Tales from Von’s: Don’t bury me ‘cause I’m not dead, yet
After riling fans of the eclectic shop near Purdue about possibly closing, Von’s owner assures things are fine. That didn’t stop an unspooling of memories and premature grief. Read some here
Thanks to sponsor Stuart & Branigin for support to help make this edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project possible.
In a cramped basement office, below the creaking floor joists of the record section up above and walled off from the low shelves of used biographies by a beaded curtain and hand-written signs that tell customers that this is for Von’s employees only, John von Erdmannsdorff leans back from a computer mouse riding on a stack of books and says he wishes he’d never posted that note over a tray of stones upstairs.
Fretting over increased theft of the loose stones and other items in the eclectic aisles and back room hideouts at Von’s Shops, von Erdsmannsdorff’s crew put a note over a tray of $3.98 stone mushrooms near the store’s jewelry counter, pleading with customers to “please don’t steal from this store:” “After 54 years, we are considering closing due to excessive theft.”
When reported in early March by the Purdue Exponent, a student-run newspaper, the prospect of Von’s packing it in had a fan base, old and new, unspooling their own memories and premature grief.
“I just can’t even … thinking about Purdue without Von’s,” says Gayle Pitlick, a customer who drives from Crawfordsville about once a month to wander the labyrinth of aisles. “Say it’s not so.”
(Check the stories of Von’s fans among Based in Lafayette readers below.)
Customers strapped on COVID-era masks – still required at 315 State St., a block off Purdue’s campus – to make last purchases and say what they figured might be final goodbyes. Resellers came with offers on merchandise von Erdmannsdorff might be ready to offload at closeout prices. And a real estate crowd redoubled efforts to bid on a property – one that not only houses Von’s but the iconic Harry’s Chocolate Shop that leases the west end of the block from von Erdmannsdorff – sandwiched between a land rush of downtown West Lafayette development geared for the Purdue market.
“I didn’t think it would get like this,” von Erdmannsdorff said from the relative calm behind the beaded curtain. “I said we were considering closing. Not actually doing it. … People thought it was a done deal.”