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In 1883, Elder-Beerman history began when Boston Dry Goods Store opened in Dayton, Ohio, and was later incorporated under the name Elder & Johnston Company. In 1930, After a short career with Elder & Johnston, Arthur Beerman, founder of Elder-Beerman Stores Corp., branched out on his own and by 1945 Beerman Stores was incorporated.  In 1953, Beerman formed a partnership with Max Gutmann and together they established the Bee Gee Shoe Corporation, which operated the El-Bee Shoe Outlets and Shoebilee! stores for many years before its sale. They also operated Margo's specialty clothing stores.

In 1962, Beerman Stores merged with Elder & Johnston Company to form the Elder-Beerman. For the next 20 years, the Elder-Beerman Stores Corp. grew to include furniture and home lines, and the company expanded with new stores throughout western Ohio and several surrounding states, competing with its Dayton rival, Rike Kumler. After Arthur Beerman's death in 1970, Max Gutmann was promoted to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.  In 1985, Herb Glaser was named president and CEO of the department store division. With Herb Glaser as president, Gutmann and Glaser developed the Elder-Beerman franchise through the 1980s and early 1990s. When the company was forced to file for Chapter 11 reorganization in 1995, Max Gutmann and Herb Glaser returned from retirement to turn the company around. During the bankruptcy, Frederick J. Mershad asked to replace Gutmann as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Elder-Beerman has acquired three chains throughout its history: Cincinnati, Ohio based Mabley & Carew in 1978;Terre Haute, IN-based Meis in 1989, and Wheeling, WV-based Stone & Thomas in 1998.

Elder-Beerman was acquired by The Bon-Ton in 2003.