The Richter & Phillips Company: From Nationwide Mail Order Catalog to Family Owned Diamond and Jewelry Shop
In 1896, C. Edward Richter and three brothers named Phillips opened a store in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. The store known as, The Richter & Phillips Company, offered many different items to their customers. At the top of the list was jewelry. Salesman traveled all over the country with large trunks full of jewelry, selling to other jewelry companies. The showroom displayed jewelry, diamonds, and giftware.
The Store known as “The Richter & Phillips Company” offered their customers catalog shopping. Items available in the nationwide mail order catalogs included jewelry, giftware, luggage, purses, trophies, plaques, clocks, electrical appliances, sporting goods, musical instruments, dolls and toys.
Mr. Richter and the Phillips brothers worked hard to keep the company going over the next forty years. The downtown store thrived as did the catalogs and traveling salesmen. In 1930, however, suffering from the Great Depression, The Richter & Phillips Company was forced to file bankruptcy. Frederick W. Fehr, a traveling diamond salesman working for a different company took his loose diamonds to the 2nd National bank. There, they loaned him the money needed to buy the store and keep it open. Over the next few years Mr. Fehr bought out all remaining stockholders, thus; making The Richter & Phillips Company a family owned business.
Mr. Fehr and his right hand man, Lawrence Fledderman, continued running The Richter & Phillips Company in the same capacity through World War II. Located in the Temple Bar Building at the corners of Court and Main Streets, Mr. Fehr handled all diamond and jewelry deals while Mr. Fledderman took care of everything else.
In 1946, Mr. Fehr’s son, Frederick W. Fehr, Jr., began work at the store. “I remember unloading trucks at 13 years old,” says Fred Fehr, Jr., who still works at the store a few days a week, “After going off in the Navy, I came back and continued to work for my Dad.”
In the '50s, The Richter & Phillips Company had four watchmakers on staff that could take apart and put back together any watch. The store also had their own watch brand, trademarked “Luzerne Watches.”
“We used to print our own catalogs with heavy letterpress blocks; it was expensive and a pain,” explains Mr. Fehr, Jr. “Soon after Mr. Fledderman left in 1960, we joined MAI, Merchandisers Association International. This meant we no longer printed our own catalogues. MAI printed catalogs for several different businesses and swapped out the covers.”
The Richter & Phillips Company continued business as usual until the early 1970’s when Fred Fehr, Jr., decided to branch out. Under a different business name, Richter & Phillips Jeweler and Distributors, Mr. Fehr, Jr., opened two new stores. One in Florence, Kentucky and the other in Delhi, a suburb of Cincinnati. With much more space available than the downtown location, these two stores displayed all of the items found in the catalogs. Unfortunately, these two stores weren’t quite as successful as the original one. Both were sold in the late '70s and eventually went out of business in the early '80s.
Meanwhile, The Richter & Phillips Company (downtown) was being pushed out of its location in the Temple Bar Building at Court and Main by Hamilton County. It was then that the company made its final move to its current location of Sixth and Main Street.
Mostly because of limited space and for other unknown reasons, The Richter & Phillips Company decided it was time to let go of the catalog business. The company would begin focusing on jewelry, diamond, and giftware sales.
Frederick W. Fehr retired in 1972, at 90 years old, leaving the business to his son, Fred Fehr, Jr.
In 1982, after becoming a Graduate Gemologist, Fred Fehr Jr.’s son, Frederick W. Fehr, III (Rick) joined the staff at The Richter & Phillips Company. Upon hiring, Rick took over all diamond and gemstone purchasing and sales.
Rounding out the true feeling of the family-owned business, Fred Fehr, Jr.’s son, Arthur Fehr (Art) joined the staff after becoming a Graduate Gemologist in the early 1990s.
Today at The Richter & Phillips Company, you can find Rick and Art Fehr busy at their desks or assisting customers in the showroom and Fred Fehr Jr. plugging away at the mounds of paperwork in his office a few days a week.