Radio history in Cincinnati began when Powel Crosley Jr. walked into Ely Steinberg's store.
"I myself sold Powel Crosley the first radio tubes he ever had," Mr. Steinberg recalled in 1964.
Mr. Steinberg opened his store in 1921, selling musical instruments, Victrola record players and crystal sets - primitive radio receivers. Mr. Crosley's WLW radio station went on the air the same year.
Radio became the focus of Steinberg's. Its slogan was, "Where radio is a business, not a sideline." The store was at 633 Walnut St., downtown, across from today's Aronoff Center for the Arts. A second store opened on Sixth Street a few years later.
Both stores closed during the Depression. Mr. Steinberg sold newspapers for three years to raise $500 to reopen the Walnut Street store in 1937.
Steinberg's added refrigerators, stoves and other appliances, but it had the region's largest radio and phonograph department in the basement of the Walnut Street store.
Amateur radio operators and hi-fi enthusiasts gathered there to trade tales and inspect equipment, such as short-wave radios, tuners, turntables, amplifiers and speakers.
Steinberg's carried crystal sets as late as 1964. "A lot of kids still come in and buy them. They take them home, hook the clips to the bedsprings or a metal window and listen to radio," Mr. Steinberg said then.
When Mr. Steinberg died in 1970 at age 76, his son Ivan R. Steinberg became president of the company.
Declining sales forced Steinberg's to close the Walnut Street store in 1982, but by that time the company had 10 stores throughout the Tristate and soon added stores in Lexington, Ky., Columbus, Ind., and Knoxville, Tenn.
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