Sunday, June 16, 2019

Ambridge's Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Sears, Roebuck and Co.
653 - 655 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
August 25, 1954

Ambridge's Sears, Roebuck and Co., opened in 1931, was the first Sears in Beaver County. The store was originally located in "modest rooms adjoining 817 Merchant St." In 1934 the store acquired additional space nearby. (Daily Times, April 9, 1937)

Then in 1937, Sears leased an even larger location in the Fraternal Order of Eagles Temple at 653 - 655 Merchant and moved there. (The Eagles purchased their current location at 401 Maplewood Ave. in 1948.)

Here's that beautiful Eagles building, built in 1923, shown in the 1924 Economy Centennial program book.

Eagles Temple
653 - 655 Merchant St.
Economy of Old and Ambridge of Today
June 1924

The Ambridge Furniture Co., and later Reichart's Furniture, had occupied the Eagle's building before Sears moved into it. Unfortunately, I don't have any description or photos of what the facade looked like when those businesses were in the building, but according to a news article, the black shiny trim shown in the first photo above was added when Sears moved in. Other changes made with the Sears move were larger display windows and new entrances. (Daily Times, April 9, 1937)

Sears leased three floors in that building; the Eagles retained space on the upper floor. The basement and first floor were used by Sears for sales and display; the second floor was for business offices and storage. This Sears primarily sold "hardgoods." On the first store shoppers could find hardware, electrical equipment, washers, sweepers, radios, and sporting goods. The basement was the floor for plumbing and heating supplies, stoves, paint, and farm equipment, still an in-demand line of products for area farmers. The only clothing the store routinely carried was work clothes. But just about anything else a shopper might want could be ordered from the wide range of items in Sears' legendary catalog and later picked up at the store.

When Sears moved into 653 -655 Merchant, it also opened an auto service building behind the store in the rear of 650 Maplewood Ave.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. ad
Daily Times
April 9, 1937

Over the years, the Ambridge Sears store pretty much stuck to selling the same types of merchandise. But it did add newly popular items from time to time:

Sears ad for TVs
Beaver Valley Times
July 5, 1951

And I guess there was always a demand for "memorial markers." But they weren't anything I expected the Ambridge Sears catalog department to be advertising.

Sears ad for tombstones
Beaver Valley Times
March 24, 1951

Sears also offered home remodeling services like roofing and siding.

Sears roofing service ad
Beaver Valley Times
October 1, 1951

Here are two of the ads Sears ran during Ambridge's Golden Jubilee celebration in 1955. I know some people will say, "Wow, look at those prices!" But don't forget how much lower wages were in 1955 too:

Sears "Old Fashioned Bargain Days" Sale ad
Beaver Valley Times
June 29, 1955

Sears "Old Fashioned Bargain Days" Sale ad
Beaver Valley Times
June 29, 1955

And during the Christmas Season, the Ambridge Sears always had a Toy Town where you could tell Santa, in person, which of the toys you wanted:

Sears Toy Town ad
Beaver Valley Times
December 6, 1957

I'm including this 1957 Sears sale ad because I think it's the most unsettling business ad I've come across so far during my Ambridge history research.

Sears "Operation 'H-Bomb' Sale!"
Beaver Valley Times
May 28, 1959

I know some people now believe that Sears moved to Northern Lights when the shopping center opened in 1956 - 57, but that's not true. Sears remained in Ambridge until mid-October 1963, one week before it opened the new store the company had built on the far northwest side of Northern Lights where Giant Eagle is now. That new store was a larger department store that carried a more extensive line of merchandise than the Ambridge store had, including: clothing for women, men, and children, shoes, white goods (linens, towels, drapes), housewares, furniture, jewelry, cosmetics, perfume, and candy. Plus there was a snack bar.

The Ambridge Sears "Removal Sale" was held not only in its store, but also at a "storeroom" at 639 Merchant St., "next to Isaly's."

Sears "Removal Sale" ad
Beaver County Times
October 18, 1963

The year Sears after moved out, Bargain Furniture Mart, which already had a small store at 651 Merchant, expanded into 653-635. It was Bargain Furniture that remodeled the facade of the building by covering the lower front with a white "chipped ceramic" and the upper floors with the trendy-in-1964-green corrugated steel that still covers the building. Bargain Furniture also added the big 37 1/2 foot sign, the largest in Ambridge, that originally spelled out "Bargain" on lighted four-foot blocks.

I'm sorry about the quality of the photo below, but it's the only photo I currently have of the exterior of Bargain Furniture Mart's 653 - 655 Merchant St. store. You can see its smaller store to the left with the "Sale" sign on the window. That store became Bargain Furniture's Early American furniture showroom.

Bargain Furniture's new building with new facade and sign
653 - 655 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
October 15, 1964

I hope to write about the businesses that occupied 653 -655 Merchant, both before and after Sears was there, in a future blog article. Watch for it.