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Pieces of the Past: Jamesway

December 13, 2023

In North Warren, there is an example of quiet community leadership. Most people don’t have a clue about it. In the early ’60s, Herbert Fisher decided to open a discount department store on Route 394 just past the underpass in Lakewood.

He called it Jamesway. Fisher was born in New York, fought in World War II, and a lot like Sam Walton got his start in retailing “packin’ and wrappin’.”

Jamesway was a huge hit and Fisher wasted no time growing. By 1961 he had already decided to locate another store in North Warren along the Market Street extension. The new location turned out to be even stronger than the first. Jamesway led the way to a retail shift that put shoppers in North Warren instead of downtown.

Fisher and a group of aggressive executives outgrew every other chain of department stores at the time. In less than 10 years, Fisher had over 100 locations in the mid-Atlantic region. The rapid growth caught the attention of some pretty aggressive people who were turning S.S. Kresge into K-Mart.

By 1977 Fisher had colon cancer and passed away. In November of 1995, the chain was down to less than 100. Some 6,000 people were out of a job including the Warren and Jamestown folks that started it all.

Auto parts stores and a D.I.Y. chain located there but corporate issues knocked them both out of town. The building was vacant and headed for the same fate as the Warren Mall. This is the part that few people know about.

Kevin Ruttenbur knew full well that the building remained in good condition. Before it fell into disrepair he and a great group stepped in.

Today what’s left of the North Warren Jamesway is a solid storage facility. Unlike many, it is environmentally sound and a gleaming example of solving a problem for people faced with downsizing. Chances are the building would have been under a wrecking ball in a few years. Thanks to another guy with vision Jamesway was turned into a real community asset.


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