In 1886, Harry Stout and William Bristor established Harry Stout & company, a boot and shoe store at 318 Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis. In a time of hand cobbled shoes an off the shelf shoe store was a new concept. Stout's father, Benjamin, who died is 1875, ran a grocery and dry goods business. Harry's widowed mother, Elizabeth, supposedly ran the growing business while he finished his engineering degree at Purdue. Edward Stout ,Harry's brother, replaced Bristor as partner in 1891. Harry Stout attracted customers by selling name-brand shoes at a discount, and by stocking a wide variety of sizes and widths.
slide show here
Stout's had 4 locations by 1900, and the Massachusetts Avenue location was fitted with a Baldwin Flyer system of wire baskets attached to wires and pulleys. In the early 20th century, each salesperson hand wrapped all items purchased in the store. The Baldwin Flyer system was intended to centralize the wrapping process. After the salesperson rang up the purchase it was placed with the money in a basket, which was lifted to the mezzanine to be wrapped and have change made. The wrapped shoes were sent in another basket to the front desk where an attendant would hand the shoes and change to the customer. On a busy Saturday in addition to the salesperson, two "wrappers", a cashier and a front desk attendant were required to run the system.
Harry Stout died in 1912 at which time his brother Edward assumed full control of the business. Harry's three sons Oliver, Sidney and Dick fought in World War I. Dick was awarded the French Croix De Guerre for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire. After Dick Stout's death in a airplane accident, Stout Field in Indianapolis was named in his honor.
In the early 20th century Stout's operated under different names at different locations all in downtown Indianapolis. A bicycle delivery boy shuttled stock between stores. Three stores closed during the Great Depression, and the original store survived. After Oliver and Sidney returned from World War II, Edward Stout retired and the two brothers along with Oliver's son Harry, ran the business. In addition to helping run the shoes business ,Oliver assisted in founding The Indiana Air National Guard and served as its first commanding general.
During the 1950s Stout's continued to boast a wide selection of sizes and widths. Business thrived by buying factory seconds shoes and repairing them to be sold at a discount to the customer. In addition to the foot x ray machine, Sidney kept in the store a monkey and a parrot. Sidney died in 1967 leaving Oliver and his son Harry to run the store. In the sixties, the city grew outward. New shopping malls sprouted in the suburbs as the downtown area was left to decay. The once vibrant shopping area of Massachusetts Avenue was replaced by run down store fronts and the homeless. Except Stout's. Stout's continued to thrive and operated in much the same way it had in the early part of the century. In 1972, Oliver died and Harry was left to run the store by himself.
In 1982 Harry's son Brad joined the business. Harry started the revival of Massachusetts Avenue in 1984 when he renovated a small building next to Stout's. The following year, Harry continued the revival by renovating the façsade of Stout's shoes.
Stout's began to expand in the 1980s opening the Carmel store in 1985, and a Greenwood branch in 1991. In 1999 the Greenwood store was converted to a New Balance athletic store Owned by Stout's. Stephanie Stout, Brad's wife, joined the company in 2001 and together they opened the Brownsburg store in 2002.
As business for the independent shoe retailer has changed over the years , Stout's has evolved into a mecca of high-end quality footwear accompanied by an environment of full service custom fitting. Each customer is still individually measured and fit according to what they are looking for. We offer a wide range of sizes and an abundant selection of quality footwear.
Source: Indiana Historical Society and Stout family.