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At Sherman's, shopkeepers have gazed on 100 years of local history

An old photograph taken inside Sherman’s Sports and Army Store shortly after its opening in 1922 shows founder Louis Sherman on the left, an unidentified man in the center and A. Gold, Louis Sherman’s brother-in-law, on the right. An old photograph taken inside Sherman’s Sports and Army Store shortly after its opening in 1922 shows founder Louis Sherman on the left, an unidentified man in the center and A. Gold, Louis Sherman’s brother-in-law, on the right.

A smile spread across Becky Banadyga’s face and her husband, Rex, chuckled when the two recalled the time U.S. Secret Service agents plucked a dummy hand grenade from the showcase of their Main Street store.

The agents were preparing in 1992 for President George H. W. Bush to arrive in Hendersonville when they came across the suspicious ordnance.
“They wanted to make sure it wasn’t real,” Banadyga said as she and Rex grinned again at one another. The Secret Service inspected Banadyga’s store, Sherman’s Sports and Army Store, because of its location directly across Main Street from Henderson County’s Historic Courthouse. Bush spoke at the Historic Courthouse Plaza during the N.C. Apple Festival that year as he campaigned during what turned out to be his unsuccessful bid for re-election.
Sherman’s location has over the years give its proprietors a front-row view of Hendersonville’s civic history, including Bush’s visit and a visit years later from Hillary Clinton while she was campaigning for president. From the store’s front window, they also witnessed everything from wedding ceremonies on the courthouse plaza to Ku Klux Klan rallies on the street.
But this year, Sherman’s has made some history of its own as it celebrates 100 years in business.
Becky’s grandfather, Louis Sherman, opened the store carrying his name in 1922 on Main Street a short distance from where it operates today at 126 North Main Street.
In the early days, the store sold a variety of items. An early photograph shows luggage, men’s ties, shoes and an old-timey football helmet among other merchandise.
A framed 1936 receipt the Banadygas keep in the store shows the Kiwanis Club spent $3.60 for a bat and two balls.
“We had to send them a bill,” Rex said with another chuckle.
The old receipt also included the store’s motto: “Everything. That’s All.”

Father and son merge their stores

When Louis Sherman retired in the 1950s or early ’60s, his son, Kalman, took over the store that by that time featured sporting goods and until the 1990s hunting and fishing supplies.
Becky said boredom overtook her grandfather shortly after his retirement and he opened an Army surplus store down the street from the sporting goods store. The two stores later combined to make Sherman’s Sports and Army Store at its current location.
Shermans2 Becky and Rex Banadyga stand outside their Sherman’s Sports and Army Store at 126 N. Main St. The store is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year.The Banadygas took over from Becky’s parents in the early 2000s.
“By the time they were ready to retire, we had been here long enough. We didn’t know what else to do,” Rex said.
Some of the days spent in the store are forever etched in their memories.
In addition to the Secret Service agents inspecting a dummy hand grenade and snipers posted on the building’s roof during President Bush’s visit, the two also remember that agents required two young women living in an apartment upstairs from the store keep their windows covered. In exchange for the inconvenience, the agents took the women to the front of the crowd when the president spoke, Rex said.
When Hillary Clinton came to Main Street in 2008 while campaigning in the Democratic presidential primary, security officials again turned to their attention to Sherman’s.
This time they wanted to know how to get officers on the roof and whether they could bring Clinton out to the street through the store.
The Banadygas gave them a few ideas on how to access the roof but declined to have the candidate come through their store because it would have required shutting down for the day.
Like Bush, Clinton went on to lose her bid for president after visiting Hendersonville.
In the 1990s, a KKK demonstration outside the historic courthouse led to Sherman’s closing for the day because Hendersonville’s police department wanted to use the store as its command post.
Watching the Klan demonstrate just outside her store while the police monitored them from inside an interesting experience.
“It was fascinating to watch,” Becky said.
Like her father and grandfather, the current co-owner made it a mission to continue the store’s tradition of providing everything that might be useful to their many returning customers and tourists.
Sherman’s kept a supply of umbrellas in stock when the old courthouse was still used for judicial business — mostly for the attorneys who headed to court on rainy days without remembering one.
The store continues today to carry everything from rain gear to RBG- and Elvis-themed socks. Sherman’s has a selection of men’s and women’s shoes and clothing and T-shirts promoting Hendersonville. It also offers military-style mess kits, canteens and hats and patches featuring the United States’ military among other items.
The Banadygas also carried on the family tradition of running the business with small-town values and a commitment to their community.
They have been known to tell customers who are a little short on cash to take what they wanted to buy and “just bring the money when you think about it.” They also allow customers with mobility issues to have friends or family members shop for them and take clothing and shoes to their car for trying on.

50 years of Shoes & Socks

And for the last 50 years, Sherman’s has helped Henderson County’s public school system provide shoes for needy students.
The store offers fittings and shoes at a discounted price for students who principals and school counselors identify as needing help. The Kiwanis Club funds the Shoes & Socks program.
Another store in town offered the service before Sherman’s took over 50 years ago. The program came about after a former school superintendent attempted to find out why one boy came to school but his brother did not, Becky said.
“They only had one pair of shoes and only the one who came to school wore the shoes,” she said.
The Banadygas continued providing shoes after they took over the store because school children in Henderson County continue to need them.
“I grew up here,” Becky said. “This is southern Appalachia. This is not a high-income area. Lots of families here have limited incomes.”
Her father, Kalman, also created a fund through the Community Foundation in Henderson County to pay for planting trees in downtown Hendersonville. He opened the fund with $7,500 to celebrate the store’s 75th anniversary. Today, the fund includes as much as $50,000.
Her father’s interest in traditions in Israel and his interest in the outdoors led to the idea of providing trees downtown, Becky said.
“In Israel, they plant a lot of trees,” she said.
Louis and Rosena Sherman were one of the founding families of the Agudas Israel Congregation in Hendersonville. The synagogue is coincidentally also celebrating its centennial anniversary this year.
The Banadygas seem to be taking their store’s anniversary mostly in stride with little celebration other than holding a sale in the spring and offering some special give-away deals for customers.
“We’re kind of low-key people,” Rex said.
Their memories of customers and the unique events they have witnessed just outside their store over the years seem to be all the celebration they need.
The Banadygas, who are both in their 70s, said they have no plans to retire.
“It’s either this or do yard work,” Rex said when asked why they are not interested in retiring just yet. He then paused for a moment before speaking again. “That’s wrong. I think we really enjoy coming in, seeing our regular customers and meeting new ones.”
And they never know what history might unfold just beyond their front door.