Neikirk's leaving town

August 05, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - Breaking up with downtown Hagerstown is hard for Jamie Neikirk to do.

Certainly, it's an amicable split. For 61 years, Neikirk's of Hagerstown and its earlier versions have done well on West Franklin Street.

Neikirk figured he'd eventually scale back or retire from his home decorations business, but he didn't expect someday to arrive now.

Neikirk, 56, is selling the window treatment operations to Bill Eyler, who owns Space Crafters in Thurmont, Md., a custom closet company.


To expand his business along the Interstate 81 corridor, Eyler is opening a western division at Bowman Business Park near Williamsport. Jamie Neikirk will manage it.

The rest of the Neikirk's business, such as wall coverings and drapery, is for sale, but the store name isn't. Thus, Neikirk's of Hagerstown, as an entity, will be gone.

"It's like giving up a child," Jamie Neikirk said. "You nurtured this business. Telling my dad was one of the hardest things I had to do. I didn't need his approval, but I wanted it."

In 1945, William Neikirk, who's called Buzz, was just back from serving in World War II. He took a job at J. Ralph Fiery's new wallpaper and window shade shop.

Buzz Neikirk worked for Fiery for almost 20 years, then bought the business. He sold it to Jamie, his son, in 1981.

After years of long weeks and night hours, Jamie Neikirk said he and his wife, Joy, came up with a five-year "life change" plan.

Eyler, 57, lobbied Jamie Neikirk, his college roommate at Catawba College in North Carolina, to work with him.

They struck a deal in June. "And then I didn't sleep for a month," Neikirk said.

Actually, Eyler said, he acquired business sense, not just a business. "I bought Jamie's brain," he said. "It's his knowledge that's critical."

At his shop, Neikirk has sold Eyler's products for about 15 years.

The college friends hope to start the new operation near Williamsport next month.

For now, Neikirk is trying to sell the rest of his business and the building that houses it. He realizes that they might be sold separately.

The property includes 13 apartments.

The last day for Neikirk's of Hagerstown will be Friday.

While telling stories of 25-cent wallpaper rolls (compared to about $28 now), a friend who parked his Pierce-Arrow car near the store and give away yardsticks, and an era when downtown closed on Wednesdays, Buzz Neikirk said he's sad the shop will close, but proud of how his son built up the business.

"We gave good service," Buzz Neikirk, 90, said. "Our old customers kept coming back."

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