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Hertler Brothers, 1899/1912

Hertler Brothers, 1899/1912 image

210 South Ashley Street

Hertler Brothers, Downtown Home & Garden, 1899/1912

Back when the horse was king of the road, Ashley Street was lined with blacksmith shops, feed barns, and livery stables. Farmers drove into town on Saturdays and took their hungry horses to barns like Hertler's where horses were fed for ten cents a day. The old drive-through barn, built in 1912 of rock-faced brick and covered with brick veneer in the 1920s, still stands today as does the original store next door. With its creaking wooden floors, its ladders sliding along the shelving, and its barrels full of bird seed, Hertler's has the atmosphere of a turn-of-the century country store. Emma, the house cat, completes the scene.

Hertler Brothers was organized in 1906 when brothers Gottlob, George, and Herman Hertler purchased George Mann's horse barn. They set up their sister, Emma, as bookkeeper (older customers can remember her pecking away at her manual typewriter well into the 1970s). In addition to handling horses and boarding livestock, Hertler's also sold farm machinery, feed, and seed.

An elaborate system of chutes from the basement to the second floor simplified the sale of bulk seed. "An endless elevator of cups mounted on a pair of chains moved the seed up to the second floor where it was directed into a bin. The sales person on the first floor had only to pull a string to the appropriate bin and fill a bag."

Since the 1970s the store has successfully managed to make the transition from farm to garden and from rural to urban. Seed now takes precedence over feed and the former horse barn now accommodates lawn furniture and wood stoves as well as an impressive selection of flower bulbs and gardening supplies.

In 1976 Hertler's received an award from the Ann Arbor Bicentennial Commission as "an excellent example of intelligence and taste in successfully preserving not only a building but a business that continues a tradition of earlier merchandising methods."

Rights Held By
Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.