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D. Reynolds celebrated 60 years in business last week.
The men's clothing store has been at the same location on South Bridge Street in Bedford since William Dawson Reynolds opened it on Nov. 14, 1947. It's a bit larger than it originally was.
"It was two separate stores when I came here," said Ruth Crouch, the store's manager. Crouch has been there since 1963 and has managed the store for the past 33 years.
Back in 1947, W. Dawson Reynolds' brother, Alex, opened a shoe store next door. A door connected the two businesses.
"They had a falling out and closed the doorway, " Crouch noted.
Eventually, in 1966, Alex Reynolds sold his business to his brother and W. Dawson Reynolds removed the wall making it one store. If you look at the century-old pressed metal ceiling, you can see where the wall was. Crouch can point it out to you.
W. Dawson Reynolds died of cancer in the '70s and Crouch ran the store during the last two years of his life when he was too ill to do it. Carl Wells and his wife, Dale, bought it in 1976. Wells, who was Mike Brown's immediate predecessor as county sheriff, explains why he bought it.
"If I got shot down in an election, I could come back here and go to work," he said.
Wells said that his purchase was conditioned on two points; that it would retain the D. Reynolds name and that Crouch would be the store's manager. Wells said that, at the time, he knew nothing about the men's clothing business, but Crouch did and she new how to manage the place.
"He came in and asked me if I'd run it if he bought it," she recalled.
Wells had long been a D. Reynolds customer. The store once took measurements for tailor-made suits and Crouch produced a receipt for one that was made for Wells in 1962. It included a $2 "oversize" charge. Wells said that he weighed around 270 pounds back then.
Crouch, now 70, was born in Pulaski and came to Bedford when she was in third grade when her father, Oakey Foutz, returned to his home town. When she was in high school, she had an after-school job with Updike & Stevens, a grocery store. Later, she worked locally for for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company until it transferred the operations of its Bedford office to Roanoke. Shortly after that, she ran into Reynolds.
"He said 'What are you doing these days'," Crouch recalled.
"Looking for a job," she replied.
"I may have one for you," Reynolds told her.
He called Crouch that night and asked her if she could come to work the next day. That next day was July 15, 1963.
"I've been here ever since," she said.
The business, of course, has changed since then. Crouch said that the most expensive suit in the store then cost $59.95. Hats were a standard accessory for men's suits and there was a shelf that ran the entire length of the store stocked with hats.
"Now, you hardly ever sell a hat," Crouch commented.
Crouch said that, back in the '60s, downtown was full of people on Friday nights and Saturdays. Alva Reynolds, W. Dawson Reynolds mother, was a frequent visitor.
"Mamaw was wonderful," commented Crouch, who was wearing a necklace that "Mamaw," as Alva Reynolds was known, gave her 40 years ago.
Alva Reynolds was born in 1892 and lived to be 100.
Wells has no intention of moving the store from its Centertown location.
"I wouldn't trade that back door for anything," Wells said, pointing to a door in the back of the store.
The door opens on a parking lot and people who park there use that door to take a shortcut through the store. This generates business. Wells said that one out of 10 people who take that shortcut buy something.
He wouldn't trade his store manager for anything, either.
"She's a jack of all trades and a master of most," Wells said.
Crouch's talent allows the store to offer alterations. Wells said that, if something doesn't fit, it will fit when Crouch finishes. He noted that her tailoring talent is good enough that she could actually make a suit if she had time.
Once, she outfitted the Smith Mountain Lake Harmeneers with matching outfits. She didn't make 27 custom matching suits, but she was able to handle the arrangements. She did make the pocket swatches that went in each coat pocket.
Another of her talents is that she knows her customers. Often she knows exactly what a customer wants, including the size.
Crouch recalls meeting a lady, the wife of a regular customer, at church.
"Ruth, you weren't supposed to be off Saturday," the lady said.
The lady had planned to surprise her husband with new shoes on his birthday.
"I came by and you weren't there to tell me what to buy and what size, " the woman said.
"You learn your customers," Crouch explained.
Another of her talents is baking. Wells said that she is known as the pie lady of Bedford. So far, she's made 949 pies this year.
"I started out doing them for Main Street United Methodist Church," she said.
Main Street is her home church and she bakes pies for the church's weekly summer bake sales. That led people to begin calling her for pie orders.
Along with its location, one other constant has remained the same about D. Reynolds ? the landlord. When W. Dawson Reynolds first opened for business 60 years ago, his landlord was John Byrne, a county resident. Byrne is still Wells' business landlord.