This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shopping at Irene's Consignment Shop

Looking around Rensselaer's downtown, I was surprised at how few retail establishments are left. Consider the 200 block of West Washington. On the northwest side there is Jack's Uptown Service, a boarded up building that is occupied, the Uptown Girls Styling Salon, Sunchasers Tanning Salon, Tucker Real Estate, L&J Antiques and Things, an empty building, and the Lafayette Bank and Trust. Only one of those is a retail store, the antique store. If we continue down the street to the 100 block, we have an empty lot, Jasper County Microfilm Department, the Riley Law Office, an empty office, the CI Insurance in a beautifully restored bank building, Irene's Consignment Shop, an empty store that used to be Harvey Copy Center but which has now moved to the consignment shop, the Clauss Bakery and Cafe, Clean-As-A-Whistle, Jasper County Land Surveying, the Executor, the Dreamers Solution Music, the Sister Act Salon, and an empty store. Only Irene's Consignment Shop and the Dreamers Solution Music are really retail shops.
I had not noticed that Harvey's Copy Center was moving. It had originally started in the building at Harrison and Cullen that most recently was Whippersnap Studio. Tom Harvey had moved about four years ago when he bought the old OddFellows Building and also the building next to it, which houses Irene's Consignment Shop. The Oddfellows are no longer active in Rensselaer, and whatever was left here has consolidated with the Monticello branch. The Oddfellows were once a large and active fraternal organization, but have been shrinking for many years.

However, there is some good news here. The reason that Harvey's has moved is because the Clauss Bakery wants to expand, and they will move into the space that was occupied by Harvey's Copy Center.

Here is what these two buildings looked like when they were new. The space that is now the consignment store was then Traub and Selig, a dress store. Next door was Columbia Shoe Store, and next to that was E. D. Rhoads & Son Hardware. (I might be wrong on the initials. My copy of the picture has more detail than this one, but is still a bit unclear.) Note the nice turret on the top of the building. The Oddfellow building was built in 1895 in a Romanesque style, and the building to its left in 1898 in a neoclassical style. I bet no one who is reading this remembers any of those stores.
There have been lots of businesses on the second floors of these buildings: attorneys, dentists, insurance and real estate agents, and at one time the local license branch. For many years the Muday Sewing Center was in the Copy Center space.

Among the stores that have been in the consignment shop space are Montgomery Ward, Read More, and the Lewis and Young Hardware store. I cannot say I remember any of them, but here is a picture of the building when it was the Lewis and Young Hardware store.
Enough of the past. Here is the building today. The Jasper County Interim Report says,
The cornice of this Neoclassical commercial building is adorned with dentils and a balustrade. The facade features quoins and 2-story pilasters.
I will let you figure out what that means. It must be good, right? Notice that the building to the left is not the same as the building to the left in the old picture.
Let us go in and see what is there.
This ATV was a surprise. It had a price of $1000. I expected the store to be just clothes, and it is not. As the picture below shows, it also has books, CDs, and VHS tapes.
In the case by the cash register was an assortment of jewelry.
However, most of the merchandise was clothing, though you might also be able to see some shoes and purses on the wall. The store has no inventory; everything there is on consignment. Anyone who has things that they would like to sell, and does not want to bother with a yard sale or attempt to sell it on eBay, can bring it in. Obviously, the store takes part of the proceeds if it sells. I did not ask about the details of how this works. If you are interested, contact them and I am sure that they will be happy to explain it.
On the day I was there, Irene was not feeling well, but Tom Harvey was a wonderful host and was willing to share a lot of information with me, and brought out some old pictures, some of which I photographed and are shown above. For many years Irene worked at Saint Joseph's College in the copy center, and everyone out there knew her.

Here is a different view from the back of the store, showing some glassware and a few other non-clothing items as well as a lot of clothes.
I did not see any furniture items, except for the chairs below, which I do not think were for sale, but for people to come in and visit. The view from the front window was wonderful--it is of the front of the Court House.
If you are looking for clothes or just about anything, stop in and see what they have. It is a fun place to visit.


30-year refugee said...

i don't remember a lot about downtown, but i do remember read more. i didn't buy many, but i did buy a few comic books there, never knowing that for about a decade after i left i'd be an avid comic book collector. i have about 3,000 books, and while there's some sentimentality to a few of them, most of them just take up space.

i also remember that there were two schultz's stores in town, the downtown store, and the big fancy one near the college, which was more modern. i stopped in that downtown store many times to buy candy.

there use to be a small hardware store downtown in the 70s, and it closed (or perhaps moved, i don't remember.) one year that empty storefront served as the jaycee's haunted house. it seems to me it was close to the read more store.

flatbow said...

I remember the Schultz's department store in College Square. I could be wrong, but after they closed it became an Ames, and then a Pamida. About that time Wal-Mart came to town and killed most of the general retail stores. What moved into that spot after Pamida? Wasn't there a furniture store or eventually Kem's Hardware?

I think I might remember Read More, or at least some small book/card store. That's where, when a kid in grade school, I bought Desert Storm cards instead of baseball cards. I was probably the only kid who knew what a MLRS was (Multiple Launch Rocket System) but didn't know a single player on the New York Yankees.

I also very dimly remember a depart. store in downtown where we got pictures taken. Was that a JCPenny's?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Pennys was downtown and they took pictures every once in a while on the upper level.

Dessert Survivor said...

I received the following from Norrie Muday (who with her husband ran the sewing store) in the rensselaeradventures at mailbox:

I do check your site everyday and really do enjoy your info....we finally got power back on and internet late yesterday so this morning your site was welcome.
We came to Rensselaer in 1969 and took over the store from George and Maryann Reed, who ran a very nice gift shop. At that time the store to the west was Fletcher's Carpet.....then an unfinished furniture store.....then Gratner's ceramics. I didn't realize the Odd Fellows sold the building after we left. A young woman rented our store and was going to be selling used now I am very happy to hear that the new bakery people are going to expand. As retail merchants you absolutely hated seeing an empty building.

Anonymous said...

The hardware store that 30-year refugee remembers was "Coast to Coast." The gift store run by the Reed family was called "Gift Gallery."

My memories of downtown are a little clouded with my age, but I do remember it was quite vibrant and a nice place to take a morning stroll.

Anonymous said...

Your recent photos of the downtown buildings are well done.