Many people who have lived for a while in Bloomington remember Hays Market at 6th and Morton streets. It wasn’t always a market, however, and the stone carving over the door provides a clue to its origins.
The first owner of the building was Lawrence Currie and his son, John. Lawrence Currie, whose name was sometimes spelled Curry, typically worked as a farmer. He followed this career path from his teen years in the 1870s when the family lived in Owen County well into adulthood when the household moved from Greene County to Bloomington. In 1900, the Currie family lived at the intersection of Morton and 6th streets in Bloomington. Lawrence made monuments and his son, John, age 23, was a stone cutter. They joined forces and opened a storefront, Currie & Son, in 1903 at the northwest corner of Morton & 6th. Someone, probably John, carved the company name in stone above the door.
Sometime between 1910 and 1920, the business collapsed. Lawrence continued to live at Morton and 6th streets, but went back to farming. John moved to Indianapolis and worked as a stock clerk in an auto factory. Afterward the store changed hands a number of times. For a while it was home to the Charles Cavaness Garage, one of the first garages in Bloomington. Unfortunately, due to the limited number of cars in the area at the time, the demand for garage work was small and, ultimately, Charles was forced to sell out.
In the meantime, James D. Hays, a resident of Clear Creek Township in Monroe County, owned and operated a market near Smithville. His grandson, Jerry Hays, recalled that his grandfather was a savvy businessman who didn’t wait for business to come to him. “He made sandwiches in the morning and took them to the quarries where workers bought them for their lunch.”
Later, sometime between 1945 and 1948, James moved his market from the Smithville area into the empty Currie & Son building. It quickly became known for its dairy products, fresh produce and mostly meat. “On Friday nights,” according to Jerry, “when people received their paycheck they used to wait in long lines to buy meat.”
In the evenings and on the weekends Jerry, who was then quite young, and his father, also named James, would drive around the country side to visit farms and dairies to purchase products for the store. “When we got back to the store we’d use this handheld device to check the eggs to see if there were embryos inside,” recalled Jerry. “If so, they were discarded.”
Sundays was the only day the store was closed. On that day James would visit his store to check on the equipment and determine that it was functioning properly. Often he was accompanied by Jerry who was told to help himself to whatever he wanted. “Quite literally” Jerry noted, “I was that kid in a candy store. But I liked meat, especially liked pickled bologna.”
Digging back into his memory, Jerry recalled that his grandfather’s office was located in the southeast corner on the second floor of the building above the door as pictured below. “At that time the only lighting upstairs were bare bulbs hung from a cord. The hallways were dimly lit with wide, worn floorboards. It was scary to a kid. When I had to go up there, I would run. On my seventh birthday, my father told me that my present was in grandfather’s office. I ran down there and discovered a bright, new bicycle.”
In 1973, at the age of 70, James passed away. His son, Paul Hays, then assumed management of the store. He was assisted by his sister, Mary (Hays) Douthitt. The other two siblings, including Jerry’s father, James, had no interest in the business. After Paul died in 1996, the business closed.
For a while the building sat empty. Then it was purchased by a number of different owners and occupied by a number of different businesses. Finally it was purchased by David Hays, the son of Jerry Hays and the great grandson of James D. Hays. His motivation was based partly on sentimental reasons and also because it seemed like a good investment. Space inside has since been remodeled to accommodate offices of various sizes and leased to a variety of businesses. Today the future seems quite bright for a building established more than a century ago at 6th and Morton.
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Post by Randi Richardson