INDIANOLA, Iowa — As Sears announced bankruptcy and another round of closures across the country, their Iowa ties remain anchored into the ground quite literally. “This house probably came on a rail from Chicago,” said, John Hutchcroft who owned a Sears catalog kit home built in the 1920s in Indianola for 18 years. He did not realize it until he was about to sell it a year ago. “I kept running across numbers on nails with a large head on them and on the inside of floor joists,” said John.
From 1908 to 1940 the one time retail giant allowed people to buy their homes from a catalog. The numbers instructed buyers on how to install the home. John said, “Even if you were limited on reading blueprints, you could follow the numbers.”
Homes ranged in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Customers met their new home at the train station in pieces and got to work. “Most people probably did some extra things to the home. The homes were basically rectangular shape,” John said.
John isn’t alone in having once owned a Sears catalog home in town. He said, “I think there are eighteen homes in Indianola that are craftsmen homes.”
As one door closes on history and because of Sears shuttering the doors of less profitable stores for good, independently owned and operated Sears Hometown Stores, like Lee Mundus’ in Waukee, are busy reassuring people they will continue to open their doors to the future. “The calls have been non-stop. We just have to tell people we are not part of that news and we are going strong and we are here to stay,” Lee said.
Although the Sears name is going through tough times, their legacy continues to wave in past homes and current businesses in Iowa. Lee said, “It is huge. If I had to do Lee’s appliances or Lee’s tools, it wouldn’t have near the draw that Sears does. It’s an iconic name for 120 years or so.”
There are nine Sears Hometown Stores in the state of Iowa. The Sioux City Sears retail store is the last remaining of its kind in Iowa.