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.
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