Sale of the Ervin Company Store
Information published in Dusty Bits and Pieces of Blackford County History Volume II
Reprinted with permission by the
Blackford County Historical Society
Hartford City News
March 23, 1959
A business transaction of much interest to Hartford City and the entire Blackford County trading area was revealed during the week-end with the announcement by Howard G. Ervin of the sale of the Ervin Company store. The store, at the southwest corner of the courthouse square, was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Charles J. (Chuck) Webb of Hartford City.
Mr. Webb is the incumbent secretary-manager of the Hartford City Chamber of Commerce. He will continue in that capacity on a part time basis until a successor is appointed.
The sale of the Ervin Company store came almost on the 76th anniversary of its founding on April 26, 1883 by the late Frank Ervin, father of H.G. Ervin, and Wilmot Campbell. It is one of the oldest, as well as one of the leading business institutions in Blackford County.
Mr. and Mrs. Web assumed charge of the store on March 16th. They announced that they will continue its operation under the name Ervin’s.
“It will be our endeavor to continue the same high standards that marked the store’s operation under the Ervin ownership and management,” Mr. Webb stated. “We will offer to the public only high quality merchandise, including the finer type of dresses and women’s wear,” he said.
It was also announced that Mrs. Minta Fon Cannon will continue her millinery store on the rear mezzanine floor of the store.
With his retirement from active business, Mr. Ervin plans to enjoy a rest, and with Mrs. Ervin will possibly spend considerable time this summer at the Ervin cottage at Lake Douglas in Michigan. However, Mr. Ervin stressed, they will retain their permeant residence in Hartford City. Mr. Ervin has been active in the Chamber of Commerce and in the Retail Merchants Association. He has also been active in all civic affairs and will continue that interest. He is a member of the Masonic and Elks lodges and a life member of the First Presbyterian church. He served as a member of the board of trustees of the church for over twenty years.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Webb are widely and favorably known in Hartford City and thoughout the County. Mr. Webb has served as secretary-manager of the Chamber of Commerce for the past three years. He has been enthusiastic and tireless in his work. His decision to enter the business field is an expression of his confidence in the continued future growth of the city and the development of the community.
Mr. Webb formerly resided in Chicago. He attended the University of New Mexico and Wooster College, Wooster, Ohio, and received his B.A. Degree from Roosevelt College, Chicago. Prior to coming to Hartford City, he successfully set up the G. S. Furniture Company factory at Matthews, Indiana, serving as manager for two years, and later as sales manager for two years before coming to this city. He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank C. Webb, now residents of Hileah, Florida. His wife, Shirley, is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Michal of Chicago.
The Ervin Store is known by thousands over a wide area in this part of the state. After its founding in 1883, it was operated for many years as a department store. Frank L. Ervin and Mr. Campbell purchased the business from Joseph-VanCleve, one of the pioneer merchants of those rigorous days. Mr. VanCleve was the father of the late W.L. VanCleve, also a former prominent business man here.
After its beginning, the store was known as Campbell & Ervin. At its inception, the store occupied a room in the building formerly known as the VanCleve building, northwest corner of High and Washington Streets. It was continued there until 1892 when it was moved to its present location at the southwest corner of that intersection, the building being erected to meet the needs of a thriving business.
At first, only the east room of the present building was occupied, but as the city developed, the owners expanded the store to the entire first floor area. They established a large dry-goods and notions department, an extensive men’s wear and ladies ready-to-wear departments and a large shoe department.
In 1914, Mr. Campbell retired from active management in the store to move to Chicago. In 1917, he sold his interest in the firm to his partner of 34 years, F.L. Ervin and his son, Howard G., at which time the firm name was changed to the Ervin Company.
At the time of the founding of the store, Mr. Ervin was 24 years of age and Mr. Campbell was 22. Mr. Campbell died in 1923 and Mr. Ervin in 1931. It had been the latter’s desire to run the store for fifty years, but he missed the goal by two years. However, the son, Howard G., who had been associated with the business since early childhood, assumed full and active management, and the success which marked its earlier operation, was continued. He has been permanently and actively engaged in the store for 46 years.
The men’s wear department was closed out in 1917 during the World War | era, and the large shoe department was discontinued in 1941. The store was then remodeled into its present size.
Two present members of the store personnel have served over 40 years as clerks. They are Mrs. Edna Campbell Swift and sister, Miss Grace Campbell. Miss Nora Streib has been associated with the store for more than 20 years. Mr. Ervin paid tribute to them for their many years of loyal service.
Mr. Ervin was born in this City in the residence which he and his wife now occupy on East Washington Street. He is a graduate of the Hartford City High School and attended DePauw University. He has seen many civic changes over the intervening years, and had taken a personal delight in the City’s growth and progress. He has accepted leadership in many projects which have been stepping stones to this progress. His wife also has shared in these same pleasures.
Mr. and Mrs. Ervin also derive much pleasure from the three Ervin sons. They are Frank Ervin, a member of the accounting firm of Chilton and Davaerio, Akron, Ohio; Howard Ervin, Jr., sales manager of the appliance and equipment department of the Owens-Illinois Fibre Glass Company, Toledo, Ohio; and William Ervin, a member of the law firm of Peterson & Ervin, and former Blackford County prosecuting attorney.
“To Mr. and Mrs. Webb, both Mrs. Ervin and I extend best wishes for their success,” Mr. Ervin said.