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Our History

Casto is a third-generation full-service real estate company which has sustained its position as an industry leader for more than eight decades. The company's strong foundation is based on the beliefs and values of its visionary founder, Don Monroe Casto, Sr., an enterprising and innovative businessman who began his career in real estate selling, then building single-family homes in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.

>> Don M. Casto, Sr. - Making Retail History




 
Casto was employed by the Upper Arlington Co. when he got his first taste of commercial real estate - the 1921 purchase of a small strip of land at the edge of a subdivision on which six 15' x 50' shops were built. In the spirit of a true entrepreneur and convinced that the future of real estate development was in the suburbs of America's cities, Casto started his own real estate company in 1926. Facing over 70 foreclosures and 14 corporate receiverships, but refusing to declare bankruptcy during the Great Depression, he worked out a creative plan with bankers, insurance companies and building and loan backers that allowed him to continue in the upstart shopping center industry.

Tough times continued throughout World War II, when the nation moved into an industrial defense posture and commercial construction was at a virtual standstill. Foreseeing the changing shopping patterns of the new transient society, Casto moved to secure sites before land values soared. Under his leadership, the organization continued to expand and built 27 regional shopping centers and malls as far west as Missouri and north to Michigan. Internationally recognized as a pioneer in the shopping center industry, radio commentator Paul Harvey described Don M. Casto, Sr. as "the man who changed the shopping habits of the free world" after his death in 1963.

 

>> Reaching Beyond the Neighborhood - Grandview Avenue Shopping Center




When he met sales resistance from prospective new homeowners because there was nowhere nearby to shop (and they were not willing to travel to downtown stores), Casto determined to provide them with the types of stores they frequented. In 1928 he opened Grandview Avenue Shopping Center, the first shopping center built to serve a trade area reaching beyond its immediate neighborhood. It was also the first to have more than one national grocery chain. A&P, Kroger, Piggly-Wiggly and Polumbo's (a local grocer) joined more than 20 other merchants, including a drugstore, general store, barber shop, movie theater and bank. Parking for 300 cars was provided at the rear of the building.

The center's opening was celebrated with a parade featuring members of the original "Our Gang" films, a streetfair with children's games, and musical entertainment. A county-wide contest was sponsored by The Columbus Dispatch and Loew's Theatre to select local children to appear in an Our Gang feature. The "Bank Block," so named because First Citizens Trust was the first tenant to open in the center, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and is still a thriving retail corridor.

>> Town & Country - One of the Nation's First Regional Shopping Centers




 
Known to many as the "Miracle Mile" and to others as "Casto's Folly," Town & Country opened in 1949 in suburban Whitehall, Ohio and was one of the nation's first regional shopping centers. Town & Country had many obstacles to overcome. One major hurdle was convincing major retailers to venture off the main streets of America's downtown metropolitan cities and into an unknown concept in merchandising, the regional shopping center. Persistent negotiations between shopping center pioneer Don M. Casto, Sr. and national retailers James Cash Penney and Sebastian Kresge finally landed commitments for stores in this remote suburban location. Their commitments resolved the daunting task of convincing Columbus Railway Power & Light Co., which controlled public transportation at the time, to extend bus service to the suburban shopping center.

Casto also insisted on radical innovations for his retailers that were only reluctantly accepted - like requiring stores to stay open until 9:00 p.m. six nights a week (since an estimated 70% of sales would be transacted between 5:00 and 9:00 p.m.) and because the center was designed to be set to the rear with a huge parking area in front, having neon signs that could be seen from the street during all hours of operation. Town & Country's original 31 shops and services included JCPenney, Kroger, Kresge's, Gray Drugs, and Richman Brothers. Sam's Shoe Service, also an original tenant, continues to operate at the center.

Through the years, Town & Country has been expanded, remodeled and repositioned, demonstrating Casto's commitment to its tenants, customers and the community-at-large. Today, the 511,575 square foot center continues to provide a vital, convenient shopping alternative in its retail trade market.

>> Perfecting the Art of Promotions and Entertainment




 
Constant promotions were considered essential to the success of the early shopping centers. Summers brought a flurry of activity to shopping center parking lots. Shows and activities to entertain children, such as Grandma Carver, a high-dive artist who would plummet 90 feet into a 5' water tank topped with flaming oil, also served as ways to persuade parents and grandparents to visit the centers. Wrestling matches and square dances were held on the parking lots many Saturday nights after the stores closed.

Other innovative promotions included marking the start of the Christmas shopping season with Santa's arrival by helicopter, sidewalk art shows featuring local artists and craftsmen, and center-wide sales events and contests.