Ayres' original brown-brick building at Washington and Meridian
was first occupied in 1910, but doubled in size by 1924.
Ayres eventually expanded southward in 1929;
the five bay building was extended along Meridian Street
two bays to an existing building
at the corner of Maryland Street.
The eighth-floor Tea Room was especially noted for fine food, and
even after the store's demise, the room was re-created at the
Indiana State Museum and remains a popular attraction.
One West Washington Street
DOWNTOWN STORE DIRECTORY
DownstairsColonial Room Cafeteria • Ayres Budget Store
Fine Jewelry 144 • Time Center 142 • Better Jewelry 147 • Gold Jewelry 149 • Silver Jewelry 130 • Fashion Jewelry 141 • Handbags 170 • Small Leather Goods 171 • Gloves 260 • Scarves 240 • Knitwear 740 • Hosiery 250 • Slipper Bar • Fashion Accessories 391 • Accesories by Design 130 • Millinery 740 • Notions 100 • Cosmetics 121 • Personal Needs 125 • Sportswear Tops • Boulevard Blouses 391 • Boulevard Sweaters • Boulevard Sportswear 392 • Candy 210 • Stationery 200 • Business Machines 201 • Books 190 • Green Up • Luggage 560
Men's Store Men's Accessories 512 • Men's Furnishings 510 • Dress Shirts 511 • Neckwear 513 • Sport Shirts 520 • Men's Sportswear 505
Traditional Shoes 427 • Casual Shoes • Shoe Salon 430 • The Aigner Place 425
Men's Store Men's Clothing 500 • Men's Outerwear 500 • Men's Shoes 540 • Men's Hats 512 • Men's Better Sportswear 507 • Fitzwilliams 506 • Young Men's Shop 502 530 549 • Sporting Goods 570 • Minute Man Snack Bar
Misses' Sportswear 413 • Misses' Blouses 379 • Misses' Sweaters 389 • Active Sportswear 385 • Boulevard Dresses 355 • Town and Country Dresses 386 • Women's Collection 334 338 381 401 • Projections 360 • Social Dresses 354 • Trendsetters 300 • Collette Shop 355 • Mayfair Shop 377 • Meridian Shop 383 • Cosmopolitan Shop 364 • The Clubhouse 390 • Designer Coats 322 • Young Designer Sportswear 350 • St. Laurent/Rive Gauche 353 • The Crystal Room 352 • Fur Salon 400 • Bridal Salon 393 • Millinery Salon • Suits 300 • Boulevard Coats 328 329 • Mayfair Coats 321 • Meridian Coats 327 • All-Weather Coats 323
Junior World Junior Sportswear 375 376 • Junior Dresses 374 • Junior Coats 373 • Junior Shoes • Young Juniors 478
Intimate Apparel • Under Control • Robes and Loungewear • Sleepwear • Junior Lingerie • Children's Accessories • Children's Sleepwear • Children's Shoes • Infants' 460 • Toddlers' 461 • Infants' Furniture 463 • Boyswear 465 552• Girlswear 462 471 • Toys 660
Sheets and Bedding 70 • Blankets 80 • Pillows 85 • Towels 65 • Bath Shop 66 • Bedspreads 630 • Draperies 611 • Curtains 630 • Drapery Hardware • Fashion Fabrics • Art Needlework • Sewing Machines
Silver Gallery 163 • Fine Crystal 651 • Waterford • Fine China 650 • Glassware 652 • Gift Shop 280 • Collector 706 • Table Linens 60 • Caual Living 673 • Table Linens • Lamps 640 • Music Center 718 • Records 715 • Area Rugs • Floor Coverings • Sparkle Shop 203 • Trim-a-Tree 201 202
Upholstered Furniture • Occasional Furniture • Dining Room Furniture • Bedroom Furniture • Trend Shop 606 • Art Pavilion 600 • Fine Clocks 145 • Sleepers and Recliners • Mattresses • Casual Furniture
Housewares 671 • Small Apliances 672 • The Market 721 • Gourmet Food 721 • Appliances 685 • Plant Accessories 674 • Beauty Salon • The Tray Shoppe • Ayres Tea Room • Auditorium (Santa Land)
BRANCH STORES (1958-1979)
233,000 sq. ft.
Greenwood Park Mall (1965)
162,000 sq. ft.
Muncie Mall (1970)
South Bend (1971)
Lafayette Square (1974)
160,000 sq. ft.
Washington Square (1974)
156,000 sq. ft.
Southlake Mall (1978)
165,000 sq. ft;
University Park Mall (1979)
Ayres stores in Fort Wayne will be covered when a Wolf & Dessauer exhibit is added to The Department Store Museum. Ayres also took over Kaufman & Straus of Louisville. In the 1980s, Ayres assumed operation of Pogue's in Cincinnati.
Thank you for adding Ayres to the museum. I am writing a book about this fine store, which will be published in 2012 by the Indiana Historical Society. -- Ken TurchiReplyDelete
The store was magnificent to the very end. The beautiful main floor and display windows were preserved by the Parisian Dept. Store that took over the space when Ayres died. The whole store was part of the re-development project called "Circle Centre" which has been very successful for Indy. The other anchor is Nordstrom. Parisian became Carson, Pirie, Scott a couple of years ago.ReplyDelete
I will always remember the Tea Room where my mom and I would have lunch during our downtown excursions. There was always some kind of fashion show while we dined. I would get to pick out a gift from the "Treasure Chest" at the check out counter. Pink gift for girls, blue for boys! I have been told (I do not live in Indy anymore) that The Tea Room has been re-opened as a functioning restaurant in the Indiana State Museum, complete with original chairs, cutlery and china--with original menu items.
The Glendale store was huge and quite nice, also. It is now a very large Macy's.
Mr. Turchi: I will be looking for your book next year. Thanks for remembering this lovely regional store.
The Basement had more than the Colonial Room (which served the best bar-b-cue sandwiches I have ever eaten) and the Budget Store. There was also a full pharmacy, a florist, and, of all things, a coin and stamp shop!ReplyDelete
As a child, I would go to see Santa by boarding a large toy train set up in the auditorium that was decorated in cotton snow from floor to ceiling! Of course, this was after a visit to the lovely Tea Room for a tasty lunch. So elegant!
The store had the most delightful animated Christmas windows. And a bronze cherub would mysteriously appear on top of the old Ayers clock just before Thanksgiving to announce the beginning of the Holiday shopping season. What wonderful memories I have of that beautiful old store!
Thanks for this information - I will update the directory for this store in due course. My only information, at the moment, was from Christmas catalogues and information I wrote down in the 1970s from Indianapolis newspapers in the Campus Martius Library, where I used to spend my lunch hours while working downtown.ReplyDelete
I would love to have more information about Ayres because it was truly an instituion, and a beautiful and well-loved one at that. Unfortunately, I do not have access to any photos of thr branches as they existed when Ayres was at its peak. If the Indianapolis papers become available on line, that would solve the problem, because I could do research right from my home.
A few years ago, I delivered a lecture at a conference in Indianapolis, so I walked over to see the Ayres and Block's stores. By this time, Block's was gone and Ayres was occupied by a branch of Parisian. There was nothing special about it, except fot the fact that the beautiful balcony railings and columns hinted at the quality of the store when it was truly a home-grown phenomenon.
I wish there were pics of the Christmas displays in the downtown store. I remember fondly walking thru them as a child seeing the figures move and ending in a train ride. I also remember breakfast with Santa in the tea room. These are cherished beautiful memories. I wish today's children could see this display. There weren't video games, cell phones, tablets etc just a beautiful simpler time that should be remembered. If you have any of these pics making a video and putting it on YouTube would be awesome as we've lost that spirit. Mechelle VaughnDelete
I have a silver plated cream and sugar set thDelete
Marked "LS Ayers+co." I found it in my aunt's storage. Most of the stuff in the knocker was clear was somehow sentimental to Aunt Mini, and a fascinating look at her very long and interesting life, but alas we don't know why she stored any of it. I was searching for a home fire tnese. Any thoughts?
Bruce: Those balconies used to be open and busy with small stores. At Christmastime, carolers from various local schools and churches would take turns singing. It was so beautiful to go there at Christmas. Block's never had the personality or warmth that Ayers had. It was truly a special place.ReplyDelete
The Glendale store was their nicest branch store. Glendale Center started out as an outdoor shopping center. I remember it well because during the Holidays, all the trees were lined in those little white lights, which were pretty new for 1958! They would have live deer in the pens set up for Christmas. One evening, I will never forget: After shopping at Ayer's and heading over to Block's, we crossed the mall yard and it was snowing. The glistening white lights and the small deer in the snow is a vision I love to recall during the Holidays. Sadly, the mall got covered up in the 1970's and lost it's mid-century charm. Then, a couple of years ago, the whole mall was torn down, except for what is now Macy's. The center is now, once again, an outdoor center. I guess it goes to show that "what was old is new again!" As a former retailer, I really am getting a kick out of reading about these wonderful shipping palaces. Thank you so much for bringing back the warm memories.
I forgot to add that the Basement also had a branch of the United States Postal Service. This store had everything!!ReplyDelete
My mother and I bought my wedding dress at Ayres in 1969. I still have the "American Bride" booklet that L.S. Ayres gave to brides back then, containing such information as wedding etiquette, a glove chart, and correct usage of your new name. It provides very entertaining reading today! --P.Y.ReplyDelete
@PY, who published the "American Bride" book? Sounds like a fun read!Delete
My mother and I bought my wedding dress at Ayres in 1969. I still have the "American Bride" booklet that L.S. Ayres gave to brides back then, containing such information as wedding etiquette, a glove chart, and correct usage of your new name. It provides very entertaining reading today! --P.Y.ReplyDelete
Alas . . .ReplyDelete
My grandmother, who is still living in Indianapolis, IN. Worked on the 10th floor for the likes of Lyman S. Ayers. She also did secretarial work for two other V.P's. My whole childhood was spent running around this department stores. I lunched in the Tea Room and rode the elevators to every department. I remember sitting on the floor of the smoke filled art department watching the ad people literally sketch up the ad's for Sundays paper. The Buyers were my favorite people to visit. The ladies were lovely and traveled all over the world. I got to give my opinion on items being purchased for the Juniors department. It was an amazing childhood. My grandmother worked there for 25 years. When she retired she was gifted an 18 karat gold replica of the Cherub that sat on the clock at Christmas time. Not many of the molds for that piece of history remain! What a fun site you have. If the gentleman writing the book would like access to any of our photos and other items. Perhaps an interview with Grandma Dot; please post below and I will see what I can do. I know that the remaining group of VP's and staff still get together once a year.ReplyDelete
i found a picture scetch) at a second hand store of a child. its stamped wheelan studios and has a sticker saying l.s.ayres@co. indianapolis, ind. trying to find some info on it. any suggestions?ReplyDelete
I was a window dresser for L.S. Ayers in the early 1990's. My office/workshop was on floor 9 1/2, which I always found amuzing. It really was a glorious building, and it makes me sad that they are not utilizing the entire place. I am glad to hear that they re-opened the Tea Room, though.ReplyDelete
My father, Budd Gore, was VP Advertising, Customer Relations director in the early 60's. His office was on the 9 1/2 floor! He's the advertising director that had a dozen baby ducks dyed pastel colors. And decorated one of the windows with these adorable creatures. The Humane society came out quickly and odered he take them out of the hot window. Much to my delight as a 12 year old they came home with him and we raised them and let them go in the White River.Delete
Thanks for the fun memory. Ann
I had the opportunity to go back to Indianapolis last week for a visit, and I went to the beautiful new Indiana State Museum and had lunch at the Ayres Tea Room.ReplyDelete
The place is much, much, smaller in size than the sprawling original, but that is to be expected. It still had the original tables and chairs and the old green grand piano sits in the entrance. And, of course, the treasure chest with the toys is still there, but the gifts are displayed under a locked acrylic cover on the original chest. I was told that greedy adults were looting the chest, so the staff now hands out the toys to children only! I am happy to report that the "Chicken Velvet" soup and the pecan balls are as tasty as they used to be! And our waitress, who used to work in the old tearoom at Ayres was delightful. ---A very nice, nostalgic afternoon. Yes, sometimes, you really can go home again.
I commented that Pogue's became LS Ayres yesterday and today I see nothing on the site referring to Pogue's? Removing Pogue's is a dreadful mistake. It was the Sak's Fifth Avenue at the time in Cincinnati. She was a noble, grand Department Store that still to this day is missed by a large population in Cincinnati. Women in their 60's and 70's still say, "Shopping just isn't the same since Pogue's left" They had items exclusive to their store from the fashion capitol's abroad. The TV commercials used to say. "Of course, it is only available at Pogue's" and you would see a luxurious woman in a mink coat, looking at you. Pogue's can't be forgotten.ReplyDelete
I hesitated to publish the above comment - it was probably written without looking around the site, to see that there is indeed a page dedicated to Pogue's. When I have better access to Cincinnati newspapers, I can expand the coverage, but at the moment any more information is still pending.ReplyDelete
I have made a great deal of effort to make this site lucid and well - organized. Visiting the Welcome Page gives an overview of all department stores included in my research; the exhibits are easily accessible from there via links.
Also, I cover L.S. Ayres and Pogue's separately, since they were, during their hey-day, independent retailers. Their combination and the loss of Pogue's as a result is not, in my opinion, something I wish to celebrate.
I was an employee this wonderful store. It truly had everything.I was a senior at Arsenal Tech and my first job was working in the custom drapery installation department.This department was responsible for making draperies,installing canopies, hanging the drapes to residential,commercial,and business properties.This department was located on the 2nd. floor.I was seventeen an responsible for making sure that the installers had their custom ordered parts to do their job.I enjoyed the big responsibility that I had that made the whole department run smoothly.The way this department was that it was on the 2 and half floor.As, an African-American male youth, L.S.Ayers gave me my first introduction to the work environment with White America.I was an inter-city kid that had a job when I was twelve, working the penny candy box(cigar) at Doctor Crosby's on 25th and Hillside, here on the east side of Indy.I loved to go to school and earn money collecting pop bottles or carrying the Indpls Star newspaper to busing tables at the Huddle restaurant on 56th and Illinois street.This really brought back memories that were pleasant. THANK YOUReplyDelete
I worked at L.S. Ayres when I was a senior at Arsenal Tech High School in 1968.I was responsible for filling orders for the installers of custom made drapes and canopies to hand.We were located on the 2nd and a half floor of the store.The main section of our department consisted of about forty or more seamstresses at their sewing machines.The office was in that area,but,my area was next to it separated by the freight elevator.I had a full supplied parts work shop.I filled the orders for the installers to work in residential and commercial properties,installing specially-ordered canopies and drapes.I was working on my first real job at seventeen.This was my first time working with White people,as an African-American youth.That job taught me how to be responsible,considerate of others fillings,team work,problem-solving,and being a good employee.THANK YOUReplyDelete
When I was growing up in the 1950s, the mezzanine (balcony) area in the downtown store had a music department and sold sheet music and, I believe, records. I also remember eating occasionally at little tables along the balcony railing. There was a book and map department but I don't remember on which floor.The store windows at Christmas had marvelous, animated decorations that usually told a story or illustrated a Christmas carol. Our entire family made a special trip downtown just to see the windows, then have hot chocolate in the store. Modern day window displays can't compare. Ayres represented the finest of the finest things, and the service provided by the staff was wonderful. Even the smallest purchase, such as a handkerchief, was graciously and respectfully handled. I will never eat a better pimento cheese sandwich or baked cup custard (my childhood favorites)as those from the Tray Shoppe.ReplyDelete
During the late 1970's to 1990's the mezzanine balcony was a restaurant called "Top of the Stairs". Does anyone else remember?Delete
I always loved the open-faced turkey sandwich on pumpernickel covered with yummy 1,000 island dressing from the Tea Room. ...And, of course, the pecan ball smothered in butterscotch!! Oh, what lovely Christmas memories.ReplyDelete
I, too, loved LS Ayres downtown. The elevators near the jewelry counters were glass-faced. The basement restroom still had "pay toilets." Whenever I see the almost-Tiffany blue hatboxes or garment bags, I think of the beautiful winter-white suit my twin sister had purchased for her by her boyfriend. I was too jealous. I support the downtown; however, as I walk through Macy's in Ayres' original spot, it feels more cluttered than the lobby of a Cracker Barrel.ReplyDelete
Having grown up in Indianapolis and gone to school in Muncie I'm not sure your timeline is quite right. When I moved to Muncie in 1970, there was no Ayres store at Muncie Mall. It was Britt's, the department store division of J.J. Newberry. I am not sure Ayres came until after I had moved away in 1975. If not, it was only slightly before. And I thought Market Square in Lafayette came before Glendale, but I could be wrong. Ayres was a latecomer to Lafayette Square, which was originally Block's and Lazarus along with Sears. Memory would tease me that Ayres went into Washington Square when it opened in 1970, but I might be wrong. But so maybe it is just that Washington Square is 1970 and Muncie Mall is 1974.ReplyDelete
Some info on Wash. Square - I was told that they had the very first Limited Store in Indianapolis. Right through the early 1990's the Limited store there kept its original storefront facade.Delete
Would love to see a post on the Wm H. Block store at Southern Plaza in Indianapolis; many many memories for lots of us who were raised on the south side.ReplyDelete
They had a small store (no home furnishings) in Bloomington at College Mall. It was part of an expansion that included a JC Penney and was probably built in the early 80s. The store did poor business and was closed some time after May assumed ownership of Ayres.ReplyDelete
Permission to use:ReplyDelete
Hello, I have posted two of these L.S. Ayres pictures on my blog and would just like to make sure it's all right to use them. I have linked back to this page. I also grew up in Indianapolis and remember many trips to Ayres and lunches in the tea room. Thanks.
Wish someone would come up with some pictures of the Glendale store as it looked in the 1960's! It was a mid-century stunner--inside and out! Way cooler than its present-day incarnation as a Macy's. That store was, by far, Ayres' largest and most beautiful branch store.ReplyDelete
A book about Ayres is nearing publication, authored by historian Ken Turchi. One hopes that the photos we'd all like to see will be in it.ReplyDelete
My father, Robert Friedman was president of L.S. Ayres beginning in January 1987 as part of the May Company days, he was only there a few years before becoming president of Famous Barr in St. Louis. My parents loved Indianapolis. When the downtown store closed in January, 1992, my Dad purchased one of the large chandeliers that was in the store. It is now in the entry way of my home. I have looked at both the Indy Star and the Indiana Historical Society of photos of the interior but can't see anything like it. It was a large store and my Dad can't remember what floor it came from. The lady that got it for him has passed away. I would be happy to post a photo of it. I would appreciate any help in finding where it was in the store.ReplyDelete
I love this blog. My Dad worked at so many of these old stores. We had to move a lot which was not fun, but seeing this blog is very nostalgic. He worked at Boston Store, Davidson, Lit Brothers, Pomeroys, Hecht Company, May Company, Cleveland, Woodward and Lothrop, L.S. Ayres and Famous Barr and two others which I can't remember their name. Thanks for posting all this great information.
I worked at Ayres during the closing in early 1992 for the VP of Consruction & Planning, Ken King. I believe he worked there for over 20 yrs. I saw a chandelier up on one of the upper floors that was taken down, it was Baccarat crystal. I think we were on the 10 or 11th floor. Most of the floors were already empty...Delete
I have the privelage of owning a hand bag design in italy for l.s ayres which is uniqueReplyDelete
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L.S. Ayres also built a store in College Mall in Bloomington that opened in August of 1982. I oversaw the construction of that store beginning in January of 1982.ReplyDelete
Used to go with my Granmonther. I would always order the henny Penny...I would love to finid one of those little chicken covered casserole dishes...Any ideas where to findAyers dishes?ReplyDelete
I was employed at L.S Ayres and helped open the Munice store. I moved from Richmond to be the department manager of Juniors. I opened that store in the spring of 1977. I later became a buyer and divisional. Leaving the store under President Metter when it became May Company.ReplyDelete
As a former Ayres associate in the facilities department I would like to share some interesting items regarding the downtown store.ReplyDelete
The lower level of the north building was one of the first retail locations to have air conditioning. The Carrier (air conditioning co.) blueprints for the central chiller were dated 1924. This unit was operated until 1988.
The escalators from the 1st floor to the balcony in the north building originally had wood step treads.
When the south building was constructed the street that separated the north and south buildings became part of the receiving area. There was a small bronze plaque attached to an exterior wall at this location that denoted it as the original location of Ely Lilly. The plaque disappeared when the building was closed.
The buildings clock system was one of, if not the first syncronized clock systems manufactured and installed by International Business Machines (IBM) around 1938. The "master" clock mechanism was about 3' tall and enclosed with glass. Several of the floor clocks (brass plated copper) were reconditioned and given as retirement gifts.
The north building had a brass "vacuum tube" system that was used until it was damaged by an earthquake in the late 60's or early 70's. During later renovation work in the basement, sections of tubing were found that had canisters containing jewelry that had been "enroute" from the 1st floor to the basement jewelry repair shop.
Maintenance associates handled the "cherub" installation on Thanksgiving eve and removal after Christmas. After the building was closed and the 1st holiday season approached there was public concern whether or not this tradition would continue. The cherub was subsequently located in St. Louis and air freighted to Indianapolis on Thanksgiving eve and installed that evening.
The Tea Room was closed several years before the building was closed. A drywall partition constructed "overnight" separated the Tea Room from the elevator landing. When the building was closed this area was re-opened to prevent freeze damage. Behind the wall workers "discovered" the grand piano used to entertain guests. Also, when the Tea Room radiator covers were removed multiple pieces of silver plated utensils with the Ayres "A" insignia were found, presumably placed there by generations children.
Another note worthy "find" was an intact brass and oak elevator whose floor openings had been drywalled closed at some point before the remaining elevators were updated to "automatic". This would have been circa 1940's.
Other historical items such as the "Ayr-o-gram" news booklets, leather bound accounting books, etc. were discovered during the closing process. On a final note, the chandelier mentioned by another contributer, was stored in a maintenance area for an unknown period. It was circular "waterfall" design with hundreds of pieces of crystal. It was approximately 5' tall with the circumference of each band of crystals reducing from the top to the bottom. I am not aware of its original location but would presume the 1st floor of the north building.
The downtown L.S. Ayres store was truly a "gem" in its era!
Thanks for the info about my chandelier. You describe it perfectly, it is not not quite as tall as you remember, only about 3 feet tall. One of the interior designers for L.S. Ayres, found it for my Mother when they were closing the store. I wish I could upload a photo of it. If anyone knows where this chandelier was in the North building I would love to know.ReplyDelete
Wow! I just love re-visiting this site to find out more details of "my" store. It is so heartwarming to find that this great retail palace was a cherished part of other people's lives.ReplyDelete
Recently, I revisisted Indy and had lunch at the lovely Ayres Tea Room in the Indiana State Museum. The Chicken Velvet soup is still incredible! At the museum gift shop, I purchased a Christmas tree ornament that is a replica of the bronze cherub that used to sit on the clock during the Holiday season. You can bet that this ornament will sit at the very front of my tree this year. Thanks, everyone, for all the wonderful memories!!
I loved this trip down memory lane!ReplyDelete
My great uncle, Richard Smitheram was married to Katherine Ayres, one of the family heiresses. Uncle Dick was born in California, but spent much of his young life in England, where he had a store. He returned to the US in about 1919, and immediately married into the family. From what I can deduce, he rarely worked afterwards. I think I remember that the company was run by David Williams, a son of Katherine from her first marriage. The company was sold when David died in 1972.
I worked at the Bloomington Ayres for almost ten years, in the late 80s/90s and contrary to what another commenter said here, it did terrific business. It was really the only department store in Bloomington worth shopping and our business reflected that. It merged with Missouri's Famous-Barr and is now Macy's. Never at any time since the store opened in the early 80s has it closed due to poor business, or otherwise.ReplyDelete
It brings all the memory back to everyone of us. A place that has full of memories from us and many of our closest family and relatives. My father had worked there from 1919 - 1927 before he died. Miss him a lot.ReplyDelete
Heating and Air Conditioning Indianapolis
I worked at the downtown store (store 01) in the 1980s into the 1990s. It truly was one of the more enjoyable working experiences I've had. A great deal of the fun came from fellow employees, some of whom had been working there since the 1940s. They could tell quite a few stories about the good old days, with Mr. Ayres inspecting stores with white gloves, looking for dusty shelves. One item not mentioned here was the employee cafeteria, located right underneath the Tea Room. If I remember correctly it was furnished with solid aluminum chairs in art moderne style, and the food was a lot cheaper than upstairs. The cashier was known as the "Big Blonde" and no one dared cross her.ReplyDelete
When Pogues was reorganized under the Ayres name the people in Cincinnati were downright hostile to us, probably like some in Indy were when Ayres was merged into Macys.
My mother worked at Stationer's at 38 N. Penn, and I think she could have found her way to Ayres blindfolded. We would go out the back door into the alley, make one turn and come out on Meridian just south of the Circle. Then quick as a bunny we would whisk over to Ayres and have lunch in the cafeteria. She had her favorite salesladies in several departments, and they would let her know when a desired item would go on sale, and- Voila! - she had a bargain. It was a tradition to meet "under the clock at Ayres" with most Indy ladies. And you could leave a message in the guest book inside the front doors if you missed the person you were meeting. Usually it was something like "I'm on the balcony" or "I'm in the glove department." My wedding dress and bridesmaids' dresses came from Ayres in 1955. The staff made you feel like a princess. I never knew any Indy female who didn't love Ayres.ReplyDelete
I periodically check this site for new postings regarding L.S. Ayres and always find it enjoyable.ReplyDelete
I began my career with Ayres shortly after ADG merged Poques and Stewarts management into Ayres. I was in the Facilities Department and one of my first assignments was to travel to Cincinnati and meet with the Poques maintenance associates, who, with good cause, were dishoveled. My family was originally from Kentucky and I had several aunts and uncles that lived in Cincinnati which helped to "break the ice" and begin a great and long lasting relationship with my co-workers at Poques and Stewarts.
As with other great urban department stores, ADG decided to scale down and eventually close the downtown Cincinnati store. It was during this process that I was able see what an eloquent history this building had enjoyed.
One of our tasks was to reduce energy usage by closing off unused areas. This led to "discovering" a variety of "interesting finds" of which I would like to share a few;
The most memorable for us was finding a pad locked door on one of the upper floors which turned out to be an electricians work shop that had not been used since the 1950's. There were storage shelves with wooden "dovetailed" cheese boxes containing old brass lamp parts (the stairwells were still illumiated with DC lamps). We also found "new in the box" candlestick telephone bases and ear pieces along with a "brandnew" 1930's parts catalog. We used the catalog to help identify test meters that had been left on a work bench. The electricians had also wired up an oak hand cranked telephone to test fuses.
The "best" find came months later when concrete equipment bases were being removed for utility work in the lower level mechanical areas. A small glass flask shaped bottle was found within one of the bases with a sheet of paper that had been signed by the installing workers and left as a "time capsule" sometime in the early 1900's. The Poques Maintenance Supervisor took it upon himself to try to locate any of the workers (about 15 had signed). He finally found one remaining worker, who was in his late 80's, who had signed the paper. The Poques Maintenance Associates had the bottle and signature sheet framed in glass and presented it to this individual. This attests to the character shared by so many of the Poques Associated.
One last item; at one time Poques (and/or the City) generated steam, in part for steam turbines which generated electricity. The boilers utilized coal which was stored in pits which were several stories deep. Interestingly, the gasoline 4 cylinder engines used to run the coal conveyor to supply the boilers were manufactured by a well known name, "Willys".
Thank you for enriching this site's offerings with your fascinating memories of both these great stores.ReplyDelete
My "pipes" (mechanical engineering) professor at University related a neat tale about the Pogue's store in Cincinnati. He was involved in replacing the HVAC system at one point, and the new cooling towers on the roof could be seen from far, emitting steam. The engineers joked with the company that it should be renamed from "The H. & S. Pogue Company" to "H.M.S. Pogue!"
Ayres truly did have "everything." I worked there as a teen in my first employment after finishing high school. My broher worked there, as well. Ayres had a wonderful employees cafeteria on the floor with carpets. Just outside that cafeteria was a room filled with recliners and an attendant at a desk. There were reading lamps by each. You could sign in and ask the attendant to wake you if you wanted to take a nap during your break. These were benefits that I truly appreciated.ReplyDelete
In your book you must mention the cherub that sat atop the clock on corner near the Washington St. entrance. Ayres also provided beautiful animated figurine displays at Christmas time and everyone waited for the windows to be decorated for Christmas.
As a shopper, my favorite locations were the Designer Lane on the 3rd floor downtown and the Crystal Room at Glendale. When they had a "sale," it was truly a "sale." Even a lowly person such as myself could find a bargain I could afford now and then.
Ayres prided itself on being a "service store." Employees went through several days of customer service training.
I truly miss L. S. Ayres & Co.
L. S. Ayres building being built in 1905 http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10151164204938870&set=o.125814777434955&type=1&theaterReplyDelete
The L.S. Ayres Tea Room at the Indiana State Museum http://stephcupoftea.blogspot.com/2008/08/ls-ayres-tea-room.htmlReplyDelete
Remembered going to the LS Ayres in downtown FtWayne, IN when I worked at Indiana Bank in 1979. It shortly closed.ReplyDelete
I have only fond memories of riding the city bus downtown and getting off near Ayres. As a kid, I was overwhelmed with all of the floors! I was always amused by the elevator operator perched on his stool who politely asked, "Which floor please?" We would get dressed up to go out shopping back then. we'd spend hours going through the floors browsing. I can remember Mom getting me some Buster Brown shoes and a red pea coat there when I was young.ReplyDelete
The day would end with a meal in the tea room. I can still remember the ice cream clowns they served kids for dessert! I can't forget the thrill of the unknown as I selected my prize from the treasure chest!
It is truly sad that department stores aren't like this anymore.They were a testament to true customer service. Shopping was a real experience, not just a task or something to do.
I'M LOOKING FOR ANY INFORMATION ON A "LEHMAN(N)" DEPARTMENT STORE THAT PROBABLY OPERATED IN THE 1920'S AND 1930, IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO IL.ReplyDelete
LEHMAN CAN ALSO BE SPELLED LEHMANN..
I'm looking for a picture online of the red Ayres Christmas boxes. They are such a fond memory of Christmases-past. I have kept two of them, and they are a special treasure to use for a very special gift to one of my family! Does anyone have a picture of them that I could download? It's good that the clock is still at that corner location, and the balcony is there, but not much else "looks like" Ayres anymore!ReplyDelete
My favorite Ayres memories are 1) signing the book just inside the door, arranging to meet someone; 2) the balcony, especially resting and watching shoppers -- and buying sheet music for my voice lessons; 3) the Cafeteria and "Health Salad Sandwiches"; 4) shopping in the basement store for good bargains; 5) buying dresses upstairs as a teen; and 6) buying my Easter wedding dress and veil there in January 1955, along with ordering the bridesmaids' dresses.
We rode the street car and then the bus down College Avenue to Washington and (I think) Pennsylvania, walking to Ayres. I could find everything in that store! Many years later, I found quality Christmas belts on the 1st floor for my son and husband when I'd flown from NJ to IN, and taken the Airport bus downtown. I boarded a bus across Meridian St. from Ayres to Mother's Dickson Rd. apt., and drove her back to NJ. There's never been a department store such as Ayres! It was an experience to go there that I'll never forget. We also enjoyed the Glendale store on visits from NJ; my daughters would say "Don't let Mother go near Ayres ..." :)
I am sure you would enjoy reading the book at the top of this page . . . it really evokes a lot what Ayres was to Indianapolis and its citizens, as your memories indicate.ReplyDelete
I finally took my own photo of one of my Ayres red Christmas boxes. I've kept a file of family Christmas letters over the years, and I wrote a piece to add about the Ayres Red Christmas Boxes. So now I have my own photo to add to that page. :) Yes, one day, I'd like to read the book mentioned ...ReplyDelete
My Dad worked for Indianapolis Power and Light on the Circle in downtown Indy. Whenever Mom and my sisters and I came to visit Dad - - 9 times out of 10 we ate at the Tea Room at L. S. Ayres. We also went and rode the Santa Land Express every Christmas and frequently had "Breakfast with Santa Claus."ReplyDelete
My senior year my Mom and I had looked forever to find me a prom dress (1985). Just prior to prom, my Senior English class went to see a play at IRT. Our teacher allowed us to break up into small groups and go anywhere we wanted to go downtown. My friends and I ended up at Ayres - - and there I saw my prom dress. It was red taffeta with crinkle curls all around a hoop skirt and up across the bodice and on one shoulder. I was in love with it!! I told my Mom when I got home, and she drove downtown to look at it. It was the last one that they had - on the mannequin. She had them take it off the mannequin and bought it on the spot. Even though it was a size 12 and I was wearing a size 4 at the time - - she altered it so I could wear it. I was also very short, and had to wear two crinolines on top of the hoop skirt as well as really high heels so the dress wouldn't drag. I loved that dress and wore it for several other senior functions. I even became the Hancock County 4-H princess in that dress!
I was very sad when the Ayres store close in the early 90's. I was hoping they would hold out for Circle Center mall - - but oh well.
In 1997, I started working for the Indiana State Museum. So I was very much involved with the Toy Soldiers Playground (which included the Santa Land Express from Ayres). That was the first year that the museum hosted Tea Room Luncheons in the Museum's auditorium. It had a set menu with two entree choices, a soup and dessert. We also were able to get the May Company to send us models who would show some of the clothes from the current stores. We were also able to invite some of the old Ayres models to model clothes as well as new models. That was so fun!! When we opened our phone lines to take reservations for the Tea Room luncheons in 1997 - - we had 3 sessions a day and maybe 3 or 4 dates. We sold out in the matter of a couple of hours!
The museum also resurrected another Ayres tradition and that was the Santa phone. One night, a bunch of our male employees, husbands, and fathers (my Dad too!) - went to a business and set in cubicles. The Santa phone number was publicized for that night only - - and the phones started ringing. Each man answered the phone as Santa and talked with the child to find out what they wanted for Christmas. Sometimes the kids would ask to speak to Mrs. Claus - - and I got to play her - - once or twice. The phones were literally ringing off of the hook!!!
Now I never experienced the Santa Phone - - but I was told that at Christmas time - - Ayres would have their male executives, sales people, and spouses to do the same thing - - one evening at Christmas time. I guess some little children got to actually talk to one of the Ayres family members - - because they were always involved. How cool is that?! You don't see many executives today -- doing this sort of thing - Do you?
I am currently reading Mr. Turchi's book - - and very much enjoy it!!
My sister and I use to work At L.S.Ayres for many years. Glendale first and then downtown Indianapolis as buyers. My sister moved up stairs and helped develope new computer systems for the upper management teams. What a great place to work! I did spend a great summer working there with the younger David Williams IV, man did we have fun.ReplyDelete
I'm searching for the source of your photo of the L.S. Ayres' Tea Room with the medallion carpet. I'd like to use it in the current refurbishment of the Tea Room at the Indiana State Museum. Please let me know who to contact to get a high-resolution scan of that image. Thank you! MJTEichackerReplyDelete
I worked for Ayres in the visual display area. I was based in the warehouse on 23rd Street from April 1987 to the closing in January 1992. I would love to set up the Chrismas displays in the downtown store on a Sunday in October. Hanging garland and setting up trees on the 1st floor. Ayres had great people to work with. Even the branch stores throughout the state.ReplyDelete
Did you work with a gal named Debbie, who I believe was head of visuals downtown? I can't remember her name. Thanks!Delete
I worked for Ayres in the cosmetic dept from 1973 - 1976. I got in just prior to the remodeling of the first floor. I have to admit, I preferred the style and grandeur of the older look, which to me was more elegant. Some of my fondest memories as a youngster, was taking the bus downtown with my mom at Christmas. Ayres had by far, the best animated window displays and in-store decorations. I was so mesmerized by the sights and sounds of busy shoppers mixed in with the wonderful Christmas music from carolers on the mezzanine! What a wonderful "blast from the past", Thanks to all who have shared their memories!ReplyDelete
my grandmother worked at LS Ayers for about 30 years during the 1940's until 1969.. she worked in the china department and bought my sisters a piece of china with every paycheck she received. we still have the china today..just wondering if anyone is still around that may have worked with herReplyDelete
My mother and I, as well as my wedding guests (1955) likely purchased Flintridge Glenrose China from your grandmother in the China Department of Ayres. :) I still love my pattern and wish I could afford more pieces. I have 7 place settings, except one cup was broken by an adult daughter putting it into the Microwave about 1990, and shattering it. ;) :(ReplyDelete
Remember the elevator operators?ReplyDelete
My mother was an elevator operator during WWII. I'm told she wasn't very good at her job and didn't last long.ReplyDelete
wish by some remote way-as far fetched as it sounds-L s Ayres could be recreated again! nothing comes close in todays market-all the stores here-are nice and have lots of merchandise ,but og--Ayres was the grandest place----If anyone has been to the Grand hotel at mackinac Island -it has kept its grandeur all these years -ao beautiful-too bad this cant happen here with the old Ayres location-ReplyDelete
My father, William Perry Arnold, was exec VP of Ayres and President of their John Bressemer division in Springfield IL from 1958 to 1964. In 1968 he moved to J W Robinson's in Los Angeles and then later to Assoc.Dry Goods corporate offices in NYC and arranged for the buyout of Ayres by ADG. He became Chairman and CEO of ADG until his death in 1984. We loved Indianapolis and I remember Bill Blass and other designers coming to our home for private dinners.ReplyDelete
I started working at LS Ayres as a teenager. My job was to change light bulbs, working for the electrical department. On my first day there, I was called by HR to help out on the 8th floor. They were having an Easter event and needed someone to wear the bunny costume to greet children and pass out candy. I was very bashful and didn't want to do it, but the nice ladies talked me into it. It turned out to be fun but he costume was HOT! The gig lasted about a week and then I was sent back to start my job as "light bulb boy."ReplyDelete
I can't remember my supervisors' names, but I will never forget how they treated me with kindness and respect. Even though I was just a kid, they allowed me to work alongside experienced electricians and I was soon taking on bigger responsibilities. One day, while working on an electrical problem, I knocked out the power on the entire first floor! Before I got busted back to bunny duty, I got hired at the Indianapolis Star and News, where I worked for 39 years.
So many great memories of LS Ayres!
Hi. I am so glad you have this blog. It is a place with fond memories, with mom and sis.ReplyDelete
Remembering the lunches and little gifts wrapped in paper with ribbon too !
I live in NYC so any Indiana sentiment and childhood stuff touches way back when....
My mother worked at the downtown Ayres store during the 60's. My brother and I would get on the city bus after school and ride downtown to meet her for dinner. My, what a different age we live in today! She was a buyer in blouses, I believe, and after that, she worked in the custom drapery workroom. I remember going to ride the train at Christmas and sitting on Santa's lap. The Tea Room was a special treat, even after growing up a bit. I think my mom was very proud to tell people that she worked at L. S. Ayres.ReplyDelete
I've been searching for the L.S. Ayres clock/cherub pendant. Does anyone know where I can find/purchase one. If so, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.ReplyDelete
I worked for Ayres from 1985 - 1995 and transitioned through the different acquisitions. I moved to St. Louis with May Dept Stores when they closed down the L.S. Ayres distribution center in Indianapolis.
BTW, I did not read all the posts (yet) but thoroughly enjoyed them. Did anyone mention Hoosier Bargain Days and what a fun, mass hectic sale that was!!!!
I don't know about a clock pendant, but I was wondering if anyone else still has their Christmas tree pin from the 60's. I still have my mother's and wear it every year. It resembles the tree on the red Christmas boxes.ReplyDelete
MY Mother Rosamond Bender had worked as Seamtest back when she was 18yrs old or 20yrs old, 1947.ReplyDelete
I worked at Ayres during my Jr. and Sr. years at Arsenal Technical HighSchool at Christmas and during the summer. My first job was in 'smallwares' in the lower level, then I moved up to the payroll department where I counted out money for employee's pay envelopes. Most of us had spent the cash before we left the store because we were given a generous discount. The last job was in the basement again dispatching in the tube center, the place where the contents of small felt bumpered brass canisters were recorded and sent back to the various departments through pneumatic tubes. On less busy days, I usually had a book in my lap and remember reading "Gone With the Wind" while on duty.ReplyDelete
I have a Freach lace table linen that was bought in the 1940's with the tags, we are looking to sell it if anyone would know someone, please let me know. Thank you email@example.comReplyDelete
I have warm memories of LS Ayres. As a child and teenager my mother and sisters would spend a day downtown shopping for school clothes before school started in the fall. Our schedule for the day always followed the same order. We parked the car and entered LS Ayres via the basement. The first stop was always the Colonial Room for a snack. I fondly remember their pea sandwiches and thought they were the best sandwich ever! If anyone remembers these sandwiches I would love to hear. I have tried to replicate but not sure what the dressing was. We would then start shopping in the basement and work our way to the Tea Room for a late lunch. Before going home we had a hot fudge Sunday at the James Whitcomb Riley restaurant at Blocks. Makes me happy just to think of all these memories!!ReplyDelete
I am so disappointed the store is closed. I live in Ohio. I did not know the store was closed. I fond memories about the store. I have two blouses that I purchased just before they closed in Cincinnati. They look very good today. I will wear them on my vacation next month,ReplyDelete
What a classic icon of a bygone era. Does anybody know if they ever sold horse tack? I have a saddle that I believe came from LS Ayres-- it was my father's childhood saddle. I would love to know more of its history.ReplyDelete
My mother and father met while working at L S Ayres. She was around 19 and he was 24. They dated for 2 years and married in 1948. He was a buyer than a carpet salesman. He worked in the Carpet Department on the 7th floor right up until he retired in 1986. So much of my childhood was spent downtown shopping and eating at Ayres. And mom would always say "we are going down to see your daddy". My sister and I looked forward to our trips downtown. Visits with Santa on the 8th floor and the wonderful toy store in the basement was very exciting to say the least. The store was full of glamour and fun all at the same time. A magical place for two little girls and their mom. I still miss the downtown store.ReplyDelete
My dad Russell Desch was a carpet salesman on the 7th floor for 46 years. It was a big deal for my mom Zelma and my sister and I to go downtown shop, have lunch and go see daddy. Those were the days in the 1950's and 1960's. Very glamorous and very very fun. There was so much merchandise that you never left the store without finding exactly what you came for and more. Both Mom and Daddy are dead now and so is L S Ayres. I miss going downtown so much. The store meant so much to all of us.ReplyDelete
Mind this coming from the memories of a boomchild from visits to the downtown location in the early 1960s so please see any bias as affection-driven.ReplyDelete
The candy-counter on the main floor was simply wonderful, only rivaled by that of the W.H.Block's store on North Illinois street. The toy department was another incredible place to visit, even during it's 'regular' layout outside of the annual Christmas expansion, simply a true adventure all the same.
Later as a teenager, I happened to become employed by L.S. Ayres in the stock-receiving section, and discovered the true size of the store to include the many places the general public did not see. The sub-basements were huge bordering on being gothic cathedrals in side and atmosphere, during the hottest days of summer working in those areas was most sought after.
I am in hopes of seeing images of the L.S. Ayres original Tea Room. Like another poster, I recall the original room being large, glamorous and white tablecloth while we dined with our mother as the fashion models walked by. I was just 5-6 (in the very early 60's), but something wonderful and life changing happened to me in that room, and I would love to have images of the old original Tea Room, as the re-created one seems to be rather lacking in the interior design/architectural design of the original room. I knew that I was going to be a designer that day at 6 years old, and my memory feels like a photograph. Would like to know how much time has let me exaggerate, albeit fondly, the wonderful space that set me on a path for the best things in life. The store felt like home, and we children were treated so well, with respect. I recall we behaved rather well then too ( I hope!) I would love to know about the carpet medallions, the columns (smooth or fluted? I recall fluted), chandeliers, window treatments, etc. Please send me any images you might have of the space, large or small I would very much appreciate your help. firstname.lastname@example.org thanks!ReplyDelete
I have what looks like a mink Stowe with the the lable of L S Agree & Co. Indanapolas stitched inside! I need to know what I can do with it?ReplyDelete
I recall Ayres from my early childhood in the 1960s until it merged with May Co. and was renamed Famous-Barr in the mid-1990s. My mother was a regular shopper at Ayres her entire life, including attending the opening of their first Lafayette location at Market Square Mall (where Guy Lombardo's orchestra played.) Decades later in the 1980s, when I was a student at Wabash College, I'd often go to Indianapolis to do research at the State Law Library. The usual pattern was for my parents to come to Indy where my dad would visit with his friends at the Scottish Rite Cathedral while my mom shopped at the Downtown Ayres. We'd then all meet for a late afternoon lunch at the Tea Room before heading back home. At the time, it seemed perfectly normal and not extravagant, but now I realize what a rarified experience it was and how it represented the fading end of an entire way of life.ReplyDelete
Two bits of trivia to add: The Downtown Ayres store was designed by the Vonnegut architecture firm of Indianapolis--the principal architect was the father of the famous writer Kurt Vonnegut.
Also, in the late 1960s, Ayres started a separate division of free-standing budget department stores called Ayr-way. Ayres was such a high-end prestige store they didn't quite know how to manage this discount operation and they eventually sold it to Dayton-Hudson and it was renamed Target.
There was nowhere in the world, before or since, that smelled as good as L.S. Ayres smelled. It smelled rich, it smelled luxe, it smelled inviting, it smelled welcoming. The store invited you into another world that was removed from an Indiana Everyday existence.ReplyDelete
Being from Lafayette, our family (when we could afford it) shopped at the Market Square store. The home furnishings were separated from the rest of the store by a glass-enclosed breezeway. The breezeway, too, had the same heavenly Ayres fragrance.
I bought my first "pricey" handbag from the Market Square Ayres: a brown paisley Liz Claiborne for $70. I really loved that purse and carried it proudly.
When I got married in 1996, Mom and I went to L.S. Ayres in Indianapolis (Lafayette Square, perhaps) so she could pick out her Mother of the Bride dress, which she did. We had a very proper ladies' lunch in the tea room, complete with divine chicken salad sandwiches on croissants.
We've lost so much elegance in this world.
I agree completely. I wish I had better pictures of the Ayres branch stores. It really was a great store and sorely missed if your comments any indication. Thanks.
I was rooting through some family photos to scan and found a "classic portrait pose" of my grandfather. On the back it was stamped L.S. Ayres Downstairs Store Studio, which drew me to this site. What a treat!. It appears you can add Photography Studio to the list of departments. I don't have any clue on the date of this photo but it is likely Depression Era (1930's version) or earlier. I was told my grandfather was a Civil Engineer/Surveyor for either Indiana or Indianapolis and my father, the eldest of his siblings, was born in Indianapolis in 1923.ReplyDelete
My first job after graduating from college in 1967. I can't remember the floor, maybe 10th, but the fur dept was as you stepped off the elevators. I worked as a software programmer in the computer department. Our department was blamed for all the accounting errors. We found this out when one of my co-workers called accounting about an error on his monthly bill. When he was told the accounting was being moved over to the computers, he said excuse me, but I'm in the computer department and we only put the name and addresses on the bills and send them to your department. My Dad worked in the maintenance department. Occasionally we'd meet for lunch in the employees lunch room. I bought my wedding dress and the bridesmaid dresses in the bridal department then enjoyed lunch in the tea room with my step-mother and sister. There was an employee sale in the fur department and I really liked a red and black fur rug. My co-workers bought it as a wedding gift and I still have it. Moved out of state after the wedding, but will always remember my 8 months with L S Ayres.ReplyDelete
Watching the PBS series about Selfridge's, brought back many memories of L. S. Ayres. Laura was right, no place smelled like Ayres, intoxicating! Growing up in a small bedroom community of Indianapolis with no place to shop, my mother and I would ride into Speedway with my father, as he worked for Linde Air, then we would take the bus to downtown Indianapolis for a day of shopping at Ayres. Buster Brown's and Mary Janes in children' shoes, what seemed like hours in yardgoods while my mother looked at patterns and material, lunch in the tea room with the fancy clown and princess desserts, then the treasure chests, resting on the mezzanine level and lastly, getting to pick out candies downstairs for the ride home. We always came at Christmas time to look at the windows, they were the best, and to visit Santa, still have a picture sitting on his lap. Because this was the 1950's, being appropriately dressed was mandatory, hat, gloves, white anklets and black patent Mary Janes. Then as a teenager getting to take the bus with my friend to buy things for my college dorm room, and finally as a young adult going to Ayres in the Glendale shopping center. Moved to Ca. in 1981, and have never found a store as magical as L. S. Ayres.ReplyDelete
I remember going downtown to Ayres with my mother and being in awe of how huge and fancy it was to me. My sisters still talk about the Tea Room. When I grew up, I spent most of my Ayres-shopping time at the store in Lafayette Square Shopping Center. I was sorry to see it close. I still have my L.S, Ayres charge card.ReplyDelete
My mother passed away in 2002 in Rochester, Minnesota, In her effects was a box reading L. S. Ayres & Co., Indianapolis, Ind. On the back of the box it was addressed to my mother's sister, "Miss ......." who pre-deceased my mother. The return address was her grandmother's name and address in Indianapolis, my great-grandmother. Inside is a 1920's era mesh purse with a golden chain handle, a wonderful keepsake. Curious about the store, I found out a lot!ReplyDelete
My mother was hired by L. S. Ayres around 1966-67 in the advertising department but shortly there after was hired as a model. My mother was a platinum blond and clearly beautiful. I used to spend days with her at work over the years and have so many memories of her modeling both in the Tea Room and on the stage in the auditorium. I remember her wondering around the Tea Room, showing her outfits and talking with the diners. Often, I would have a friend with me and we would get to order the famous chicken velvet soup and watch my mother work. I remember being in the models dressing room with all the women chatting about the fashion and trying to put together great looks. Ayres was like a second home to me. I modeled as a young child on stage there as well. My mother and I were photographed for a mothers day newspaper ad in 1977... Unfortunately, my mother passed away suddenly several months later. This photo is my most prized possession. I will never forget those fond memories and her pride and love for her work at L. S. Ayres.ReplyDelete
My grandmother worked at Ayres for many years in the housewares department. She was in her 70s when she retired. around 1970, I think. As children, we loved going to Ayres and stopping by to see Grandma.. She would proudly introduce us to her co-workers. We would then go to the Tea Room for lunch. We also loved window shopping at Ayres, especially at Christmas. Such wonderful memories.ReplyDelete
My father use to work at the store as a baker and his mother a waitress of the Tea room, at the downtown location in the 60's and the 70's he has me trying to find a person who he use to work with by the name of Linda Carter her aunt he thinks is a Inez Sanders anyone know of this person. my father is Joseph Miles and his mother was Martha L. Miles we are hoping to find information on how to find Linda as my father would like to talk to her and recall the old days of the Tea Room.ReplyDelete
According to his obituary, my great-great grandfather on my mother's side, Charles F. Wehking, contracted and provided the bricks for the original building.ReplyDelete
And beautiful and unusual brick-work it is!!!Delete
Thank you for preserving this. I may have missed it but I didn't see any mention that the Ayres building was designed by Bernard Vonnegut, the grandfather of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. In one of his non fiction collections he writes about standing across the street, at the center crossroad of "The Crossroads of America" looking at the clock on the building his grandfather (I thought he included his father but I haven't verified) designed.ReplyDelete
Is there anyone interested in boxes or any items with the L S Ayers label to display? Or is there a site that you can recommend. All my childhood I enjoyed the Christmas joy of shopping and riding the LS Ayers train and seeing Santa and took my children to do the same. The tea room was a very special memory with my Mom and Grandmother. I also bought my wedding dress at this great store. My first credit card was an L S Ayers!!ReplyDelete
You might want to try the Indiana History Museum. If you have a photo of a typical Ayres bag from the 1960s or so, I could but it in my (slow-developing) bag exhibit.ReplyDelete
As a young girl I wanted to grow up to be an elevator lady at L.S.Ayers. The elevator ladies were very well dressed, wore high heel shoes and red lipstick..I thought they were beautiful and so courteous. I also remember buying hosiery. The ladies would pull out a slim box, open, remove the tissue and slip their hand inside the hose so you could see how they looked against your skin. Does anyone else remember the silver friendship links (I think they were $l.25) you would have your name engraved as you waited and then trade with a friend for a link with their name. We threaded them on a black ribbon until we have enough to have linked together as a bracelet. Also do you remember the March of Dimes? Thousands of dimes would be lined up in rows along the sidewalk on the Washington Street side of the store. Can you image that happening now? And of course the Sub Deb's. Each high school had a lovely young teen representing their school with a very large picture in a gallery along the wall in the teen clothing department. Ayre's also published a little magazine with teen news. It indeed was a special store.ReplyDelete
Thank you for all your work making this blog.ReplyDelete
Ayres was a wonderful place. I bought men's clothing in the "Briar Shop" which was up a flight of stairs in the southern end of the Ayres South Meridian annex.
Very preppy and traditional.
The "Briar Shop" carried Gant oxford cotton shirts, Pringle Shetland wool sweaters, London Fog jackets, well made quality pants, cotton in summer, wool and corduroy in winter and surcingle wool and leather belts.
I bought a beautiful heavy suede coat from the annex main floor. I put it on layaway and slowly paid for it with my earnings as the mail boy at Liberty Mutual Insurance 3333 N Meridian.
Ayres had a preppy/traditional shop for women similar to the men's "Briar Shop". It was in the main store on one of the upper floors. It was called "Country Casuals". It carried Villager, Lady Bug and Gant clothing. The blouses sold there were cotton and had button down and peter pan collars. I believe they also offered Etienne Aigner and John Romain leather goods.
Indianapolis AM radio station WIFE often held promotions at the downtown "Casual Corners". You could meet and get autographs from musical groups being aired on the station. I remember meeting The Boys Next Door ("The Beach Boys of the Midwest") and, I believe, Herman's Hermits there.
I always got a smile when I would pass the Ayres estate on Kessler Boulevard. The mansion was hidden by trees at the back of the property but the long fence in front was painted bright Ayres blue.
Very rare photos. I was enjoying these from the beginning.Thanks a lot for sharing with usReplyDelete
I still have two L.S. Ayres red Christmas boxes. They are always placed under my table-top Christmas tree each year. Such joy-filled memories are so comforting.ReplyDelete
My Mother Sarah Jayne Rivers was an Elevator Girl at L. S. Ayres in the 50's. She was a young beautiful black woman as they all were. Mom absolutely loved her job but she led a double life. She was an elegant fashionista by day who delivered patrons by elevator to their desired destination in the prestigious department store and she was a married mother of five by night. I was so proud of my mother and loved her very much.ReplyDelete
Ayres' department numbers on the downtown directory tell me that at one time they were members of AMC (Associated Merchandising Corporation). AMC did importing for the member stores: Federated's divisions were members prior to their acquiring RH Macy in 1994, The Broadway was in their final years, and Dayton Hudson, who eventually bought AMC outright.ReplyDelete
AMC, for reporting purposes required each member store utilize department numbers fall into a certain range of numbers: Cosmetic, Accessories, Jewelry were in the 100 series:, 300 were various women's sportswear departments, 400's included Furs, Intimate Apparel, Children's, and so on.
Member stores were not restricted to using the same number: Federated's Sanger Harris division used #445 for Better Sleepwear : Bullock's used #474 for Designer Sleepwear.
The store was a truly great for those years! I even wrote a persuasive essay about it!ReplyDelete
I have 3 LSAyres wooden display cabinets that I bought back in the early 80's when they were closing out fixtures in their Market Square Lafayette IN location.ReplyDelete
Wonderful. Enjoy them!ReplyDelete
I remember having lunch with my Mother in the tea room back in 1968, my Mother worked at Glendale and Lafayette square for 35 years.ReplyDelete
My mother, Dorothy Ladenberger, worked in the Fine Jewelry department of the LS Ayres Glenbrook Mall store in Fort Wayne between ~1970 through the early 1990s, I guess? It's hard to remember exactly when she left....ReplyDelete
I have fond memories of going to eat dinner with in the Tea Room on her break. Yet more memories of shopping with her, or just wandering around the store when I went to pick her up from work. There were things I could afford, and there were things that were aspirational then.
Now the store is a Macy's. No Tea Room. No nice clothes. No character. I can afford everything they have-but I don't really care! It's just a bunch of mass produced stuff that doesn't really matter.
Thank you for your blog. These department stores and the designs and lifestyles they undergirded, are part of America's cultural history. Though few of them remain as businesses today, I'm grateful for this digital archive of their existence. We have gone the way of internet shopping and depersonalized transactions for the moment, but perhaps a time will come when we will look to the past as a guide for how to do business. I can hope, at least!