Jetts Department store is an anomaly, defying small-town expectations and serving as a Main Street anchor in this Harper County town for 105 years.
Loyal customers keep it going, said owner Sherrie Eaton. But loyal customers say it is Eaton’s business savvy that has kept Jetts relevant for the past three decades.
Up until the mid-20th century, every town of substance boasted at least one – if not two – department stores. Hutchinson had Wiley’s and Pegues. Great Bend had a Wiley’s that later became a J.C. Penney. Dodge City had Eckles. Wichita had Innes, Bucks, Walker Bros., Hinkles and Henry’s.
But by the 1970s, as malls began to be built across the nation, these longtime anchors of Main Street and downtown began to struggle. Shoppers turned to the specialty stores in malls. And in many cases, those malls had their own department stores: Dillard’s, Sears, Penney, Nordstrom and Macy’s.
For many Kansas department stores, the farm crisis of the 1980s also served as a death knell as expendable cash became tighter. Super stores and box stores replaced the Main Street mainstays.
(Read more: Wichita Eagle)