LIMA in the late 1800s was an up-and-coming town, featuring a downtown district that was chock-full of shops offering all manner of goods and services.
One of those storefronts, 21 Public Square, was occupied by the Lima Tea Co. The business offered teas for sale but was much more than that. It offered sundries as well -- from baking powder to shoe polish.
An ad from Jan. 31, 1889, shares big news: "We recently put in a coffee roaster and will in future give you warm coffee." And the coffee-addicted masses rejoiced. Customers supported the business.
An ad from March 22, 1890, shared its success: "The oldest tea and coffeehouse in Northwestern Ohio. Our extensive business is due to the fact that we buy the finest goods imported to this country."
By 1892, Joseph R. Rickoff was proprietor of the business. A newspaper story from Jan. 11, 1892, offered a glimpse: "We had occasion to call at the Lima Tea Co. on a little business and found the man with the specks in a talking humor."
Rickoff started in tea as a traveling salesman for a wholesale tea house in 1873. He told the newspaper he quit the road after 15 years on the last day of May 1868 and came to Lima the next day. He also shared some news: Lima Tea Co. was about to enlarge its coffee roasting capabilities by adding another roaster. "We keep one roaster going all the while and cannot keep up," he said.
Just one year later, coffee's popularity had contributed to a rise in prices. "Coffee remains high in this market in most cases unless the dealer happens to be on the inside," according to a May 31, 1893, story. "The monopoly seems to have had their own way for months past. The Lima Tea Co., of this city, struck it rich by a heavy purchase of green coffees at the time of so many failures of coffee dealers in New York three weeks ago. Commencing tomorrow morning, June 1, they will put on sale a choice lot of coffee fresh roasted at 25 cents." That's right -- 25 cents per pound.
Rickoff continued his business shrewdness by introducing a line of premiums in 1895. A story from March of that year reported: "It matters not what you want -- gold watches, parlor lamps, glassware, handsomely decorated dinner sets, elegantly framed pictures, jardiniers, the Lima Tea Co. is the place to get these things and not cost a cent."
Not done so often these days, premiums were a variety of goods that could be purchased with vouchers included on packaging or given to the consumer when the goods were bought. (Remember Betty Crocker Points?)
"Sit down and figure for a minute and see how much tea, coffee, spices, baking powder, soap, starch, rice, rolled oats, extracts, etc., you would buy in one year, getting our tickets with everything. In less than a year, you could get one of our famous 100-piece dinner sets," a Jan. 15, 1896, story reported.
Their advertising pushed the premiums. An ad printed July 13, 1897, buttered up the ladies. "The ladies of Lima know their business," it read, explaining husbands are instructed by their wives to be sure to "get the tickets" for the purchases made.
An ad printed June 6, 1904, listed the "wonderful premiums" offered by the company. Buy a pound of tea or baking powder or $1 of coffee, and you could choose from a five-quart granite kettle, 1 1/2 quart granite coffee pot, 2 quart granite pudding pan or a large baking dish.
In late 1906, the block in which the store rented was sold, with plans for a grocery to be built. The Lima Tea Co. moved to 218 S. Main St., where they made do through a sugar shortage. They had some sugar, but customers were only allowed to buy one 25-pound sack -- and they had to buy other groceries from the store as well.
Coffee prices went out of this world in 1924. A story from March 3, 1924, reported there were heavy rains in Brazil. Some of the crop was ruined, and Brazil was only exporting a bit at a time.
The Lima Tea Co. continued to supply goods for it customers, though, and Lima was loyal. The company was able to expand with a warehouse built at 420 N. Union St. in 1913, and the shop itself was moved to the warehouse location in 1923.
After many years of running the business, Rickoff died at age 70 in 1927. The Montezuma native succumbed to heart disease. Later, the papers reported his estate of $189,856 was left to his wife, Margaret. The company continued until 1949, when it closed its doors.
Love the graphics on their coffee bag:
Here's a pic of one of the Lima Tea premium tickets