Ayers’ Hardware, as it is known to locals, was established by John W. Ayers, a World War II veteran from Georgia. He relocated to the Washington area while working for Woolworth’s in 1924, but opened up J. W. Ayers Five and Ten Cents Store in 1948. Ayers was known as the Mayor of Westover, handing out candy to neighborhood children, providing materials to classrooms in nearby elementary and middle schools, and becoming active in several civic groups in Arlington such as the Kiwanis Club and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. He was active in the community by working for sidewalks and streetlights, and overseeing the Westover Christmas tree, Halloween dances and “Westover Days.” Ayers was a lynchpin of the community even after he turned over the store to his 32 employees in a profit-sharing plan in 1968.
Many were worried when Ayers died in 1976 that the store would disappear and the community spirit of Westover would fade. However, the Kaplan family bought Ayers Variety & Hardware in 1977 from the Ayers estate and has continued to stock it’s shelves with quirky and practical items at good prices. It still serves as an anchor for the small stretch of stores on Washington Boulevard near Walter Reed school, and is a distinctive part of the Arlington business landscape.
What About You?
What do you remember about J. W. Ayers or his store? Let us hear from you!
Betty Gehrett Rye says
I was hired to work for Mr. Ayers at Ayers 5 & 10 when I was 15 years old – had to get a work permit. Marion was my supervisor and taught me about a honest days work. Mr. Ayers would hand out Tootsie Pops to every kid who came through the door. When I graduated from High School and got married Mr. Ayers gave me a beautiful set of luggage and let me pick out like $300 worth of merchandise – things for my kitchen which I needed (some of which I still have and use). He was an active deacon in the Westover Baptist Church. My mother worked for Mr. Ayers part time and so did my aunt – so it was family tradition. Mr. Ayers trained me on making Easter baskets and every year he would request me to make lots and lots of easter baskets. Good memories!
Paul Herman Hicks says
As a only child had trouble making and keeping friends, Mr. Ayers always made my day, as went there often when a child. Will never forget one of my friends stole from there, we were mostly little hoodlums and we got in a fight and I took the hot wheels car back to Mr. Ayers store – could of been the most Noble thing I ever did!!!!!!!!!!
Chuck Berlin says
My Schwinn Continental ten speed and I toured all over Arlington in the early 1970s. J. W. Ayers Five and Ten and the Cherrydale Hardware store were two of the many neighborhood hardware and variety shops. Don’t remember meeting Mr. Ayers, yet do recall courteous staff and an abundance of products.
Arlington Hardware, Community Hardware, Brown’s in Falls Church to name a few more. Variety or drug stores were fun,each with their own style, stock and smiles.