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Doors close on one of Kansas’ last small-town department stores

By Beccy Tanner - www.kansas.com

The Harper County department store that for more than a century defied Main Street trends and continued to be a stronghold in customer loyalty, good taste and savvy fashions is closing its doors for the last time.
Jetts Department Store in Anthony will no longer exist after Sept. 30.
“I was very shocked but I have said forever that when God is ready for me to retire, he would send me a message,” owner Sherrie Eaton, 67, said in a phone interview last week. “He sent me a young man with roots in this community who walked through the door and said ‘I want to buy your building.’ ”
The Anthony building that anchors the town’s Main Street will soon be the Squash Blossom Boutique. The new store will be operated by Maria Gates, Katie Carothers and Caitlyn Henderson.
“This is the next generation coming along to see the continued success of Main Street Anthony,” Eaton wrote in an e-mail to her customers announcing her decision to close.
She told The Eagle: “When God gives you that big of a message, he means for you to be gone.”
The making of Jetts
In 1912, the W.E. Jett Mercantile Co. in Anthony opened on Main Street. At the time, it was part of a chain of department stores owned by P.H. Parmenter, Frank Parmenter, W.E. Jett, L.D. Farmer, Joe Farmer and Arthur Farmer. The Farmer brothers operated the stores, but the stores were named after Jett and Wood Wholesale Grocery in Wichita.
The first stores opened in 1906 and were centered in the Greensburg and Pratt area. At one time, there was a string of Jetts stores in other Kansas and Oklahoma communities: Herington, Wellington, Kingman, Blackwell, Ponco City and Alva.
The Jetts store in Anthony was the last one still open.
Large department stores once decorated Main Streets across America, but in the 1960s and 1970s gave way as malls were built; then, still more fell by the wayside in more recent years as internet shopping has gained popularity.
What’s next?
Eaton said the store will continue to honor gift certificates and store credits for the next six weeks. The store is having a clearance sale along with new fall arrivals.
“The Squash Blossom Boutique will have a new spin on fashion,” Eaton told her customers in the e-mail. “At this time, they only plan to carry a few of our lines — Born shoes, Silver jeans/capris, UnderArmour Kids and Oofos. They also will continue with tux rental.”
Gwen Warner, director of Anthony Chamber of Commerce, said the community will feel the loss of the department store but is grateful a fashion shop will still remain in the small town.
“I’m grateful we won’t have an empty store,” Warner said.
But she won’t miss Eaton, she jokingly said.
“I will miss her down at Jetts but she is my sister-in-law and lives just a block away,” Warner said. “Sherrie has always been a big promoter of this town. She still is the best cheerleader and will continue to do things involved in the community. She will be the backbone of different things.”
Eaton said this next step is all about her faith.
God, she said, arranged for she and her husband to buy the store in the early 1980s, and when the store suffered an electrical fire in 2001 she credited her

 

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