Sherman’s Sports has unusual variety, strong tradition to boot

By Pete Zamplas –

Sherman’s Sports and Army Store marches on in the face of lingering recession, by complementing its array of outdoor, military and student clothing, supplies and toys with new product lines and dependable and individualized service.

“We’re bouncing back,” third-generation co-owner Becky Banadyga said. “It’s been a good summer.” With fall weather in and daytime high temperatures in the 60s, she said “people are buying cool-weather gear such as fleece jackets.” Also, the bargain basement is a draw, and more discounts are upstairs.

For 56 years, Sherman’s has been a fixture at 126 N. Main St. across Main from the Historic Courthouse. The store originated as a general store a block down Main, where Hannah Flanagan’s Irish pub is. Louis Sherman opened it 90 years ago, in 1922. That gives Sherman’s supreme historical legacy among local businesses, as longest continually-run family retail business.

Yet there is a somber note. This is the first full year without either Louis’ son Kalman or Kalman’s wife Francee Sherman, the store’s longtime proprietors and civic leaders. Both are deceased, after reaching age 88 — Kalman in 2009, then Francee last year when Kalman’s toy poodle Jacque also departed. Francee’s mother Rosa Oliner lived to 99.

The Shermans’ daughter Becky and her husband Rex Banadyga are sole proprietors, after decades of running the store. Becky started helping at age 6, meticulously sticking price tags onto toys in the Army Store when it opened in 1955. By age 10, she waited on customers. Rex has worked at Sherman’s since 1975, two years after marrying Becky. He ran sporting goods, then the combined store when Kalman retired in 1997. Rex still strings tennis racquets.

Becky continues the family tradition of civic service. The Shermans for a half-century have donated shoes for indigents, as part of the Kiwanis Club’s Shoe Program. Becky said doing so “warms your heart.”

She is a key member of the Main Street Advisory Committee, which began a year ago. It helps Main Street Director Lew Holloway assess cultural and historic assets to promote, and gives input on ongoing renovations and aesthetics. “Downtown looks more inviting,” Becky said of recent landscaping along Main.

Origins: Buggy Whips to Keds

Louis Sherman’s family lived upstairs of the general store, which Becky noted sold jewelry, sporting goods, guns and ammunition, toys and pawned items. Before World War II, the store motto “Everything. That’s All” reflected its range from men’s ties to the most toys (Lionel trains, Barbie, et al) in town and from fishing hats to Louisville Slugger bats.

“We had straight razors, luggage racks and buggy whips,” Kalman Sherman told The Tribune in 2004. “In the early days, I saw most people in (horse-drawn) wagons.” A popular item was a .22-caliber hunting rifle.

After its initial dozen years, the store moved to 125 S. Church St. next to a herd of cows. Louis’ wife Rosena also worked in the store, which evolved from general to sporting goods.

Kalman was a fixture at Sherman’s stores over a span of 70 years, starting in 1939. In 1946 he took over operations from Louis, after returning from his Marine stint at Guadalcanal during World War II and marrying Francee. He was co-manager, with her brother Walter Gaeser. Kalman stayed mostly with sporting goods, such as Keds (out since 1916) then Converse sneakers. Lastly, he greeted customers in the merged store. An extrovert, he acted in community theater. He was an outdoorsman.

Meanwhile Louis, who would die in 1970, un-retired to add the Army Store in 1955 at 340 Main. The Army Store provided fishing and hunting licenses. It sold guns and ammo, for some 40 years.

Then the two stores merged, in the present Sherman’s site which is the third one along Main. Also in the Nineties, Sherman’s operated in Asheville as well.

Sherman’s made it onto television in the late Seventies, with its former jewelry counter a set for the show “Moving On,” Becky recalled.

Military, School Spirit

Decades later Sherman’s still specializes in outdoor, military and athletic apparel, gear and accessories for all seasons and ages. Swim suits are sold year-round, and are popular for water aerobics classes. There are hiking poles, hard-toed boots and softer shoes with an assortment amazing customer Richard Wylly visiting from Charlotte.

In recent years “we’ve beefed up our outdoor (hunting, fishing, camping) and military gear, such as camouflage,” Rex noted. One shirt, a take-off on the classic outdoors film “Deliverance” which had the song “Dueling Banjos,” reads “Paddle faster! I hear banjo music.”

Caroline Knox, in the store the other day, was impressed to see a sled. Her young sons Turner, 6, and Henry, 4, played with rubber balls in a section that includes a darts game and bean-bag toss. There is also gear for her husband Ashby Knox, an avid runner.

ACC and SEC T-shirts are at that end, by the front window, as a longtime staple of Sherman’s. This fall football season, nearby Clemson is a big seller. The store also carries South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia shirts. The four ACC schools in this state — UNC, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest — sell best in basketball season, Becky’s husband Rex Banadyga noted. He is a State alumnus, who roots for other ACC schools.

Shirts of the four local high schools — Hendersonville; East, North and West Henderson — are a huge attraction at Sherman’s. Some are artsy and even embroidered.

Also near the front entrance are shirts of Hendersonville, which locals send to relatives, Becky said. Joining old-standbys are such newer merchandise as Guy Harvey-created T-shirts, such as for colleges or with saltwater fish images. Becky said, “we like his artistic designs, with bright colors.”

Remarkable are children’s ornate Magic T-shirts. Their ink is sensitive to ultra-violet light. Thus they are black and white in dimmer light, but turn colorful in sun or other bright light.

As Francee, long the Army store purchaser before Becky assumed those duties, once told The Tribune, “you gotta have creative things to keep people’s attention.”

For more on Sherman’s Sports and Army Store, call 693-5422.

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