For 65 years, Ames Stationers was the premier office supply store on Main Street. Items from typewriters and paper clips to cameras and greeting cards were available for home, office, and classroom. Who could ever forget their reliable Remington, Royal, and Smith-Corona typewriter brands or their classic Parker, Esterbrook and Scheaffer fountain pens? The origin of the business may be traced to Grove News, an early newsstand operated by E.T. Grove and located at the east end of Main Street. The Grove family provided early Ames with a number of prominent businessmen.
In 1912, the Grove store was sold to two business partners from Odebolt, Iowa, Charles Reynolds (1884-1953) and D.L. Iversen (1891-1970), who changed the store’s name to Ames News Stand. After two years, the business was relocated to the Woods Building at 238 Main Street and re-named “Reynolds and Iversen, Ames Newsstand.” Charles Reynolds began his business career in 1904 at the Iversen and Dinges general store in Odebolt. He was past president of the Ames Chamber of Commerce and also served on its board for six years. Mr. Reynolds also served on the boards of the Ames School District, Mary Greeley Hospital, and Ames Trust and Savings Bank. He was a 25-year member of Ames Rotary Club, and for many years had an interest in the Campus Drug Store.
D.L. (Devella Lloyd) Iversen was a founding member of the Ames Chamber of Commerce, and served on the board of the Ames Civil Service Commission. He was chair of the War Services Branch of the Ames Civilian Defense Council, and a continuous member of the Ames Rotary Club from 1921 until his death. In his church work, he served on boards and committees of the United Church of Christ (Congregational).
In 1914, Reynolds and Iversen expanded their operations to campustown where they opened the Student Supply Store in a building on Lincoln Way near the present US Bank. The store was moved in 1916 to a new building at 2424 Lincoln Way. Donald Ross, who came to work there in 1928, recalled how the store changed in the 1950s when self-service was initiated. Prior to that time, students handed clerks their class schedules, and textbooks were retrieved by staff. In 1955, Stevenson’s Fabric Shop vacated the old wooden building next door. After it was torn down, a new structure was built for book store expansion. Remodeling more than doubled the Student Supply space. Richard Ross, son of Don, joined the business in 1959 during a time when paperback books were flooding the market. He also witnessed the decline in sales of slide rules, the ever-present status symbol hung from the belts of engineering students.
Various partners were added through the years. Donald Ross was hired in 1925, Jack W. Hazlett in 1928, and Ray Van Meter in 1931. Reynolds and Iversen dissolved their partnership in 1938. As a result, Reynolds ended up owning the Student Supply Store and Iversen ended up with the downtown store. In 1945, Jack Hazlett and Ray Van Meter joined Iversen in ownership of the Main Street store which was renamed Ames Stationers. Marvin F. Miller started working in 1939 and joined the company as a partner in 1952. Iversen, Hazlett and Miller incorporated in 1956, but in 1966, the business was sold to Hazlett and Miller.
Ames Daily Tribune, August 16, 1954
Ames Stationers, 238 Main street, furnishes Ames trade area residents with 1,000 and 1 items for the home, office and classroom from cameras to Hallmark cards and typewriters to paper clips. Owned by the partnership of Iversen, Hazlett and Miller, the business has been in the same location here since 1918 and was known as Reynolds and Iversen until 1945.
Jack Hazlett, who is the managing partner of the firm, started in the business in 1928 and bought into the store when Reynolds gave up his interest. Marvin Miller, who had worked in the store since 1938, joined the firm as a partner in 1952 while the other partner, D.L. Iversen, is not active in the store.
Ames Stationers specializes in writing and typing materials, camera equipment, Hallmark cards, books, games and gift items. The store has a tremendous stock of hundreds of items in these departments. In 1953 the store was remodeled on the inside, following the remodeling of the store front the year before, and besides replacing fixtures and decoration the interior, the floor space was increased by 25 per cent and a balcony was added for the business offices.
Ames Stationers has a complete camera department, headed by Duane Scott since 1945, which features the top camera lines in the world, including Kodak, Leica, Argus, Bell and Howell and Graflex. This department handles everything needed by the camera fan from films of all types to projectors, enlargers, camera cases, lenses, movie cameras and equipment and many corresponding items such as film chemicals, darkroom equipment, flash bulbs and photographic paper.
Ames Stationers has the most complete selection of greeting cards in Ames with the famous Hallmark cards for every occasion and in a complete line of prices. The vast Hallmark section includes cards for everyday usage and for seasonal events from birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and thank you notes to special cards for each season and holiday.
In its fountain pen section, the store features the finest lines with complete stocks of Scheaffer, Parker and Esterbook pens. Ames Stationers has the entire new line of Scheaffer's snorkle pens in a price range from $7.50 to $27.50, as well as the regular scheaffer pens and Fineline ball-point pens. In its complete stock of Parker pens the store features the famous Parker 51 and 21 as well as the Parker Jotter ball-point. The store carried desk sets from both pen companies. The Esterbrook, which is in the popular price field, makes a perfect pen for school because the points are interchangeable for different types of writing. Esterbrook is the oldest steel-point pen manufacturer in the country.
In its extensive department of office supplies and typewriters, Ames Stationers features portable typewriters by Smith-Corona, Royal and Remington as well as adding machines and rebuilt typewriters. With these machines the store also handles office furniture and fixtures from Art Metal of Jamestown, N.Y., and Invincible companies, including desks, chairs, files, bookcases and desk lamps to mention only a few items.
Ames Stationers also carries books, games, stationery, school supplies and gift items to round out its wonderful stock of items for the homes, offices and classrooms of central Iowa.
The coming of Staples to Ames in 1998 provided another option for consumers seeking a ready source of office supplies. In the mid-Iowa merger mania of 1998, it was announced in August that ASI Office Experts had merged with Storey Kenworthy of Des Moines, the largest independent office furniture company in the state. After continuing the Main Street store until 2005, Storey Kenworthy moved to 424 South Bell Avenue in south-east Ames, thus ending a 93-year downtown office store presence.
Additional information about the history of Ames Stationers is available in the 2008 Winter issue of the Ames Historical Society newsletter.
Ames Stationers Fire
The Ames Fire Department is seen battling the 12-hour fire at Ames Stationers. The cause of the fire was apparently spontaneous combustion of a mop head saturated with an oil-based floor conditioner left to dry in the basement. Losses were estimated at $300,000 for the building and $200,000 for merchandise and equipment.
On the second floor the roof caved in, the walls buckled, and the six offices were totally burned out, while almost everything on the first floor was lost. Fortunately, all the checks, cash and bookkeeping records survived in a fire-proof safe, so billing went out on schedule. One customer even joked that he had hoped to get by without having to pay his November bill. Since the busiest shopping day of the year rapidly approaching, the timing of the fire added to the disaster. The business was temporarily relocated to 202 Main Street. Tom Evans, president and general manager since 1981, saw the building as having historic importance for Ames and felt that he owed it to the community to restore it. The Evans family purchased the building and hired Story Construction to remove the second floor and renovate the first floor. Construction work was accomplished quickly, enabling the store to reopen only seven months later.
FIRE GUTS DOWNTOWN STORE
By Finn Bullers and Michael Welton, Staff Writers - The Daily Tribune, November 23, 1987
Flames that began by dancing along the edge of a downtown business early this morning eventually destroyed it, casting a bright orange glow over Christmas decorations twinkling in the heart of Main Street.
Firefighters worked all morning to contain the blaze that gutted the Ames Stationers, 238 Main St., and six offices in the upstairs level. Damage to the building alone is estimated at $300,000. Damage to building contents has yet to be estimated.
With a pumper water cannon that shoots 1,000 gallons a minute and other hoses, three firetrucks and 28 men fought the fire that fed on ceiling tile and tar on the top level of the building, which had been remodeled several times. The roof fell in at 3 a.m. No one was in the building at the time. Front windows on the second-level upstairs offices had been broken to fight the fire. Workers were still shooting water on the blaze at 10 a.m. this morning, nearly 12 hours after the blaze was reported.
Firefighters, who were poised on top of Tallmon Jewelers, 236 Main St., prepared to fight a potentially spreading fire, said the blaze was under control by 4 a.m. A firewall between buildings prevented the flames from spreading.
A crowd of about 250 onlookers earlier in the evening dwindled to a handful as the wind picked up and temperatures dropped. The First National Bank temperature reported 34 degrees after midnight. Flames on the roof warmed the faces of the curious. A 70-foot firetruck ladder aimed a jet of water from above.
Liz Golden had an eye-level view of the blaze from her top-level fourth-floor Shldon-Munn apartment that sits across the street from the burning building. At 2 a.m. flames had taken over the entire roof. Street lights at the intersection continued to cycle through. Christmas decorations of red and green twinkled. Orange flames danced on the roof.
Fire officials notified storeowners to the east of the Ames Stationers. Youth and Shelter Services Director George Belitsos had five minutes to remove irreplaceable documents. Workers at Tallman's scurried to remove the store's jewelry inventory. Owners of Lazy M Shoe Store, 232 Main St., and the IIT Computer Warehouse, 230 Main St., carted out inventory through about 6 inches of standing water that came cascading down the stationer's stairs like a waterfall.
Owners of Durlam and Durlam Man's and Women's Clothing, 226 Main St., apparently were not affected by potential smoke damage. Tallmon's received smoke and water damage, but owners said they expected to be back in business Friday, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the season.
Smoke filtered to the east past Duff Avenue throughout the night. Volunteers brought hot drinks for exhausted firefighters, who had been on the scene since 10 p.m. Alarm bells signaling exhausted oxygen tanks rang throughout the night. Workers piled bright yellow tanks into the backs of pickup trucks and replenished air supplies needed by firefighters to battle the blaze. Water rained from machines.
The fire, which was first visible from the southeast corner of the building at 11:25 p.m., shot flames 10-15 feet in the air intermittently and left cinders floating down. Blasts of water would squelch the flames, only to have black puffs of dense smoke again signal another outburst of fire. The blaze would die, roar to life, die and shoot up again.
Smoke poured off the roof as firefighters shot water from Kellogg Avenue into second-story windows. Gas and electric utilities were turned off.
Ames Fire Chief Ralph Parks said this morning that the fire is believed to have started in the basement of the two-story structure and spread to the upstairs by way of a chimney passage. The cause of the blaze is not known, he said. Fire officials will be investigating. Parks, who has been with the Ames Fire Department for 18 years, said he cannot remember a fire of this magnitude on Main Street. In the late 1970s, a fire gutted what was called Gold's Veritable Quandry, the current home of That Place, 205 Main St. And in the mid-1970s Genuine John's Tavern, located on Kellogg Avenue, was totaled.
...The Ames Stationers alarm system alerted firefighters about 9:45 p.m. Sunday. At the time, dense black smoke with a pungent odor seeped through windows on the west side of the building facing Kellogg Avenue. Firefighters, who at times had five water hoses spraying at once, used fans to vent the smoke. Dry spots on the water-soaked building signaled hot spots.
City Manager Steve Schainker, along with fire Chief Parks and business owners, sipped coffee and watched the orange blaze early this morning. Water gushed out of the eight windows facing Kellogg Avenue at 4:30 a.m.
The owners of Tallmon's say they might have to have a "Our Prices Are So Hot Sale." They smiled and drank deeply from piping hot cups of coffee.
The Ames Trust & Savings Bank, later to become the First National Bank of Ames, was built on the southeast corner of Kellogg Avenue and Main Street and opened for business on December 6, 1913. The bank's first building was located on the same south side of Main to the east close to the Douglas Avenue corner. The firm was founded by Andrew James Graves in 1903, and was originally named the Ames Savings Bank. Here at its new location, it operated dually as under a national charter as the Ames National Bank and under a state charter as the Ames Trust & Savings Bank. Harris W. Stafford was president of the bank from 1915 until his death in 1942. He was succeeded by his son Clayton W. Stafford who was president from 1942 until 1961. His son, Robert W. Stafford was president from 1968 until his retirement in 1985, although he continued to serve as chairman of the board until 2004. The bank became First National in 1965, moving to new buildings on Fifth and Kellogg in 1942 and to Fifth and Burnett in 1971. This photograph shows a stairway on the side of the bank building (on Kellogg Avenue); it led to a tearoom which operated under the bank. After the bank moved from this building, the windows seen here on the first floor of the Kellogg side were bricked in.