As the Indiana Historical Society prepares to honor former employees of the iconic, bygone L.S. Ayres and Co., one of its executives says her current business and others have been heavily influenced by lessons learned working for the Hoosier-grown retailer. Claudia Ryan, who worked for Ayres for 13 years, rising to the position of vice president of fashion merchandising before leaving in 1990, says the company instilled in her a "good, better, best" mentality that she took into launching her own business. Ryan established Charles Mayer & Co., an Indianapolis home furnishings and fine gifts shop, in 1992.
She tells Inside INdiana Business fellow former Ayres employees she runs into still talk about the high level of service and traditions of the store.
The IHS is holding an Ayres Appreciation Day Friday at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center. Former employees will receive free admission to the "You Are There: That Ayres Look" exhibition, which runs through August 6. It takes visitors back in time to experience the store using classic artifacts and history lessons from actors in historic garb.
At its peak in the mid-1980s, L.S. Ayres had nearly two dozen locations in Indiana and beyond. It was acquired by St. Louis-based May Department Stores Co. in 1986 and the well-known downtown Indianapolis location was shut down in 1992. Over the years, the retailer featured memorable amenities like its Tea Room that served a special Chicken Velvet Soup. A tradition that has outlived the store, which was founded in 1872, is the appearance of a cherub statue on an antique clock at the corner of Washington and Meridian streets. During the winter holiday season, the statue continues to show up every year to greet holiday shoppers downtown.
Ayres was also innovative and some of its practices have been adapted and used by other retailers. One was an appreciation of selling discount merchandise. Ayres did this through its Ayr-Way locations.
Ryan says past employees still share a certain camaraderie. When she re-connects with other Ayers alumni, she says it’s great to rekindle stories.
You can connect to a look back on the history of L.S. Ayres from our partners at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis:
You can connect to more information about the Indiana History Center tribute to Ayres by clicking here.