38 North Pennsylvania Street
Years of Operation: 1932-1997
Notable: Before Office Depot or Staples there was a local leader in office supplies called Stationers. The Ober family-owned company opened in 1933 on North Pennsylvania. Two years after its founding, the store moved across the street to the When Building where it remained for nearly its entire existence. The company grew in the post-war era and had eight area locations by the early 1980’s. The company sold to a Dutch firm in 1995 and quickly began losing its market. The last location at 808 Broad Ripple Avenue closed in 1997.
Additionally: The When Building, later known as the Ober Building, is one of the more recent losses of historic architecture in Indianapolis. The structure sprang up in 1875 in the days before electricity or elevators. Colorful clothier and owner of the New York baseball Giants, John T. Brush operated the namesake When Clothing store in the building around the turn of the century. The building also housed the Indianapolis Business College and Indianapolis Law College.
Stationers purchased the building outright in 1946 and quickly embarked on an ill-advised remodeling project, stripping away much of the exterior ornamentation. By 1993 the building no longer served the needs of a business model that was drifting further from in-store purchases. Stationers constructed a new warehouse and headquarters in “Park 100” on the northwest side and closed their flagship location. The Ober Building and adjacent Rialto building, described in a 1994 Indianapolis Star article as being in “extremely poor condition,” were viewed as a hindrance to the redevelopment of the long-vacant Fletcher Trust Building across Market Street. Demolition of the Ober Building commenced in September 1995, and the site was cleared by November. A large parking structure replaced the site of what had been one of the city’s grandest retail buildings.