High on a brick building overlooking West Washington Street is the faded sign for Eyerly’s Department Store, once a downtown Hagerstown institution.
Charles Eyerly and his father started a dry goods firm in the late 1880s, according to a Morning Herald front page article detailing Charles’ passing in 1947. In 1900, George Eyerly turned over his interest to his son, and the business became known as the Charles H. Eyerly Department Store.
Whether looking for clothes, furniture, or even appliances, many turned to Eyerly’s for their needs.
In 1959, the store celebrated its 73rd anniversary with a two-week sale that ended with the giveaway of two cars, a 1960 two-door Chevrolet Bel Air sedan and a miniature Corvette. This sale featured “brand new fall merchandise on all six of the store’s retail floors, in 55 separate departments,” according to a piece in The Daily Mail.
In promoting the anniversary sale, general merchandise manager John S. Bussard described the establishment: “‘Eyerly’s is Hagerstown’s oldest and largest department store. It consistently does the largest dollar volume annually in the Hagerstown area, and that record is possible only because it enjoys the confidence of the local buying public.’” He also noted that thousands of the store’s charge customers had been shopping with Eyerly’s for many generations.
A 2002 Herald-Mail article recognized the service of 83-year-old Jane Dehart, a longtime employee who started working in the store in the early 1960s. Dehart recalled how customers and employees dressed for a trip to the store in their best, wearing hats, dresses, gloves, and suits and ties.
Sales were rare, she remembered in 2002, so the store’s once a month Suburban Day, geared toward “out-of-town shoppers” brought in many customers. “‘They always said if somebody would faint they couldn’t fall down because it was so crowded,’ Dehart said. ‘Sales weren’t as common then as they are today. When we had a sale, you really knew you were getting a bargain.’”
In 1948, Eyerly’s was bought by S. Grumbacher & Son, the company that operated The Bon-Ton Department Store, according to The Morning Herald, and left downtown Hagerstown to become a part of the Valley Mall when it opened in 1974, according to The Herald-Mail.
Sources: Herald-Mail, December 30, 2002; The Daily Mail, October 6, 1959; The Morning Herald, December 19, 1947, April 1, 1948