Polly Adams

Ruby Pauline “Polly” Adams, who was a fixture as she worked in her downtown family business, The Adams Store, for 80 years, died Sunday afternoon at Greencroft.

Polly, who turned 100 in September, began working at age 12 in the store that was started by her grandfather in 1898 along Main Street. She worked more than 40 years with her father before taking over the business in 1971. The retail business was known for its wide variety of clothing and jewelry, some of which was from fashions popular years earlier.

She closed the business in 1997 and she and her one employee, Barb Troyer, eventualy moved to Greencroft. Troyer now lives in Manor IV.

Paul Schlobohm, who was manager of the Kline’s department store in the 1970s and 1980s, said that after the Klines store burned in 1977 and he announced plans to open a temporary location, Polly called him to offer him help.

“My first call was from Polly Adams, at home, calling to tell me she had a lot of display pieces and hangers on her second story and I could come get anything I needed,” Schlobohm remembered Monday.

“I came here in 1975. She was bright as a penny,” he said.

“She was supportive of the Chamber of Commerce” and downtown retail activities, Schlobohm said. “She was one of the first to pay her bills” for contributions to projects, including the first lighting project atop downtown buildings.

“She was a grand lady,” he said of Polly.

Shoppers learned that old fashions were still available in the timeless store.

Schlobohm explained that in the late 1970s, the Jaycees planned a fund-raiser musical program at the Goshen Theater and one of the characters was to portray Charlie Chaplin. Schlobohm directed that actor to go to The Adams Store to find a celluloid collar for his collarless dress shirt.

When the actor asked Polly if she had any collars, she asked “What size?” and then produced a box of 15-inch collars.

“They were last made by Arrow in 1920 or ’21 and priced like they were then, for $1.65 or $1.70,” Schlobohm explained.

“I worked with her for 30 to 35 years,” said Rosealene Long, owner of Collection Services of Goshen.

“We were in the Business and Professional Womens group together. She was almost a charter member,” Long said.

“She was a very kind, compassionate person,” Long recalled. “She was so kind, and helped customers find Camp Fire things. She was always able to find about anything the customer needed.”

“That was a personal trait of hers — to find things” and take care of her customers, Long said Monday, upon learning of the death of Adams.

The old-fashioned store was unchanged from decades ago. “You thought you were in an ancient place,” Long said.

Long said Polly and her father, Herbert “Stacy” Adams, worked together for many years. They were complementary and worked well together. Polly was the third generation of Adams to run the business, which was started by her grandfather, Charles G. Adams. He bought the building at 124 S. Main St. in 1898 and started a men’s clothing business.

Long remembered that Polly would cross Main Street in the middle of the block to go to the Plain and Fancy restaurant.

“She was always dressed perfectly, wearing a hat and gloves. Now we go out bare-headed,” Long said. “You don’t find them like that anymore.”

Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman, who worked in the News Bookstore and in the office equipment business, remembered that in those years, it was his job to install a new ribbon in Polly’s Victor adding machine.

“She was the last person in town using an adding machine, rather than a calculator. I tried to sell her a calculator, but she didn’t want anything that could multiply and divide,” Kauffman said.

“There was a strange mix of stuff in the store. She had ladies gloves to the elbow. I bought a felt hat (at the store) once,” Kauffman said. “She was a legend.”

“She was a fixture on Main Street. I remember her crossing the street and stopping traffic with her umbrella” as she went to the Plain and Fancy for lunch, Kauffman recalled. “I knew her when I was in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorers, because she had all those supplies, in the back corner of the store.”

“It was like stepping back in history when you went in that store,” said David Newell, retired owner of Newell’s dress shop, another three-generation downtown business.

“It was always fun going into the store” and reminiscing, Newell said. “She was a good member of the downtown merchants group. When we would go in to sell her on a promotion or a group ad, she always kicked in. Her heart was in the right place.”

Services for Adams are set Wednesday at Yoder-Culp Funeral Home. An obituary appears on page A-5 in today’s newspaper.

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