Delphos, Ohio Store Closing After 132 Years

By Eric Olson

June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 4, 2008 at 12:41 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter)-THERE’S A STORY IN DELPHOS OHIO ANY SMALL TOWN MIGHT ENVY. IT SITS AMONG THE FINE BRICK BUILDINGS ON MAIN STREET..THAT’S IT RIGHT THERE…SHENKS BRIDAL FABRICS.

Beth: No one can remember Shenk’s not being here. Shenks belongs in downtown.

BETH SHENK HAS RUN THE STORE FOR 22 YEARS BUT THE SHENK NAME HUNG ON HER STOREFRONT LONG BEFORE BETH WAS BORN. IN FACT THE BUSINESS STRETCHES BACK TO ITS FOUNDER, BETH’S FATHER’S FATHER’S FATHER. 132 YEARS AGO, BACK IN 1876, A 29 YEAR OLD MAIMI AND ERIE CANAL WORKER NAMED SYLVERSTER SHENK OPENED A DRY GOODS STORE ON MAIN STREET. WHEN SYLVESTER DIED IN 1917 THE STORE PASSED DOWN TO HIS SEVEN SONS, BEGINNING A FAMILY BUSINESS TRADITION THAT WOULD LAST THROUGH 24 PRESIDENTS, TWO WORLD WARS, THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND EVERY OTHER HISTORIC EVENT GREAT AND SMALL. BETH SHENK GREW UP IN THE STORE.

Beth: As a child we used to like to play in the dressing rooms. And my father always had a pack of lifesavers in his drawer and that was something we always looked forward to.

BETH HAS A NOTEBOOK FULL OF STORE MEMORABELIA. THIS LETTER DATED 1917 IS FROM A PATRON ABOUT HER BILL. FOR FOUR GENERATIONS SHENK’S CLOTHED THE CITIZENS OF DELPHOS OHIO. IT SWITCHED TO BRIDAL FABRICS IN THE 1970’S AND IN ITS HEYDAY DID 300 WEDDINGS A YEAR DRAWING CUSTOMERS FROM A HUNDRED MILES AROUND. BUT THE 21ST CENTURY HAS BEEN TOUGH.

Beth: The last three years have been a struggle things have dropped off too quickly to find a way to make up those dollars.

BETH SAYS THE STORE SIMPLY CAN’T SURVIVE. LATER THIS YEAR SHENK’S WILL SHUT ITS DOORS FOR GOOD, CLOSING OUT A STORY THAT HAS SPANNED THREE CENTURIES.

Beth: There are things you think back and that that’ll never happen again. “And what’s it going to be like that last day when you close the door and lock it the last time?” I don’t want to think about it. I wish I had a few more years here it would have been nice.

ERIC OLSON REPORTING OUT IN YOUR COUNTRY.




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