Then and now: Veach’s in downtown Richmond, Indiana on the National Road

When my friend Dawn and I made our trip along the National Road in eastern Indiana in 2015, we came upon an audacious toy store in downtown Richmond. Family owned, Veach’s had been selling toys in Richmond for more than seven decades. We were astonished and delighted that the store had survived all of the changes in retail since the 1980s. Unfortunately, when I rode across Indiana this year, Veach’s was gone.

Downtown Richmond
Downtown Richmond, National Road

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


Comments

23 responses to “Then and now: Veach’s in downtown Richmond, Indiana on the National Road”

  1. J P Avatar

    It is funny how I still feel a momentary thrill at the mention of a toy store. It makes me remember the long-gone Kern’s Toyland in my own hometown, that was once my favorite place in the world.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I would have loved to have a place liked Veach’s when I was a boy!

  2. Greg Clawson Avatar
    Greg Clawson

    Jim, it’s a shame that big box stores have killed small town America shops. Even the ones that make a profit, results in long hours for small returns. Most family run businesses close when the children/grandchildren don’t want to invest the time necessary.
    Then there is the internet……

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There’s a natural cycle to things, and all things must pass. However, one hidden thing lost here is that local shop owners were often pillars of their communities. Walmart and the Internet can’t replace that.

  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    So many of my favorite local retailers and restaurants did not survive the pandemic.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve lost a few here, too. Not as many as I feared.

  4. brandib1977 Avatar

    What a loss for the community and the kids. There are so many places in my lifetime that hold nostalgia for me – a local five and dime with a tremendous toy selection, a little bakery with the best donut holes, a small downtown department store where we took our film for processing…. The list goes on and on. Some of the connection I have is because of the product they sold but much of it is related to the people who owned and worked in these places.

    Walgreens, Tim Horton’s, Walmart and the internet don’t hold the same appeal or the same community connections as all those small businesses that once were community treasuries.

    Getting a toy from Amazon can’t hold the same appeal as walking in and admiring it week after week until you have enough money saved to buy it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We’ve all been seduced away by the lure of consistency and low prices.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        Too bad Walmart doesn’t sponsor their little league and Amazon doesn’t send someone to volunteer on their chamber board.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          That’s the crux of it right there. Walmart and Amazon don’t care about their communities. They don’t actively hate the communities, they just aren’t involved like local business owners can be.

          1. brandib1977 Avatar

            Exactly. Walmart exists on an island and whatever happens around it is fine by them. At least that’s how it works around here. They donate to a few projects a year but it’s a mere pittance compared to what they’re making here. Meanwhile, it’s the small businesses that support every cause and activity in town. And yes, I’m a little bitter in case you can’t tell.

  5. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Even before the pandemic, when I lived in Indianapolis, I was getting e-mails from pals in other cities about the closing of stores, bars, restaurants, etc, that we had been going to since the 70’s. I was thoroughly surprised to get an e-mail from my brother telling me about a downtown Milwaukee place we all hung around because it was an ad agency hang-out. Gone by 2017. I think a lot of my favorite places from the 70’s were hanging on from the housing melt-down of 07-08-09, and gone before the pandemic. When the smoke clears, there’ll be a lot more to blame Amazon for than Wal-Mart. A lot of people might have loved to shop at Veach’s, but I’d be surprised if a stand alone store could have survived without competitive pricing!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There’s also a loss of desire in current generations to continue generational family businesses. I’m not sure why that is.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        That is a very interesting point. I was aware that a lot of Milwaukee leading edge baby-boomers refused to take over the family businesses from their parents and grand-parents, causing many to sell out or go public in the 1980’s. When I lived in Washington DC, I was doing the under-writing on a documentary about Pittsburg, and the exact opposite was going on! It was roaring back in the 90’s, with input from the grand-kids developing new markets and taking the businesses in different direction! The moneyed baby-boomers couldn’t get out of Milwaukee fast enough, and in Pittsburg, they were staying put and pitching in! Something in the water?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          It would be fascinating to study the differences!

  6. DougD Avatar
    DougD

    That church doesn’t look nearly as fun as the previous tenant. They should have recycled the signage. Since AD33! Where God is the boss!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      THAT would have been HILARIOUS.

  7. Khürt Williams Avatar

    Toys “R” Us in my neighbourhood no longer operates. Neither does the Walmart. I can’t blame the closing of losing business on the pandemic or on big box stores.

    I was suggest that the people in the comment above waxing nostalgic about these changes are old. The next generation of shopper may not want what you had.

    As an immigrant to the USA I don’t have these nostalgic memories of local stores and brands, etc. The USA does not belong to the past.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Don’t begrudge us our nostalgia. There were some genuinely great things about the US in days gone by.

  8. Everett Avatar
    Everett

    My wife’s aunt and uncle owned Veach’s. It seemed the numbers just weren’t adding up to keep it going. My wife says they had a special birthday room that looked like a castle. Kids would get coupons in the mail for their birthday, and they could go pick out a free toy from the birthday room. She says she has fond memories of that.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sounds like it created lots of great memories for children who lived in the area!

  9. PaulG Avatar

    Some notes on Veach’s… the two level building pictured was originally a JCPenney. Veach’s was next door on the west side of the building. They expanded into this one.

    Veach’s was originally a five-and-dime. The basement was the toy department and it was an amazing place to go growing up. A whole aisle nearly the length of the building of just models. Huge sections for model trains and Matchbox/Hot Wheels. There was a birthday castle in the basement where you could get 1 free wrapped toy on your birthday. You never knew what it would be.

    They went full toy-store later (maybe in the 90s) and made it more of a Zainy Brainy kind of toy store – heavy on the educational toys.

    They lasted a lot longer than one would thing, what with Target, K-Mart, and Wal-Mart all in Richmond.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Nice – I love knowing more of the history!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for my newsletter!

Sign up for my monthly newsletter,
Back Roads, and be the first to know
what I'm working on!

%d bloggers like this: