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Archive for Friday, April 2, 1999

S STORE SURVIVES FIREWARS

April 2, 1999

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Lawrence boasts the oldest department store west of the Mississippi River, and it's in the heart of downtown.

Though Weaver's Department Store Inc. is a private corporate operation, there is still a sense of family surrounding the oldest department store west of the Mississippi River.

The store, originally known as the Bullene and Read store when it opened in 1857, later became the L. Bullene and Company, according to the store's history. John Petersen wrote "The Weaver Store in Lawrence 1857-1992." A.D. Weaver changed the name of the store in 1886 after he bought it.

Originally known as the L. Bullene and Company, the store became Weaver's after A.D. Weaver bought the store in 1886. The store opened at 741 Mass., but moved to its present location at Ninth and Massachusetts in 1929. The store has survived Quantrill's Raid, a fire, wars and the Depression.

Joe Flannery, president, said most of the corporation's shareholders live in Kansas. And the Flannery families do own stock in the company.

Joe Flannery might not be

See Weaver's, page 8E

working at Weaver's if it weren't for his father, Larry Flannery.

In 1950, Larry Flannery moved his family to Lawrence so he could take a job managing the store for the Weaver family.

Larry Flannery was an acquaintance of the Weaver family. He was working at the J.M. McDonald Co., based in Hasting, Neb., which used the same New York buying office as Weaver's.

Larry Flannery was considering a move to New York to become a resident buyer for McDonald, but Weaver's needed a general manager.

He chose Lawrence because he thought it was better-suited to having a family, Joe Flannery said.

After Joe Flannery graduated from Kansas University in 1972, he started working at Weaver's as an assistant buyer -- although his degree was in journalism.

"I didn't have any intentions to join Weaver's because I didn't think there was a position, but my father asked me to have a cup of coffee with him one day. He said, 'What do you think about trying Weavers for a couple of years to see how you would like it,'" Joe Flannery said.

Joe decided to give it a try, and he's been there ever since.

"I had a great working relationship with my father," he said.

Larry Flannery died in 1987, and his son was selected to be the next president.

The Flannery family has always been involved in the community. Larry Flannery was active with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, the Lawrence Public Library Board, and the development of downtown Lawrence. Joe Flannery says his father also was instrumental in St. John's School. And he was one of the founders of the annual downtown sidewalk sale. He was also an avid supporter of KU.

Despite his law degree from the University of Nebraska, Larry Flannery chose a career in retail.

Like his father, Joe Flannery has participated in numerous boards and projects including the chamber of commerce's board of directors, St. John's school council, the Friends of the Theater, Douglas County AIDS Project, the West Junior High Site Council, Corpus Cristi parish. He has served on boards for the American Red Cross, the Shelter Inc., Junior Achievement and Downtown Lawrence Inc.

"I think whenever you have the opportunity to live in a wonderful community such as Lawrence, you should volunteer whenever possible to help it continue to be a special place," Flannery said.

Although the Flannery family has contributed a special touch to Weaver's, the store's lengthy history features the efforts of other families, as well.

A 1997 Journal-World article quotes Steve Jansen, director of Watkins Community Museum of History, on Weaver's Department Store.

"The store is an example of the kind of commitment that business owners have had to Lawrence," he said. "The loyalty that people have had to Weaver's in the last 25 to 30 years speaks volumes for the store."

-- Regina Cassell's phone message number is 832-7189. Her e-mail address is rcassell@ljworld.com.

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