The last department store? Minear’s, on the Michigan Road in Greensburg, Indiana

I was looking through my photographs from my 2008 tour of the Michigan Road when I came upon photos of Minear’s Department Store on the square in Greensburg. I was surprised to find an old-style department store still operating anywhere, let alone in small-town Indiana. It had been in business since 1865.

My favorite detail was the store name painted inside the plate-glass windows.

Greensburg square

I would have loved to see their neon lit at dusk.

Greensburg square

The store sat across the street to the west from the Decatur County Courthouse, which is best known for the tree growing out of the clock tower.

Decatur County Courthouse

I poked around the Internet a little to see if Minear’s is still in business; sadly, it closed in 2012. Was it the last old-style department store? Do you know of any others still operating? What was the department store in your hometown when you were young? (In my hometown of South Bend, it was Robertson’s.)

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Comments

23 responses to “The last department store? Minear’s, on the Michigan Road in Greensburg, Indiana”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar

    Oh, I always thought Robertson’s was Canadian; I didn’t know you had them in the States. Mind you, I haven’t seen one since the mid-80s. Did you do any looking around in Minear’s while you were there?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      South Bend’s Robertsons was not related to the ones you’re familiar with. It was a family-owned, local department store. Check it:

      http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com/2011/11/robertsons-south-bend-indiana.html

      I didn’t poke around inside Minear’s. I was on a mission and shopping wasn’t part of it. I have mixed feelings now about not at least going inside to see.

  2. david35mm Avatar

    Big, out of town superstores have obliterated the old family department stores here in the UK. The one near me was knocked down and they built luxury flats on the site. I remember being dragged around many a department store as a kid!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here in the US, the department store has largely been edged out by big-box superstores, too. The remaining department stores have consolidated. Sears and J. C. Penney still exist but they were national chains in the first place. Most of the local stores and small chains went through a series of mergers that led to almost all of them being Macy’s now.

  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    In my town, it was Fowler’s. Three floors with a big Wurlitzer organ at the top of the main stair case. I remember listening to a woman playing Christmas tunes on it when my grandmother would take me there during the holidays. The toy department was in the basement. I loved the basement.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The old-line department stores could surely be wondrous places! They really focused on creating a great shopping experience.

  4. davidvanilla Avatar

    Giddings on Tejon Street in Colorado Springs. As a boy I was fascinated by the little cable cars that carried the transaction from the clerk’s station to the office on the balcony. Clerk jerks the chain and zip! away she goes. I think the system was later replaced by a pneumatic tube set up.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There’s a shoe store in Indianapolis that still uses a cable-car-like system to handle the transactions! It’s on Mass Ave.

  5. pesoto74 Avatar

    There is still one of the old-style department store open in Champaign IL. Kuhn’s started in 1874. When I was a kid it was still a thriving department store. Today it mostly sells clothes for men. I think the main reason that it has stayed open is that the current owner is big on historic preservation and has the money to carry the store. I can remember when there were several thriving department stores in downtown Champaign. Most left in the 70’s when a mall opened north of town. One called Roberson’s survived until the 90’s. Like some downtowns the one in Champaign has made a comeback, however I don’t think we will ever see the big locally owned department stores again.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re right, the locally owned department store era is over. It’s great that Kuhn’s has hung on.

  6. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    Here in Falmouth uk we still have a locally owned department store called Trago Mills
    and its very poplular so don’t think it’s going to disapear any time soon. Here’ a Wikipedia artical about it the Owner is quite a colorful characture

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trago_Mills

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sounds pretty cool! The fellow who started the place sounds like quite a character.

  7. Sharlea Avatar

    Murdock’s here in Reno/Sparks/Carson City. :) I fondly remember my grandmother needed to go there to purchase “slacks.”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Now defunct I assume? Good to have family memories of places like this.

      1. Sharlea Avatar

        Long gone

  8. Nancy ( Roe ) Stewart Avatar
    Nancy ( Roe ) Stewart

    In Rochester it was Wiles and they had the little cars that carried the money upstairs where the ladies made the change and sent it back down. Blumenthals was another very nice store, too. My mother would take me to Olsens in Logansport to shop for school clothes. They had a revolving door which was pretty neat to a young kid. These stores all went out of the way to give very good service.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Excellent, Nancy, thanks for sharing these memories! I miss good service, don’t you?

  9. Carole Grey Avatar
    Carole Grey

    Wonderful visiting all of those good memories.
    Thanks for the departmentstoremuseum site.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It is fun, isn’t it? I still remember lunch on the mezzanine at Robertson’s.

  10. Steve Miller Avatar
    Steve Miller

    In Bloomington (IN) we had two locally-owned department stores on the town square, Breeden’s and Wicks Company (née Wick’s Bee Hive). By they time I arrived, Breeden’s had long been bought out by Aldens, a small chain and cataloger. (For a cursory history of the catalog operation, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamble-Skogmo). To the delight of us kids, Aldens added a seasonal toy department, predictably, just before Christmas each year. I think the store tried to compete with Penney’s (also on the square) but what I remember of Aldens is sort of a beige-y and asphalt tile blur…

    Wicks was more impressive to a kid, because it exuded a sense of history: hardwood floors, wonderful dark wood display cases, and elevator — with some polished brass details and a stern lady operator! — and the pièce de résistance: a system of wire baskets to transport your payment to the cash office (and return your change).

    But Bloomington’s most interesting family-owned department store, Schmalz’s, was just around the corner, a half-block north of the square. If you were a scout, you bought your uniform apparel there, while outfitting the rest of the family with whatever they might need. But the biggest attraction for most of us kids was the stuffed, standing Grizzly bear, shot by one of the store’s owners. At least that part of Bloomington’s — and Schmalz’s — history survives. The Grizzly is now on display at the Monroe County History Museum housed in the old Carnegie library building, less than two blocks from its former home.

    Bloomington had at least one other family-owned variety or department store, but I wasn’t familiar with it. Located on West 11th opposite the neighborhood colorfully referred to as “Pigeon Hill,” one Facebooker notes, “When I was a kid a lot of our Christmas came from Burches Store.” Friends, that’s sort of warm memory, the shared history, that will never be repeated about Walmart.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, B’ton was rich in local department/variety stores. I didn’t know. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

      Great point: nobody is going to have wistful memories about big-box stores.

  11. Ginger L Webb Avatar
    Ginger L Webb

    There was also a Minear’s in Rushville. I assume it was owned by the same people. We shopped at Greensburg’s Minear’s often.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh nice, I didn’t know that. Thanks for filling in this info!

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