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Ayres Department Store: Shared Nostalgia

April 26, 2016

You Are There: That Ayres Look is nearing the end of its run; it closes Aug. 6. Much like You Are There 1945: Hoosier Home Front the first You Are There Ayres has been one of those exhibits that has an immediate connection to Indiana and especially Indianapolis residents. I predict that You Are There 1948: Communities Can! will be the same way, conjuring memories of mothers and grandmothers.

I grew up hearing stories about the magnificent L.S. Ayres Department Store. My mother’s mother came here at 19 from Nashville, Tenn., after she married my grandfather in 1946. She remembers the days of walking downtown to shop at Ayres and how the items she bought would be delivered before she could even get home on the streetcar. She worked at the Ayres at Greenwood Park Mall in the late 1960s.


Both of my dad’s parents worked at the Ayres downtown in 1946 and didn’t even know each other until a blind date four years later. Grandpa was a stock boy who took items the sales clerks sold on the floor down to be packaged for delivery. Grandma worked in what was known as the Sub-Deb Club. According to IHS Press book L.S. Ayres and Company: The Store at the Crossroads of America, subdeb clubs were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The club met once a month at Ayres after the store started sponsoring the Indianapolis Federation of Sub-Debs in 1939. I can just imagine my grandmother showing the newest styles to girls and soaking up the manners and decorum lessons. She also worked as a sales clerk.

I don’t remember the Ayres on the corner of Meridian and Washington streets, but I do remember that any time my grandparents took me shopping at Greenwood Park Mall, a stop at Ayres was a must. What are your memories of Ayres?


Chelsea Sutton is communications coordinator at the Indiana Historical Society. She started drinking coffee at age 3 with her dad and always stays up too late reading.

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