The Indiana State Library in Indianapolis downtown seeks to educate Hoosiers about Indianapolis history. By hosting FREE Indianapolis education events focuses on Indiana heritage, the Indiana State Library provides a valuable service to the Indianapolis community as it preserves and promotes our collective history. Thursday, May 27 the Indiana State Library invites people to learn about L.S. Ayres and Co., Indiana’s largest retail company from 1905 to 1990. This important piece of Hoosier history has been preserved by the Indiana State Museum, and goes down as the economic backbone of the original Indianapolis downtown area. Head to the Indiana State Library Thursday at 5:30 to learn more about this historic Indianapolis business.
L.S. Ayres and Company was founded in 1972 by Lyman S. Ayres of Geneva, New York when he purchased a controlling interest in the Trade Palace located on West Washington Street in Indianapolis. The fashionable dry goods store moved Lyman from New York to Indianapolis, where he established his headquarters and moved the original shop to a more profitable location still on West Washington Street. A shopping hub for “dry and fancy goods,” L.S. Ayres and Company soon grew to become Indianapolis’ premiere department store.
Early on, Lyman established a reputation for moving his business into the modern age acquiring gas lighting in 1876 and an elevator in 1890. When he died in 1896, ownership of the store passed to his son Frederic M. Ayres, who kept his father’s tradition of the modern store alive. Business began to boom at the turn of the century; the store and the customers demand more space and a bigger selection. Ayres soon expanded the location of his store to include more and more adjoining buildings. He opened the new building, which stood eight stories high with six elevators and 250 feet of show windows, on October 2, 1905.
Continuing the mission to cater to his customers, Frederic Ayres introduced modern shopping conveniences such as three areas for eating and relaxing: the soda fountain, the Grille and the Tea Room (for more wealthy customers). Another innovation at L.S. Ayres and Company was the Economy Basement, which offered less expensive dry goods for shoppers on a budget. The Economy Basement became very popular and was expanded and renamed the Downstairs Store in 1922. The brilliance of L.S. Ayres and Company stems was its ability to draw a wide range for customers with diverse socio-economic backgrounds. By catering to many crowds, its business increased exponentially.
As the store grew it began to look more and more like the department stores we shop at today. In 1929 it added sections for men’s clothing and furnishings. In the 1930s and 1940s the store grew to include air conditioning and escalators. 1936 marks two big events in the stores history that helped L.S. Ayres become a marketing success: the creation of their catch phrase “That Ayres Look” and the erection of a 10,000 pound bronze clock on Meridian and Washington Streets containing that famous phrase.
The company continued to expand, becoming the most shopped at store in all of the Circle City. It even expanded to contain satellite stores closer to suburban areas. In the nineties and early two thousands, L.S. Ayres and Company merged with the May Company and was eventually bought by Macy’s Midwest. Though it no longer exists in actuality, L.S. Ayres lives on in the history books and Indianapolis museums as an important part of the development of Indianapolis. In fact the Indiana State Museum reconstructed the L.S. Ayres Tea Room with its original tables and chairs as a tribute to this Indianapolis shopping giant.
Head to the Indiana State Library to learn about the history of L.S. Ayres and Company on Thursday, May 27 at 5:30 pm. Located in Indianapolis downtown, the Indiana State Library has prime Indianapolis real estate near a host of Indianapolis attractions. After the history lesson, treat yourself to dinner and drinks at any of these great Indianapolis restaurants or Indianapolis bars. Stay tuned to Indianapolis News, Events and Information on Fun City Finder.com for all the latest on fun things to do in Indianapolis. We cover Indianapolis arts to Indianapolis sports and everything in between. Get out in Indy and find some fun!
L.S. Ayres and Company, 1905 to 1990: Indiana’s Largest Retail Company
Thursday, May 27 at 5:30 pm
Indiana State Library
315 West Ohio Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202