LIMA — Lima loves a bargain.
When Rink’s Bargain City held its grand opening in September 1960, the lines stretched.
“At 11 a.m. Friday, the doors will swing open at huge Rink’s Bargain City, Route 30-S and Cable Road, and Lima shoppers will have an opportunity to purchase ‘first quality merchandise at discount prices,’” a Sept. 22, 1960, newspaper story reported.
“Under construction since the first of July, the 41,000-square-foot building is 25 stores under one roof and features a unique semi-self-service operation with check-out cashiers at each store. The $300,000 building was constructed by Carl M. Dingledine and has a large parking lot. Cost of features for the building was $40,000 and merchandise on stock for opening day is valued at more than a half million dollars.”
It was owned and operated by Rink’s Bargain City Inc., of Lima, and its original hours were 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. other days — except Tuesday, when it was closed.
Cincinnati man Hyman Ullner was president. A Jan. 5, 2007, Cincinnati Enquirer story reported Ullner portrayed the “Bargain City Kid,” a TV character at the time, and was host of “Shock Theatre” on WCPO-TV. He started his sales career by selling Army surplus goods after serving in World War II in the Army Medical Corps. In 1951, he consolidated his scattered surplus businesses into a store called Rink’s in Hamilton. It was so named because the location was an old skating rink.
Ullner also purchased a discount chain called Bargain City and consolidated the two to become Rink’s Bargain City.
According to the local story published in 1960, the Lima store was then the largest of the stores in Milford, Hamilton, Marion and Cleveland. It was to employ about 45 people and was divided into departments, including men’s clothing, boy’s clothing, infant and children’s wear, women’s clothing, notions, home furnishing, men’s shoes, infants and children’s shoes, women’s shoes, sports footwear, rugs and linoleum, floor tile, power tools, electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, hand tools, paint, roof coating, driveway dressing, automotive accessories, lawn and garden, toys, wheel goods, jewelry, gifts, cameras, radios, small electrical appliances, housewares, sporting goods, candy and home improvement and construction.
The store promoted its money-back guarantee instead of store credits or exchanges. Rink’s also promoted its free parking with plenty of room out front for 1,000 cars.
But it had a local competitor. Welles Family Department Store opened in Northland in 1961. Its store boasted 90,000 square feet, 80 departments, a lunch stand and 2,500 free parking spaces.
Not to be outdone, Rink’s opened a $400,000 addition later in 1961. It more than doubled the floor area of the store, bringing it to 100,000 square feet, and it added several departments — major appliances, a full restaurant and a drug store with pharmacist.
The grand opening ad invited everyone: “Enjoy a hot dog and Teem for 9 cents.”
And then, another addition.
“A store within a store and the first of its kind in the Lima area is having its grand opening Wednesday. It’s Rink’s Bargain City’s grocery department, a 15,000-square-foot department in the northwestern section of the huge discount department store, 2290 Elida Road. The market will carry all lines of meat, groceries, produce, frozen food, sundry and specialty items,” a Sept. 17, 1963, story reported.
The line was out the door.
“The opening of Rink’s Bargain City’s grocery Wednesday brought people by the thousands to the Elida Road store. The addition was opened at 11 a.m. but by 11:30 a.m. the doors were closed as 500 people backed up behind the checkout counters. By 4 p.m., 3,233 totals had been rung on the cash registers. An estimated crowd by 10,000 filled the parking lot and four special deputies were called to direct traffic,” a Sept. 19, 1963, story reported.
But in 1967, Gray Drug Stores Inc. bought the Rink’s brand. At that time, there were Rink’s stores in Monroe, Mich., Toledo, Lima, Zanesville, Chillicothe, Cambridge, Maumee, Marion and Defiance, with one under construction in Findlay.
A second Lima Rink’s opened in 1974 at Eastgate, a new shopping center developed by Florida businessman and former area resident Jack Roschman. That was the 39th store in the chain.
But parent company Gray Drug sold 47 Rink’s stores to Cook United Inc. in 1981 and the rest to Rite Aid in 1987.
In 1987, Toys “R” Us announced it would move into the plaza at Elida and Cable and use the western part of Cooks Discount Department Store. That same year, Cooks was liquidated. Later, the building was home to The Pharm. At Eastgate, the Rink’s location became home to Rays Supermarkets.