For 125 years, L.H. Sturm and his descendants have been operating a hardware store on The Square. The building remains a showplace of late-19th century commercial architecture, vintage merchandise and stories associated with being one of the oldest hardware stores in Indiana.
Story by Bill Powell | Photos by Sarah Ann Jump
L. H. Sturm Hardware in 1912. Photo provided.
There might not be flux capacitors for sale on the floor-to-ceiling shelving at L.H. Sturm Hardware Store, but any customer opening the screen door might feel zapped “Back to the Future” by one.
One family photograph near the entrance shows gentlemen at the counter in the Roaring 20s, while another from 1912, the year the Titanic went down, features ax handles in a wooden holder.
Now look around and see that so much of what was in those pictures is still there. Those same counters, glass display cases and holders. The worn wooden floor. The spiral staircase. Even the rolling ladder hooked into a track up by tin crown molding.
Customers should expect nothing less from one of the state’s oldest hardware stores and the oldest continuously-operated commercial retail business in Jasper. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Third-generation owner Sharon (Sturm) Messmer and her husband, Bernie, at Sturm Hardware.
Look for the proprietors — Bernie Messmer, 81, and his wife, the former Sharon Sturm, 79 — to be at City Hall soon for the reading of a proclamation honoring the family that has now operated the hardware store on the Square for 125 years.
The three-story brick building at 516 Main St. was reported to be the tallest commercial building in the city when it opened in 1886. Joseph Friedman had it constructed and then sold it in 1895 to John Lorey and Louis H. Sturm, the latter of whom was the husband of Friedman’s great-niece Julia.
L.H. and Julia then became the sole owners, eventually passing the store to their three children: Hugo Sturm (who died in 1988), Elsie Sturm (who died in 1979) and Carl Sturm (Sharon’s father, who died in 1956 when she was just 15 years old).
“I started coming here when I was little, when I could cross the street,” says Sharon, who grew up on Fifth Street.
Sharon’s Uncle Hugo and Aunt Elsie kept the store going after her father died. When Hugo suffered a stroke in the early 1980s, Sharon took it over.
Bernie, a Navy veteran who married Sharon 46 years ago, joined his wife at the store in 1995 when he retired from Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center.
“I tell people she keeps me off the streets and out of taverns,” he says.