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Remembering the Star Department Store

POSTED: August 1, 2013 8:39 p.m.
Photo provided/

From the days of the old Star Department Store, are, left to right, Myrtie W. Exley, Solomon Neuman, Don Exley, Libby A. Heidt and Ruby W. Exley.

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The Star Department Store was located on the northeast corner of Laurel and First streets in Springfield. It opened for business in 1955. This store is empty today, having recently housed a dry cleaning business and a short-lived antique shop over the last few years.


The building had been a drug store operated by Robert Franklin Ingram and his wife Edna. He died in 1944. Sometime after this, J. W. (Jimmy) Exley operated City Grocery in the building for about four years.


My father, Arthur Exley, ran the grocery store for the last two years it operated. Some of the dry goods purchased for the store came from Sol Neuman, a Savannah wholesale agent.


After the City Grocery closed, J.W. Exley and later his son rented the building to different businesses through the years. His grandsons inherited the property.


Neuman and Philip Kaplan were wholesale salesmen in a business owned by their father-in-law in Savannah. They traveled and sold dry goods throughout the area to stores. They wanted to open a retail store in Springfield and in 1955, they rented the Exley-owned store building and opened under the name Star Department Store.


Neuman and Kaplan hired Myrtie W. Exley to manage the store. My father built several display tables for merchandise in the store. The front of the store had a display window featuring the latest styles in fashion.


Myrtie hired others to work, including Willie Mae Arnsdorff, Clara Freyermuth, Lola Lancaster, Doris Wilson and Gladys Bragg. Seasonal/weekend employees to wrap gifts and help as needed in the store included Louise Exley (Riner), Deetie Exley (Rahn) and Vance Bevill.


A full line of clothing was available for men, women and children. Shoes for all ages were sold. Linens including sheets, towels and table cloths were offered. Pre-cut lengths of fabric in a variety of patterns to make dresses or clothing were also among the merchandise at the Star. Sewing notions including buttons, bindings, zippers, all kind of trim and thread were available.


Some of the brand names that the store carried include: Bass Shoes, Keds, Her Majesty, Caroline, Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, Katz, Buster Brown, Dan River, Bobbie Brooks, Donkenny, Vanity Fair, Jantzen and Movie Star.


The accompanying photo includes the manager Myrtie Exley, co-owner Sol Neuman, Ruby Exley and her grandson Don Exley and a customer, Libby Heidt. Ruby and Myrtie are sisters.


My memory brings me back to a few items that I enjoyed from the store. I had a red and brown fall plaid dress that my grandmother Hinely bought for me with little tufts of thread in the seersucker-like fabric. That dress is what I wore in one of my grade school pictures.


I also had a pair of simulated lizard skin cream-colored flat dress shoes and socks that I wore in a 4-H competition dress revue at Rock Eagle with a dress I had made.


Myrtie retired after 27 years in 1982 when the two owners decided that they would both retire.


Practically everyone was clothed from the Star. Even if your mother made your clothes, you probably got underwear and shoes there or perhaps a swimsuit. Fashions from the Star Department Store can still be seen in many long-time citizens’ photographs for nearly three decades in Effingham County.


This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. Information came from Myrtie and Arthur Exley. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: susanexley@historiceffinghamsociety.org.

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