In 1853, Jewish tailor Max Dernham and German clothier John Gramling purchased the stock of G. Simon & Co. (founded 1853) and opened the Eagle Clothing Company on Washington Street, promoting themselves as “manufacturers and dealers of ready-made clothing and gent’s furnishing goods.” After two German Jewish brothers, Louis and Morris Greisheimer, purchased the store in 1865-1866, Leopold Strauss, a young tailor from Chronberg, Germany, joined the company as a clerk. Within five years Strauss had become a partner and, by 1879, he had acquired the Greisheimers’ interests.
Eagle Clothing became one of the city’s leading retailers and reputedly pioneered the concept of fixed prices for customers. In 1899, Strauss formed a partnership with friend and New York merchandiser Abram L. Block and later changed the firm’s name to L. Strauss and Company. As Strauss’ health failed, Block assumed control and directed the company after Strauss’ death (March 11, 1914) until 1935.
In April 1946, the company relocated from 33 West Washington Street, its home for 41 years, to the Occidental Building at the corner of Illinois and Washington streets. A $750,000 remodeling of the building, including air conditioning and escalators, made Strauss one of the largest retail clothing stores for men and boys in the state. During the 1950s, Strauss opened branch stores in Broad Ripple (1956) and Glendale Center (1958).
In February 1969, Genesco Corporation, a conglomerate based in Nashville, Tennessee, and owner of such upscale stores as Bonwit Teller, acquired L. Strauss and hired Minnesota native and clothing retailer Thad Larson as president. Seeking to return the store to local ownership, Larson purchased Strauss from Genesco in August 1979 and opened stores in Fort Wayne (1984) and Cincinnati (1987).
After the Occidental Building was torn down in 1989 to make way for, Larson moved the downtown store to Claypool Court in 1989. Larson relocated the store to in October 1991. Citing losses due to delays in the Circle Centre project, the company declared bankruptcy in March 1993 and went out of business.