On Jan. 4, 2018, Evansville was notified Sears would leave the city after more than 92 years. Over the decades there has been a special connection between Sears and Evansville.
In 1902, the Hercules Buggy Company began making buggies for Sears, Roebuck & Company. In 1908 and 1909, they built the initial run of Sears Motor Buggies and continued to make bodies until 1912. In 1912, the Hercules Gas Engine Company was formed to supply engines to Sears. These ventures cemented a relationship between William McCurdy of Evansville and Sears President Robert E. Wood.
In July 1925, Sears announced it would open a retail store in the McCurdy Building at Fourth and Sycamore. Sears, wanting to cancel their Hercules engine contract, agreed to put a store in McCurdy’s building in exchange for the cancellation. The Evansville Sears was the first stand-alone retail store outside a catalog center city. The Downtown store expanded over the years. In 1957, a catalog store was opened at North Park and expanded into a Sears Compact Store in 1961. In 1963, a new Sears was opened in Washington Square Mall, the first enclosed shopping mall in Indiana.
The movement to the suburbs led to the closing of the original Downtown store at the end of 1975 and the opening a new enlarged First Avenue store in 1976. The coming of the discount store had a profound effect on Sears. In Evansville, the North Park Store and the Service and Parts Center closed. But Sears was more than just storefronts in Evansville.
Beginning with the original Hercules contracts, Sears continued to be a major buyer in Evansville. Whirlpool, Shane Uniform, Anchor Supply, North Star Furniture, Crescent Plastics, George Koch Sons, Karges Furniture, Indian Archery, Peter Healy Brass, and Futura Inc. were among the local companies that sold directly to Sears over the years. At one point, more than 7,000 local jobs were connected to Sears.
Although Sears is leaving, memories of Kenmore appliances, Craftsmen tools, and the Sears Wish Book will remain.