Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 11, 2014

Sears has a long history in Ashland

ASHLAND — Sam Spears remembers going to work at the brand-new Sears building at the corner of 17th Street and Winchester Avenue in downtown Ashland shortly after the department store opened here nearly seven decades ago.

“We were only open one night a week and still managed to close for a half day on Wednesday at first. Of course, nothing like that was open at night back then. Then it went to every day and eventually Sunday,” said Spears, who advanced within the Sears organization and retired as a store manager in Columbus just a few years before his old friends at the downtown Ashland store moved local operations to what was then known as the Cedar Knoll Galleria, or today’s Kyova Mall.

In May, the Sears location at the Kyova Mall will be shutting its doors, bringing to an end 67 years of business in Boyd County. The Sears store at the Huntington Mall will remain open.

For many years, Spears said the multi-floor department store in downtown Ashland “was a mainstay of life” here.

“Everybody shopped at Sears then. Sears was a boon for the town and the people,” he said, detailing the contents of the downtown store floor by floor. Sears was downtown along with locally owned stores such as Parsons and Steckler’s, as well as JCPenney, which was later built on an adjacent lot.

Spears said there were many reasons why Sears became the place where everyone went to buy everything.

“I think the biggest reason was that slogan — ‘Satisfaction or your money back.’ They never questioned a return. That was what they taught us — make it right and exchange it with new,” he said. “And, they knew they could get what they wanted and the price was right. There were no credit cards then. You either had an account with Sears or you paid cash.”

The downtown department store also had an annex, as well as an automotive center “next to the Studebaker garage” on Carter Avenue, he said, noting the brand recognition of the Diehard batteries and other accessories sold there.

At the main store, Spears said the first floor was dedicated to men’s and women’s apparel and shoes, while the basement was filled with sporting goods, automotive accessories, plumbing, heating and cooling equipment, hardware and building materials. The second floor was primarily filled by the credit department, along with “home fashions,” including draperies and household goods. The third floor held furniture and carpeting; the fourth story housed general offices and training rooms; and “five and six was for stock,” he said, later adding the store’s advertising office was also on the fifth floor.

“If you count the basement, we had seven floors in that place. It was a pretty good journey if you went from bottom to top,” he said.

Spears estimated the store employed 100 to 120 full-time workers, with another 15 to 20 at the automotive center in addition to a small number of part-time employees. “There’s not many of them left from those first days. It’s down to just 10 or 11 of them,” he said, noting former Ashland Sears employee Aileen Caines continues to organize reunion lunches for the remaining Sears staff from their downtown days.

Caines, who worked in the Sears accounting department for 30 years and later was named a receiver during the transition from the downtown space to the mall in Cannonsburg, said the Ashland store opened in 1947 and attracted a loyal staff, with incentives including good wages and a profit-sharing plan.

“Sears was a good company and active in the community,” Caines recalled, adding the store “opened with a lot of departments and a lot of people.”

Even though Sears continues to have many dedicated customers, including herself, Caines said the company seems to have lost to low-cost competitors such as Walmart.

“I hate to see them leave. I think people still like Sears and want to buy from them, but there’s just too much competition,” she said.

Caines said early Sears customers were loyal to Sears after many years of ordering items through the store’s famous catalogs, and later retained those customers while earning new consumers with practices including the no-questions-asked exchange policy.

“They were good about returns. In fact, they got too good and that was almost their downfall,” she said.

Caines recalled the downtown store once housed a pair of Allstate insurance agents in the basement when the retail giant owned the insurance firm, and the building survived two fires. Coates said her family remains loyal to Sears, and theorized they have purchased every TV they’ve owned from Sears.

“This is a Sears house here,” she said, citing their televisions, cameras and appliances among their more recent Sears purchases.

Spears said he was able to enjoy many great bargains too, chuckling as he explained it was good to know when things would be going on sale or subject to deep discounts. His personal Sears purchases included a refrigerator from the store back in 1972, he said. “It’s still in use in my basement!”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at

tpreston@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2651.

Text Only
Local News
  • BREAKING: APD probes gun report near Blazer campus

    April 24, 2014

  • Judge denies renewed motion to dismiss Rosen lawsuit

    A judge has refused to dismiss a former Boyd district and circuit judge’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law that affects his ability to run for re-election this fall.
    In an order entered on Friday, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas D. Wingate denied a renewed motion to dismiss by current Boyd Circuit Judge George W. Davis III, an intervening respondent in the suit filed in January by Marc I. Rosen.

    April 23, 2014

  • Ashland football players join special-needs students for prom

    The purple chiffon gown and the sparkling tiara are back in the closet four days after the big dance, but Karina McBride still hasn’t stopped talking about Saturday night — the decorations, boys bringing her cups of punch, her first kiss (on the cheek, her mother hastens to interject), and dancing the night away at her first prom.
    “She’s been flying high since that night,” said Michele Woods, who is Karina’s mother and who brought together friends and volunteers to organize a prom for special needs students.

    April 23, 2014

  • Concrete pouring at Putnam

    Workers are pouring concrete foundations at Putnam Stadium and once those are dry and cured will be ready to install seats at the historic arena.
    The workers are putting in 12-hour shifts to keep on schedule to complete the stadium’s reconstruction in time for this fall’s football opener, said site supervisor Craig Chinn of Trace Creek Construction.
    The most visible work is happening on the home-team side of the stadium, where workers Tuesday were setting forms for the cylindrical concrete piers that will support the seats. Once those are poured, cured and inspected they will add the seats.

    April 23, 2014

  • Unique races for Carter magistrates

    Carter County magistrate ballots are full of candidates eager to represent constituents in each of the five districts that make up the county’s fiscal court.
    Of the five seats available, three magistrates are seeking re-election: Clarence “Sonny” Fankell, D-Grayson, District 2; Clifford “Sodbuster” Roe, D-Olive Hill, District 4; and Brandon Burton, R-Olive Hill, District 5.
    The incumbents will each have to battle as many as three opponents in their district primaries next month before they can focus on reclaiming their magistrate titles in the November general election.
    This year’s magistrate race will host a total of 22 candidates, with 11 from Grayson, nine from Olive Hill and two from Denton.

    April 23, 2014

  • Martin County marks 50 years since LBJ visit

    Today marks 5o years since former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Inez resident Tom Fletcher and promised to end poverty in America on April 24, 1964. On Friday, Inez will be commemorating the occasion with a special event.

    April 23, 2014

  • Trail Town trial run to be in Olive Hill this Sunday

    Olive Hill will participate in a trial run this Saturday in the city’s push to become a certified Kentucky Trail Town.

    April 23, 2014

  • Some area farmers may be eligible for LIP program

    The Grayson  Farm Service Agency, (Boyd, Carter, Elliott and Lawrence) is having registration for the Livestock Indemnity Program to eligible producers who suffered losses beginning Oct. 1, 2011, and subsequent years.

    April 23, 2014

  • News in brief, 04/24/14

    The King’s Daughters Pregancy and Infant Loss Support Group invites families who have experienced the loss of an infant during pregnancy or following birth to participate in a butterfly release and prayer ceremony at 2 p.m. May 10 at the Ashland Central Park fountain.

    April 23, 2014

  • Garner hosting National Day of Prayer activities

    The Garner Missionary Baptist Church will be hosting day long events at the Kyova Mall to commemorate the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 1.

    April 23, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP basketball
SEC Zone