The End of an Era: Younkers Closes its Doors

DES MOINES, Iowa -- After 162 years of business, Younkers department store is closing its doors for the last time on Wednesday.

“The hard part was when you would come in and one department was gone and the racks were empty and the store got emptier and emptier. That was the sad part to see all this stuff go away,” Younkers Employee Peggy Nesbit said.

Nesbit worked at the Younkers Merle Hay location for 55 years. She got her start in the hosiery department.

“When they brought in the panty hose, they looked so funny back then. They brought in six of them and we would show them to the customers and they would laugh. They’d say, ‘We’re never going to wear those,’ but they ended up buying them,” Nesbit said.

She said she also worked in stationary, housewares and fragrances.

“When I started we had those old cash registers where you pumped them by hand and then it just kept growing and getting bigger. The French Room was downtown and things were different when I started,” Nesbit said.

Nesbit said the store used to have even more departments many years ago and even had a candy counter.

“They did sell furniture on the top floor also when I started and that surprised me. They had paint and furniture and then downstairs it was all hosiery and candy and fragrances and stuff like that,” Nesbit said.

She said both the store and the way people shop changed a lot over the years.

“I know a lot of people shop online but they don’t get the personal service you get when you walk in a department store. I know we tried to make everybody happy and give them what they wanted and have them come back again. It’s just hard to see department stores go,” Nesbit said.

She said her favorite part of working for Younkers was the people she worked with and putting a smile on the faces of customers she helped.

“Saturday was my last day and just one girl and I worked in the fragrance department, everybody else was off or gone. And it was kind of sad and then I ran into the manager and we talked and she wanted me to come to the breakfast and I said no I can’t do that. When I walked out I thought this is the end of an era and I was sad,” Nesbit said.

The Merle Hay, Valley West and Jordan Creek locations all closed Wednesday, August 29 at 5 p.m.