Sherman's in Newland to close

Article Published: Aug. 11, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Sherman's in Newland to close

After the holiday season in December, Sherman's Ladies and Men's Wear of Newland will close.

Sherman Pritchard, owner of Sherman's, will be closing up shop, but retaining the rights to the name of his business in case he decides to reopen in a smaller venue at some point in the future.

Many people have memories of Pritchard's clothing store, but the store was not his first contribution to Avery County and will probably not be his last.

Pritchard, who was born in 1926 and grew up in Montezuma, left Avery County after graduating from Newland High School to join the Armed Forces.

After serving in Europe, Pritchard went to work in Kentucky, Tennessee and then Georgia. It did not take long for him to begin missing the mountains and the cool air, so he began looking for a way to make his way back to Avery County.

Inspiration came one day during a visit home. While visiting in Newland, Pritchard volunteered to drive two local men to Squirrel Creek, where they had berries picked and waiting for them. While driving, Pritchard listened as the two men began to discuss and lament the limited communication in Avery County.

The men complained that the only means they had of letting the people know about various happenings was to visit them in person, call each person or send out letters to each and every household.

Having worked in publishing in Georgia, Pritchard knew a newspaper was the answer to their problems. He also knew how valuable a newspaper could be to the prosperity of the businesses and people of Avery County.

This sparked the chain of events that would bring Pritchard back to his beloved mountains to begin his newspaper, The Avery Journal. When he returned to Georgia, Pritchard began visiting successful, small-town newspapers to gather information, tips and inspiration.

In 1959, Pritchard bought a used, sheet-fed press for $5,000 and set up shop in the storefront currently occupied by Mountain Jewelers, which he rented from S.B. Lacey for $25 per month.

"He did not have to rent it that cheap," Pritchard said, "but he recognized what a paper could do for the county."

Though The Avery Journal was not the area's first newspaper, it was the only one in operation at the time.

In a further effort to promote local businesses and the prosperity of the county, Pritchard also had a hand in the establishment of Avery County Chamber of Commerce, which has helped spread the word about Avery County. The result has been the metamorphosis of Avery County into a vacation and adventure destination.

Pritchard operated The Avery Journal for nearly 20 years before selling it. After some speculation, he decided to start a new business. "No one would hire me, so I went out and bought myself a job," Pritchard joked.

He teamed up with a business associate from Boone to establish a clothing store in Newland. This clothing store was initially called Robinson's and was located immediately next to Avery County Courthouse.

Only a few months passed before Pritchard bought Robinson's share of the store, which then became known as Sherman's. Later, Pritchard moved Sherman's to its current location, 504 Pineola St., nearly quadrupling his retail space.

When Sherman's first opened, Pritchard focused mostly on men's wear. Back then, Pritchard explained, everyone wore suits and ties to work, so there was a market. Over the years, as work attire became more casual, Pritchard gradually changed his inventory to reflect the changing times, moving more toward sport and casualwear and including much more women's apparel.

Another of Pritchard's most significant accomplishments was his contribution to the creation and early management of Mountain Glen Golf Club, where he still plays regularly.

Pritchard was one of the first investors in the club and supported its creation by providing investment, management, infrastructure and publicity through the newspaper. The clubhouse was completed in 1965, opening the public course for play.

The people of Newland have long relied on Sherman's to outfit them for any number of situations, from farm work to church service to the senior prom.

Many may not realize that the store's owner has also been an integral part in the growth and progress in Avery County for many decades. Pritchard was recently recognized for his many contributions at Avery County's Centennial Celebration as one of the county's "Citizens of the Century."

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