Rike’s history lives on through a pair of reindeer in Oakwood

The Rike's reindeer on display inside Bough Bend's library in Oakwood during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
The Rike's reindeer on display inside Bough Bend's library in Oakwood during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Dr. Samia Borchers had the winning bid on the decorative deer in 1991, and has cherished them since

Even though the building that housed Rike’s in downtown Dayton was demolished 21 years ago, the iconic department store’s holiday memories are preserved through the Rike’s Wonderland Windows at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Center, built on the very site where Rike’s once stood, at the corner of Second and Main streets. The annual display of the re-imagined Rike’s holiday windows in the Schuster’s Wintergarden, traditionally part of the Dayton Holiday Festival, was held virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Exterior of Rike's in downtown Dayton, Christmas 1952. COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
Exterior of Rike's in downtown Dayton, Christmas 1952. COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Credit: COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Credit: COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

The history of Rike’s also lives on at Christmastime through Dr. Samia Borchers, a local dermatologist and Oakwood resident who has a private practice on Far Hills Avenue in Kettering. Through her family, she also has multiple connections to the history of former businesses and the buildings that housed them in downtown Dayton.

Dr.'s Christina and Samia Borchers with friend Dr. Jim Case during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019 in Bough Bend's library. Photo courtesy of Dr. Samia Borchers.
Dr.'s Christina and Samia Borchers with friend Dr. Jim Case during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019 in Bough Bend's library. Photo courtesy of Dr. Samia Borchers.

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Borchers recalled a visit to Rike’s around 1980 where she could see the reindeer in a window decorated for Christmas next to the bakery window area. “It was in front of a crosswalk that went to Elder-Beerman, which was just across from Rike’s at Courthouse Square. The window display was a winter wonderland scene of snow and glitter with the reindeer taking center stage. It was breathtaking!”

Rike's reindeer in Lazarus (formerly Rike's) dining room in downtown Dayton, 1988 COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
Rike's reindeer in Lazarus (formerly Rike's) dining room in downtown Dayton, 1988 COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Credit: COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Credit: COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Samia’s husband, the late Dr. William Borchers, a local dentist, first had an office in Oakwood and then on East Stroop Road in Kettering before passing away in 2018.

William Borchers
William Borchers

“William’s family owned Borchers Ford, which was in business until 1979. His grandfather started the first car dealership around 1905 when everyone rode horses. They had an elevated showroom so people could ride by with their horses and look inside at the cars,” she said.

The former Borchers Ford dealership building at 360 S. Main St. was constructed in 1928 and designed by the Pretzinger & Pretzinger architectural firm featuring a terra-cotta facade on its storefront. Today, the building is part of a U-Haul storage facility.

In 1980, Borchers and her husband William visited New York City during Christmastime.

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“We saw Rockefeller Center and admired the majestic reindeer displayed there. This reminded me of the indoor reindeer at Rike’s, which are made of grapevines and sprayed white with silver glitter all throughout. They are truly delicate, graceful and gorgeous,” said Borchers.

The auction to liquidate the assets of Rike’s, which became Shillito-Rike’s as a result of the company’s first merger in 1982 and Lazarus through a second one in 1986, was held a week before Christmas from Dec. 18-20, 1991, since the last day of business at Lazarus before closing permanently was scheduled for Jan. 31, 1992.

Exterior view of Lazarus in downtown Dayton from the Kettering Tower, 1989. The building was previously home to Rike's department store and is now the site of the Schuster Center for the Performing Arts.
Exterior view of Lazarus in downtown Dayton from the Kettering Tower, 1989. The building was previously home to Rike's department store and is now the site of the Schuster Center for the Performing Arts.

Credit: Dayton Daily News archives

Credit: Dayton Daily News archives

Borchers, who was nine months pregnant at the time, went to the auction on the building’s sixth floor with her father, the late Elias Warwar, a tailor since age 19 and owner of Warwar Custom Tailors in downtown Dayton from 1959 until his retirement in 1998. His first location was in the Knott Building (Centre City), Main Street across from the Old Court House and First Street around the corner from the Victoria Theatre. Borchers added, “He had a huge following making custom-made suits for Daytonians. People still mention that they wear his timeless suits.”

Warwar passed away in 2005.

Rike's reindeer in Lazarus (formerly Rike's) dining room in downtown Dayton, 1988 COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
Rike's reindeer in Lazarus (formerly Rike's) dining room in downtown Dayton, 1988 COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Credit: COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Credit: COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Her only desire was to have the winning bid for the Rike’s reindeer. “We waited through all the mannequins and miscellaneous items that sold, Borchers said. “Finally, the reindeer were put up for auction. There wasn’t that much bidding on them. I got them for about $800. I was absolutely thrilled and happy to have them. And I preserved Dayton history!”

Borchers’ daughter Christina, now a doctor in the Pharmacology & Toxicology Department at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, was born on Dec. 26, 1991, a week after the auction. The reindeer were supposed to be picked up around that time frame. “I got a call from the auctioneer a little annoyed that I neglected it. I explained to him that I got distracted and had a baby two weeks early. He thought that was a good excuse,” she said.

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Borchers’ home, Bough Bend, located in Oakwood’s Hatcher Hills neighborhood, was built in 1919 for Martin and Isabel Kuntz in the English Tudor Revival architectural style by Schenck and Williams, the same firm that designed Hawthorn Hill for the Wright family. Martin’s father, Peter Kuntz Sr. was the founder of the Peter Kuntz Company, a family lumber dynasty headquartered in Dayton during the 19th and 20th centuries. This home was given the name Bough Bend since the shape of the building resembles a bend in a branch.

Exterior of Bough Bend in Oakwood during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Exterior of Bough Bend in Oakwood during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

In 2019, not only did Bough Bend celebrate its 100th anniversary, it was also featured on the Oakwood Historical Society’s Second Annual Holiday Home tour on Dec. 7 of that year. The Rike’s reindeer were on display in the home’s library, a 1922 addition that has been called the “most beautiful room in Dayton.”

Bough Bend's library in Oakwood during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Bough Bend's library in Oakwood during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

The reindeer have changed only ever so slightly since their purchase in 1991. “The only difference is that I place a red felt ornament on the nose of one of them for a Rudolph effect,” said Borchers.

The Rike's reindeer on display inside Bough Bend's library in Oakwood. PHOTO COURTESY OF DR. SAMIA BORCHERS
The Rike's reindeer on display inside Bough Bend's library in Oakwood. PHOTO COURTESY OF DR. SAMIA BORCHERS

Aside from being on display in Bough Bend’s library, the Rike’s reindeer have made a couple appearances outside of the home since Borchers acquired them.

“My sister-in-law helped with a Dayton Ballet fundraiser called the Nutcracker Ball in 1995 held at the Dayton Arcade. That was when the reindeer were requested,” said Borchers. They were used as decor in the Arcade’s Rotunda Building during the ball. The last public event before the Arcade closed indefinitely was “Holly Days” in 1993. However, the facility was rented out occasionally for private events such as the Nutcracker Ball. The Arcade is currently under redevelopment and closing in on the completion of the project’s first phase of construction.

The Dayton Arcade's Rotunda Building decked out for the Dayton Ballet's annual Nutcracker Ball fundraiser in 1995. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DAYTON BALLET & CROSS STREET PARTNERS
The Dayton Arcade's Rotunda Building decked out for the Dayton Ballet's annual Nutcracker Ball fundraiser in 1995. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DAYTON BALLET & CROSS STREET PARTNERS

Borchers continued, “I also had them on display for a few Christmas seasons at my dermatology office bay window.”

This year, the Rike’s reindeer will be keeping a low profile for the holidays. “Last year, there were 550 people through our home in one day for the Oakwood Historical Society Holiday Home Tour. This year, there will be four! We plan to leave the reindeer up on the third floor, although they greeted us when we brought down our Christmas lights,” said Borchers.

The Rike's reindeer on display inside Bough Bend's library in Oakwood during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
The Rike's reindeer on display inside Bough Bend's library in Oakwood during the Oakwood Historical Society's Second Annual Holiday Home Tour on December 7, 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Could the future hold more public appearances for the Rike’s reindeer?

“We’ve thought about donating them someday to go along with the other Rike’s displays, but for now would consider loaning them to responsible parties,” she said.

“Christina was born on December 26th and grew up seeing the reindeer,” Borchers said. “She says I tell her the same story about getting them from Rike’s every year the same time as her. Future generations might ask, What is Rike’s?”

If anyone has historical photo(s) of the Rike’s reindeer featured in this story from the indoor window displays and are willing to share them, please contact contributing photographer and writer Tom Gilliam at tomgilliamphotography@gmail.com.

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