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Fort Worth in Tarrant County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Leonard Brothers Department Store

1918 - 1967

 
 
Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker (center) image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, May 20, 2010
1. Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker (center)
Inscription. (center panel)
Obie Paul Leonard • John Marvin Leonard
Two farm boys, with ingenuity, determination and 600 dollars, built a business empire.

(outer panels)
The history of
John Marvin Leonard and Obie Paul Leonard
Two farm boys, with ingenuity, determination and $600,
built a business empire.

When the doors opened on a small store across the street from the Tarrant County Courthouse in 1918, no one could have predicted that those counters made of boards on barrels and washtub display cases would grow into a business empire that would have such a monumental community-wide impact.

But thus is the story of the Leonard’s and Fort Worth.

With little more than $600 and a great deal of foresight, Mr. Marvin Leonard began business in a 1500 sq. ft. store. He was joined by younger brother Obie one year later.

Together, Mr. Marvin and Mr. Obie, filled with the frontier spirit and optimistic vision, created far more than a mercantile center on the north end of the central business district. As the city grew and prospered, the Leonard Brothers grew and prospered, and, good citizens that they were, they gave financial support and help to their adopted city.



 Significantly, the business they created
Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker (left side) image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, May 20, 2010
2. Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker (left side)
with the philosophy of “more merchandise for less money” expanded most during periods of economic adversity, during the dark, early days of the Great Depression, they moved their store into its own block-long building, thereby creating new jobs and generating activity in the downtown area.



 This kind of growth can not be entirely attributed to the fact that the Leonard Brothers Store, as it was know early on, carried merchandise as varied as stove bolts and fashion, saddles and pastries. More, it was a feeling Mr. Marvin and Mr. Obie were able to convey in their personal actions, and through their thousands of employees — to treat every customer as you would want to be treated.



This spirit of genuine concern for their customers led to innovations in merchandising. For example, the installation of one of the first escalators south of the Mason-Dixon line drew 40,000 enthusiastic riders and sightseers during the first day of operation. Perhaps the most spectacular creation was the store's own subway system the M&O Subway Express carried passengers from a 14-acre parking lot into the store...for free. The creative approach brought shoppers thronging into the store. The result was that this system brought people into the downtown area to conduct other business, to their jobs, and to other stores. What the Leonard Brothers
Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker (right side) image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, May 20, 2010
3. Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker (right side)
had done was to create a highly successful, even through small scale, mass transit system that benefited not only their business, but also the entire downtown business community, and the remarkable thing is, it didn’t cost the city a cent.

When the store was sold to the Tandy Corporation on October 30, 1967, the complex covered six blocks, offered over 100,000 square feet of merchandise, and employed 1,000 people.

Mr. Marvin and Mr. Obie, as they were affectionately known, may have been two farm boys from Cass Country, but the business empire they began in Fort Worth carried their fame across the nation as retailers of extraordinary kind.



 Neither man was content to confine his life to that of being a shopkeeper, even on such a large scale, but instead took on new challenges in other areas of endeavor, both as businessmen and citizens.

Mr. Marvin, who died in 1970, expanded his holdings to include oil, ranching, banking, and real estate developments.

Besides the philanthropic activities, which consumed much of his energy, Mr. Marvin had a “Hobby” that embraced his recreational activities, his giving nature and his business acumen: He built country clubs with extraordinary golf courses.

It is thanks to his desire for perfection that Colonial Country Club and Shady Oaks Country Club have
Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker Contributors image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, May 20, 2010
4. Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker Contributors
courses recognized as being among the finest in the world.



 His major sports contributions, however focused the attention of the world on Fort Worth, for it was Mr. Marvin’s convincing nature that brought the U.S. Open to Colonial in 1941, and which resulted in the Colonial National Invitational beginning 1946.



 Mr. Obie, too, has had divergent business interests. He has devoted a great deal of energy into ranching, pecan farming, oil, saving and loan associations, insurance, and holdings in commercial and industrial property.



 Boy Scouting has claimed Mr. Obie’s interest for over 40 years. He served as President of the Longhorn Council for 13 years, and continued to serve as a member of the regional board of the Boy Scouts of America. As a leader in scouting, he was presented the highest BSA Council honor, The Silver Beaver. He was also presented The Antelope, the highest BSA Regional Award. A ranch he donated to the council has been named Camp Leonard in his honor.

Individually, and together, Mr. Marvin and Mr. Obie Leonard created a retail empire of world wide fame and an outstanding record of civic contributions.
 
Location. 32° 45.424′ N, 97° 20.044′ W. Marker is in Fort Worth, Texas, in Tarrant County. Marker
Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, May 20, 2010
5. Leonard Brothers Department Store Marker
is on North Houston Street (Business U.S. 287) south of West Belknap Street (Texas Route 347 Spur), on the right when traveling south. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 109 N Houston St, Fort Worth TX 76102, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Site of Camp Worth (within shouting distance of this marker); Fort Worth (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of the First Masonic Hall in Fort Worth (within shouting distance of this marker); Tarrant County Criminal Courts Building (within shouting distance of this marker); 1784 Tarrant County 1815 (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); First School (about 400 feet away); "The Stage Leaves From Here" (about 700 feet away); Fort Worth's First Telephone Exchange (about 700 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Fort Worth.
 
Also see . . .  Leonard Brothers. The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association (Submitted on February 19, 2012, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceSports
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. This page has been viewed 731 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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