge.

September 27, 2008 - the Urban Active Fitness Center begins to rise from the foundation.
Click picture to enlarge.

December 7, 2009 - the Urban Active Fitness Center has just opened and is doing a land office business.
Click picture to enlarge.