Charles Mayer: Past and Present

The newly revived Charles Mayer & Company opened in 1992. The building was designed and built to resemble a home, and located north of Indianapolis, in the Shoppes at 56th and Illinois, adjacent to a haberdashery, fine jeweler, European Bistro, cupcake store, art gallery, and other owner operated businesses with a similar belief in an outstanding level of service. The store features extraordinary tableware, European home furnishings, decorative accessories, and distinctive gifts. Charles Mayer specializes in the “best of the best” in European crystal, silver, and china. The overall look is one of casual elegance and old world charm with a modern edge.

Long-time Indianapolis residents may recall shopping at the original store’s downtown location, known for its high level of customer service and fine gifts purchased around the world. The owner’s six-week buying trips to Europe, searching out the best in gifts, jewelry, and tableware were legendary.

Charles Mayer (pronounced “my-er”) immigrated to Indiana from Germany at the age of 19. The store began in 1840 at 29/31 West Washington Street. It eventually grew into a five-store building with toys, gifts, a wide variety of antiques, crystal, jewelry, linen, silver, and home furnishings. The legendary retailer operated there until 1954 when its inventory was sold to L.S. Ayres. The building was razed in 1959.

"The store carried a wide range of merchandise from hobby horses to Chinese urns. Every piece was hand-picked for its exceptional craftsmanship and uncommon appeal. Each floor was a study in organized clutter; each corner held the promise of undiscovered treasures. Charles Mayer and his buyer, Albert Zoeller, traveled Europe courting vendors and bringing their riches home for the benefit of their customers, many of whom were family and friends. It was not unusual to receive a call from Charlie Mayer saying that he had found a silver platter that might be the perfect gift for an upcoming anniversary." Claudia Ryan, President and CEO

A former L.S. Ayres fashion-merchandising executive, Claudia decided to revive the store with her husband Tim, who is a maternal great-great grandson of Charles Mayer and a partner in the law firm Hackman Hulett & Cracraft, LLP. Charles Mayer & Company developed a personality that transcended the merchandise offering. It was regarded as a friendly, intriguing and inviting store. The creaking wood floors, the elegant elevator, the smell of antique furniture and the sparkle of crystal evoked child-like wonder. While Charles Mayer sold expensive gifts, it enjoyed the reputation of being a fine store that offered unique merchandise at all prices. This approach to retail succeeded for over 100 years, surviving world wars, the great depression, numerous fads and trends.

In 1954, when the store closed its doors, an Indianapolis News headline read ‘Charles Mayer Store Sale like a Death in the Family.’ While there will never be a store like the old Charles Mayer and Company, the fundamental retail equation that made the store successful has not changed: know your customer, sell quality merchandise and make shopping a pleasure. Claudia Ryan, President and CEO

The original store passed through three generations of the Mayer family, but when there were no male heirs to carry on the business, the decision was made in 1954 to close. It was the kind of store where you treated your customers like friends and family. You welcomed them in, and there was a real warmth about it. That is one of the most important aspects of the business that we wanted to bring back — that warmth and high level of customer service. We also wanted to reestablish a name that was part of the city’s heritage. The new store offers a high level of quality and value, with prices ranging from low to high, along with the Charles Mayer brand name, and its signature coral and brown satin ribbon and paper, as well as a gold seal featuring the store’s original crest, attached to the outside of every gift. Gifts are often monogrammed, and can be customized for weddings, corporate gifts, or any number of special occasions. Specialized gift baskets are often selected as creative baby gifts, from our luxury baby boutique.

In opening the new store, Claudia brought back many of its original fine brands such as Herend fine china from Hungary and Richard Ginori china, from Italy. To name a few; the new Charles Mayer carries William Yeoward English crystal, Hermes china, Saint Louis crystal, and Christofle Silver, all from France, and Match pewter, and Buccellati silver from Italy. In addition, they specialize in many artistic European lines such as L’Objet accessories and frames, French faience; such as, Gien and Jars, in addition to Simon Pierce glass, hand blown in Vermont, and Michael Aram tableware made in India.

Claudia is the daughter of a Navy Admiral, who grew up living around the world, traveling extensively throughout the Far East and Europe. Her exposure to different cultures has provided a unique perspective as a retailing executive and business proprietor. Her passion is in finding the newest beautiful designs and bringing them to her customers. She loves to mix fashion forward textures and styles to create a look that is modern, and at the same time, relevant to her customer’s lifestyle. Her background, as Vice President of Fashion Merchandising, for L.S. Ayres, helped her develop a keen eye for trends, as she was exposed to the top designers in America, Milan, London, and Paris. She has taken her love for fashion to a new level as she expresses it through her vision of fashion for the home.