It was in the fall 0f 192, that the WE JETT Mercantile Company opened in Anthony. The chain stores opened in Jan. of 1906, when P.H. Parmenter, Frank Parmenter, W.E. Jett, L.D. Farmer, Joe Farmer and Arthur Farmer purchased the mercantile store of John Starr. Jett's name was given to the venture, because of the prominence of Jett and Wood Wholesale Grocery in Wichita. The Farmer brothers operated the stores. By 1927, the brothers, along with other investors, had acquired stores in Anthony, Herrington, and Wellington in Kansas and Blackwell, Ponca City and Alva, Ok. They also acquired stores in Winfield and Kingman which were later sold to the Calvert dept chain. The store in Anthony was acquired with the purchase of the Firestone-Hoopes Mercantile business. The Farmer's had actively pursued this purchase. This was one of the largest transactions of the times involving around $60,000 in inventory. The business remained at the 117 W Main location where it occupied two rooms with the agreement that the leased building would receive a new modern front as good as can be found in any of the Kansas cities be installed. The Firestone-Hoopes team continued to operate the grocery department which was located in the west room of the building. The connecting door was sealed off in later years and the west room became the home to Coon's Appliances.
From the very beginning, the company philosophy was to shop the eastern markets, stocking the newest creations of merchandise to keep the store leading the procession in styles and quality. Jetts would be second to none in serving the Trade community. The Jetts management instilled in their workers that they were "One Big Family" working together to service their customers. Shopping in earlier times was quite different than these days. Customers often would make long journeys to town - sometimes by train - twice a year to outfit their families. Many were establishing households in new territory and needed goods to set up housekeeping. The competition was plentiful in early days with many competing dept. stores. Jetts carried clothing, furnishings, work clothing, family shoes, hosiery, notions, piece goods, wash goods, domestics, sport goods, chinaware, hardware, blankets, candies, toys, draperies, art department, millinery and something for everybody to wear! Merchants would all stay open on Saturday night, but it was a state law that female clerks could not work past 9 pm. Many events were carried out thru the store such as trunk showings of fine garments. The Hart Schaffner & Marx Men's suit line is just one example of this. In the late 1900's, the store had an orchestra that played on the balcony during the premiere of the new season's fashions.
Many people have fond memories of shopping Jetts. One of the first things they often recall is the baskets on trolley lines on the ceiling. This was the early day cash register - sales clerks would send the customers purchase in the basket up to the balcony area by a yank on the pulley cord. The office staff would then make out the ticket & wrap the purcahse with brown paper tied with string piror to the days of sacks. There was a leather pouch in the basket that transferred cash back & forth. As the years progressed and cash register systems were installed, the baskets became the way to send packages to the office for gift wrapping or to get change for the cash register. This system was discontinued in the 80's but the baskets remained as a reminder of prior years.
Although the Farmer family only leased the building, thru the years many modern conveniences were added. In 1931, a summer ad invited shoppers in to" Shop in Pleasure - store Cool & Comfortable with Fridgidaire Cooled Water & 10 Big Fans". On the occasion of Jetts 75th anniversary, Veda Coates Walker Crow wrote her memories of Jetts - "Do I remember Jetts, You Bet" - I came to Anthony in 1931 to work at the Galloway Hospital, not owning a car, I arrived by train. Not knowing the town, I took a taxi uptown, getting off at Jetts. How easily I could have walked. I left my meager belongings on a shelf in Jetts while I went to look for a room to rent. Finding one with a sweet maiden lady named Miss Durling. (Small world - this became the family home of the J.F. Eaton's in the 50's) Coming back to Jetts, I bought my uniforms and nurses shoes and thereby formed an attachment I still have with Jetts. Wages earned in those days were very meager. I mean really small....I found loving attendants working at Jetts. They had and still have the most beautiful clothes. The most sought after dresses were $14.95. Now, that seemed a lot. These dresses were up to date clothes everyone wanted. We girls, from the hospital, loved to browse & shop at Jetts. We could have a charge account and pay on it weekly or when we could. The clerks were happy & jolly with us and always quick to say "No, that dress is not for you if it did not look like it should. We trusted them. The relationship was more than trust, they were real friends.
It was because of clerks like Jetts "family of clerks",that the Jetts store has endured thru all kinds of economy. It was also noted that during the 30's, Jetts shortened WE Jett Mercantile in their ads to Jetts & promoted the business as the "Heart of Anthony".
It was in 1940 that J.E. Farmer died at the age of 56. After his death, his brother, L.D. Farmer, took over management of the Anthony store as well as the Alva store where L.D. lived. He died in 1941. Jetts had many department heads thru the years, but in the 40's, Mr. S.Jack Staples became the store manager and served in this capacity until his retirment in the early 70's. He was followed by Mr. Tom McKnight and then Mr. John Blagg, who both later operated their own stores. The stores were split off with heirs of the founding Farmers taking different locations.
After the departure of Mr. Blagg in June of 1982, Jef Farmer, son of J.E.Farmer, operated the store with the aid of his staff until the store was purchased in Sept. of 1982 by a young, local couple - Jim & Sherrie Eaton. There had been some concern about the Jetts business continuing in the town. The Eaton's realized how important Jetts business was to the heart of the town and did not want the business to close. Sherrie was already operating a businesss - Sherrie's Arts & Crafts in partnership with Dollie Mathes. The ladies had talked of adding fabric to their craft inventory and this seemed like a good opportunity to move the business into the Jetts business. Jim was working at Supreme Market , a local grocery store, at the time of the purchase but soon joined the businesss. Jim's sister - Mary Ronda, also came to work at Jetts and became a great asset to the business. In Nov. of '82, Dollie & Sherrie dissolved their partnership in the craft business as Dollie pursued having a family. Because the craft business was very one on one, it was felt that the buiness could be better operated as a seperate business. Therefore, the Eaton's sold the craft inventory & the fabric inventory to Ron & Judy Birchenough who established the "Calico Express". (They later sold this business to the Seipel's who renamed the business Sewing World). After selling the fabrics & craft departments, the Eaton's did extensive revamping of the store that did away with case fixtures and brought the merchandise out in a more modern free standing fixtures. The business remained at the leased location until 2001. In January of that year, a small electrical fire presented the opportunity to move to a more modern building at 102 W Main - built in 1963 as Olmstead Drug. After the move, inventory was adjusted to offer ladies & children's clothing - shoes - accessories. The independent Merle Norman* Cosmetic studio that was added to the buiness in 1997 was also moved to this location. Methods of doing business have changed considerably since 1912, but the basic philosphy of being the fashion leader in this area & offering the customer the service and quality of merchandise they desire remains as the backbone of the business. The store continues with the aid of the excellant staff that still gives the kind of service the company was founded on.
The Jetts store in Anthony is the only remaining store still in existence from a chain that the Farmer family once operated. The last store owned by the Farmer family closed in Pratt in 1985. The Eaton's also had Jetts stores at Lyons and Kingman, Kansas.