Columbus Gilbert’s shoe store was the place to go until 1980

During the days of BankAmericard, Master Charge, and retail stores teeming with seasoned employees, Gilbert Shoes was a must-see place for shopping in Columbus.

Even before the concept of credit cards was introduced, associates had been adjusting the feet of Columbus families for years. Also known as “Gilbert’s”, it was a retail institution for over 70 years.

Gilbert's advertisement in The Dispatch in 1929.

The company, which started in 1906 or 1908 (accounts vary), was often advertised as having 100,000 pairs of shoes available in all sizes and for all needs. Many came from “retail stocks, wholesalers’ surpluses, chain store stocks, manufacturer cancellations, bankrupt stocks, closings, seconds and factory returns.”

“Just good, inexpensive shoes,” a Dispatch ad proclaimed in 1933.

A 1934 advertisement for children's shoes at Gilbert's.  At that time, the store had x-ray shoe accessories that showed what a child's foot looked like inside a shoe.

The flagship store was Downtown on East Town Street, with subsequent outlets at 3965 Sullivant Ave., 4825 E. Main St., and 2203 Morse Road.

Gilbert Shoes was a great specialist in marketing and promotions. At a grand opening in 1967, shoppers could take advantage of “Free Pepsi-Cola,” meet Flippo the Clown and Luci from the local “Luci’s Toysshop” show and enter to win one of two Zenith color televisions or Florida vacation. And in 1976, shoppers could win a CB radio or a fur coat in the new Morse Road store.

The company’s long line of discount shoe offerings ended after it went bankrupt. Its assets were sold to Shonac Corp., a Columbus footwear company co-owned by the Schottenstein family. Shonac then held a giant clearance sale of any remaining inventory in 1980.

Collaborator Linda Deitch was a dispatch librarian for 25 years.


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