One store that became synonymous with the name Fortville was Heche’s five and dime variety store.
I have purposefully shied away from this subject because everyone has their own special memories of the store, the people, the soda fountain, purchases they made and so on, and I could not begin to shine a candle to those experiences.
However, I hope to enlighten those who never knew of Heche’s or were too young to know the whole history behind Heche’s.
The original founder of the store was Edward W. Heche. Edward Heche came across the pond with his father, Ernest, who had been a contractor in Bern, Switzerland.
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Once they settled in Bluffton, Indiana, father and son built homes, barns and other buildings with lumber cut straight out of forests. Edward earned $1 per day for his carpentry work with his father. He later used those skills to manufacture pianos at H.C. Bay Piano Co.
While in Bluffton, Edward met and married Clara Huffman. They had four children: Ivan, Paul, Joyce and Adrian. One day, two ladies from the Bluffton area were looking to sell a store they owned in Fortville. In 1924, at age 40, Edward leaped at the chance and moved his wife and four children to Fortville to open Heche’s variety store.
All of Edward Heche’s children helped run the store at some point with time to spare to begin other careers. Ivan traveled for MGM Studios in movie production. Adrian studied accounting at Butler University and tax law via the U.S. Treasury Department. He worked for the Internal Revenue Service from 1940 until 1942, when he was drafted into World War II and became a pilot for the U.S. Air Force. Adrian would remain in the Air Force Reserve for 10 years, achieving the rank of captain.
Joyce also went into accounting and worked at Fort Benjamin Harrison Finance and Accounting Center, later working and retiring from Naval Avionics. Paul, also a veteran of World War II, and his wife, Carolyn, moved to Skokie, Illinois, to pursue his career. Joyce Heche married Merle Fisher, Ivan married Virginia “Gino” Alford, and Adrian married Phyllis Anderson.
Edward Heche did not purchase the buildings across the street at 8-10 S. Main St., which would become the Heche’s store we would come to know and love, until August 1943.
To create the new store, two buildings were made into one. A paint store was in one building, and a pool room was in the other. A small two-lane bowling alley with a very low ceiling had occupied the basement area, with an outside staircase leading downward on the front side of the building. Prior to that, the buildings housed a Ford agency, a mortuary and a harness shop.
The new store took two years to remodel into the most modern building in Fortville for 1946. The basement/bowling alley was converted to a stock room. A freight elevator was installed to move heavier merchandise to the second floor. Modern lighting and new flooring were also installed. The cabinets and shelves were purchased from Kansas City, Missouri. The soda fountain was a Detroit, Michigan, model called a Bastion Blessing.
The store opened with candy, cosmetics and school supplies near the front of the store on the main floor. The soda fountain was not yet available on opening day but was soon installed on the right side of the store next to the candy area. Other departments on the main floor included: kitchenware, men’s and boys’ clothing, glass and pottery, electrical appliances, lamps, hardware, luggage and auto supplies. A separate section was devoted to paint and wallpaper. The second floor featured toys, books, games and Christmas supplies.
Adrian Heche came home from the war in 1946 just in time to help with the new store.