H. Taylor Zettler (“Tay”) opened the doors of Zettler Hardware in Bexley in 1939, not where we saw the closing in 1997, but next door – one store front from the corner of Montrose and Main. With Zettler’s thriving success, it was only three years later that it expanded its floor space to 2525 East Main Street.
The Zettlers had a long tradition as merchants having come from Germany in the later 1830’s. Initially, Tay’s great-grandfather, Louis opened a retail grocery business in the early 1840’s, followed by pork packaging and the grain trade. In the mid-1880’s, Louis established Zettler Hardware Company with four of his sons – including Albert, Tay’s father – leaving two sons running the grocery.
It would be hard for me to imagine that most Bexley residents did not cross the threshold of Zettler’s on a routine basis over the years. My patronage, as a ten- or twelve-year-old in the yearly forties, included purchasing model airplane supplies, dry cell batteries, and ten-cent cans of paint. Access to Zettler’s, along with the barbershop on the corner or even Mykrantz Drugs on the corner of Cassady and Main and the Bexely Public Library, was no problem on my bicycle as an upper-elementary school kid. I enjoyed the freedom to visit my friends and spend what money I earned in addition to my twenty-five-cent weekly allowance.
Zettler Hardware stores on Livingston Avenue and in Gahanna were also opened in the ’40’s – but were sold by 1949 to provide working capital for Tay’s plan to open a store with the Casto organization on East Broad Street in the new Town and Country Shopping Center – which was featured in Fortune Magazine, at that time. As Don Casto opened other shopping centers around Columbus, Tay opened other hardware stores.
H. Taylor Zettler also became a “mover” in the Ohio Hardware Association and the National Retail Hardware Association, including serving as president for two years in 1971 and 1972. This commitment required capable managers of his retail stores.
In Bexley, Fondo J. Finley Jr. certainly fit that requirement. Having joined the Bexley Zettler’s sales force around 1960, he became manager six years later. Nearly forty years were to pass before he would close down the store in 1997. Fondo grew to know a substantial part of the Bexley community. He saw a place for the neighborhood hardware store with easy access to commonly needed hardware and service, and he made it work. Fondo like to remind his listener that, “A lot of people don’t want to walk into a football [field]-sized place to find a bracket or a light bulb.”
Nick Zettler, with his brother and partner, John, continue to manage seven hardware stores in Central Ohio, along with real estate interests. The latest addition to the chain is the Worthington Center store that benefits from community parking behind its storefronts. in our interview, Nick cited the lack of parking space as the major reason attributed to the demise of one of Bexley’s commercial icons – the Bexley Zettler Hardware.
Adapted from article By Edward L. Hamblin
Bexley Historical Society President, 1997-2002
Originally published in Historical Herald, June 2003
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* The Columbus Dispatch (or possibly The Columbus Citizen), January 24, 1907, “Venerable Merchant is Dead.”
* The Columbus Dispatch, February 1976, “Born into Hardware, Business Executive Built Own Chain.”
* Henry Taylor Zettler, Cornelia Slack Zettler, Loretta Zettler (sister), and Linda Zettler, Interview with Carolyn Wood, 1970’s, Transcribed by Beth Wallach, July and August 1985, Bexley Historical Society.
* This Week in Bexley, “Zettler Closing AFter Nearly 60 Years” by Ina Horwitz-Whitmore, pp 1,2
* Interview with Nick Zettler by Ed Hamblin, April 16, 2003.
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