Before there were chain stores, before there were malls, there was Leonard’s Department Store. The small store, started by Marvin Leonard, opened in 1918. Marvin was later joined by his brother, Obie, and they sold groceries and salvaged goods to the citizens of Fort Worth. Customers appreciated their motto, “more merchandise for less money”, and the store grew, eventually occupying six blocks in downtown Fort Worth. Marvin, a genius at buying goods for great prices, filled the store with items that drew customers from all over the state of Texas. A trip to Leonard’s was a special event for any family.
Leonard’s continued to grow, moving into a new two-story building in 1930 and then expanding to a five-story addition in 1948. The brothers, to give their customers a true, one-stop shopping experience, added baked goods, a creamery, farm store, hardware, automotive supplies, sporting goods, a laundry and beauty salon. More and more people went to Leonard’s for all their shopping needs, and parking soon became a problem in the area. To solve that problem, the Leonard brothers built the M&O, the world’s only privately owned subway, to shuttle their customers to the store from an outlying parking area.
Leonard’s also became known across Texas as the place to go for Christmas. Every year, children begged their parents to take them to Toyland, the magical place where they could ride a monorail by amazing toy displays, where fireworks lit up the winter sky, and where Santa arrived by helicopter to hear their Christmas wishes.
Leonard’s Department Store was a beloved second home for many Texans for almost fifty years, but all good things must come to an end. In 1967, the Leonard family sold the Fort Worth icon to the Tandy Corporation. They closed the store in 1974, ending an important era in Fort Worth’s history.
Marty Leonard opened the Leonard’s Department Store Museum to honor her father and uncle and all of the Leonard’s employees. The museum features her own collection, plus memorabilia donated by former employees and past customers who have wonderful memories of their time at Leonard’s. The museum is their gift to the city of Fort Worth, so old and young alike will never forget how two brothers turned a dream into a reality, and built a special place that served and united an entire city.