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William Haerle did not allow any inferior goods into his store. He sold only the best, for the best families in Indianapolis. Haerle's place of business began in the old Griffith block (on the north side of Washington Street and east of Illinois Street), where it was established in 1862.
Later the store was relocated to 4 West Washington Street. The store had twelve sales men to wait on customers. Its stock included ladies' and children's underwear, corsets, hosiery, gloves, hander chiefs, silk umbrellas and parasols, ribbons, embroidery, real and imitation laces, buttons, dress trimmings, braids, bindings, notions, silk, cotton, toys and various other items. Haerle gained his experience in the clothing business when he worked for Charles Mayer & Co.
Indianapolis Illustrated: The Capital City of Indianapolis. Indianapolis: Consolidated Publishing, 1893.
Indianapolis News, November 25, 1905. p. 3 c. 4.
Established in 1840, Charles Mayer & Co. was one of the largest-five stories high-and finest stores in Indianapolis. The store, located at 29 and 31 West Washington Street, had a large variety of merchandise that included toys, fancy goods, fancy china and glassware, photo albums, scrapbooks, hardware and cutlery, musical goods, smokers' articles, clocks and fireworks among many other things. The company imported from Europe and also retailed in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Charles Mayer & Co. Illustrated Catalogue, 1896.
WHEN? in large letters was all that people of Indianapolis saw in the windows of a building located at 30-40 North Pennsylvania Street for several months. In order to pique the public's interest, before the clothing store opened in 1885, owner John T. Brush, initiated a teaser campaign. For several months he advertised in the newspaper the store's arrival by simply printing the word "When" in full page ads in large block letters.
He then went on to print "Where," and had plans to print "What", which he never used. At some point during the advertising campaign he added "When" to the windows of the store. By the time the store opened, "When" stuck. The public did not like any other name chosen, so Brush named his new clothing store, "When Store."
When Store was not only a source for clothes, but as the store grew it also became a source for entertainment. One citizen of Indianapolis remembered in the1890s a band performed every Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. on the top of the entrance of the When Store. Many of the 90 band members were also sales clerks in the store during the day. The concerts brought many people to town. As a result several of the other stores remained open to take advantage of the crowd. One drawback was that people had to walk home because the streetcars stopped running at 10 p.m. In the 1940s C. S. Ober became the new owner of the building. He chose to rename the building the Ober Building, yet to many people in Indianapolis (especially the older ones) it remained the When building.
Hyman's Handbook of Indianapolis. Indianapolis: M.R. Hyman, Comp., 1897.
Indianapolis Star, June 13, 1946, p 15 c2.
Indianapolis Times, August 8, 1947, p. 16.