Reunited: Bridges and Lane founders say shop led to love, laughs, family

It was a mini-family reunion for Bridges and Lane during Anita and Bill Bridges Sr. 35th wedding anniversary Wednesday.

Several close family and friends gathered in the activity center in the rehabilitation center at the Clark Regional Medical Center to celebrate the couple.

Stanley Lane, 98, was in attendance; Bill Sr. said he wouldn’t be who he was without Lane, the latter half of the namesake of Winchester’s beloved hardware store at 7 N. Main St.

Bill Sr. said Lane had two daughters, so he always felt like Lane’s son. He called Lane “Pap,” and Lane called Bill Sr. “Willy.”

“He gave me an opportunity to be where I am today,” Bill Sr. said. “If he hadn’t taken me on as his own, I don’t know where I’d be. I love him, and he knows that.”

Anita said after a couple of years of dating, she and Bill Sr. decided to get married on a whim. Bill Sr. took off from work for a few days in March 1984, and when he came back, Lane knew what Bill Sr. had done.

“When we got back, Stanley said ‘You done went and married that lil ol’ girl,’” Anita recalled Lane telling Bill Sr. “‘She’s too young for you.’”

Anita said there’s a bit of an age difference between her and Bill Sr.; they had both went through divorces by the time they met. But Bill Sr. told Lane age didn’t make a difference; he and Anita loved each other.

A while later, Lane questioned Bill Sr. as to why he didn’t marry Anita sooner.

“Well, she would’ve been 12,” Bill Sr. quipped.

Anita and Bill Sr. worked together for more than years. She mainly took care of the bookkeeping.

“People always asked me how did we work together and live together,” Anita said. “And I always said he’s the boss at the store, but when he gets home, I’m the boss, and he walks that line.”

Anita said it’d been a rough few years for their family. They lost two grandchildren, and the couple lost their son Bill Jr. in 2014, and their house burned down nearly a month later. Bill Sr. has been sick on-and-off for years; he’s had open heart surgery and a slew of other health problems, she said. Most recently, he is recovering from a back injury at the rehabilitation center.

Despite the hardships, their love hasn’t waned.

“I love you,” Anita told Bill Sr., standing in front of a three-tier white and blue anniversary cake. She handed him a tiny brown box and inside was a colorful bug figurine.

“It’s a love bug,” she told him; Bill Sr. was a bit confused at first.

“I just hope we have a few more years left,” Bill Sr. said, with tears quietly bubbling in his eyes. “I just want to say how much I appreciate everyone in this room,” Bill Sr. continued. “I can’t believe we have this many friends.”

Though, the friends were quick to joke they were only there for Anita.

Anita said she wouldn’t have met Bill Sr. had it not been for Allsmiller’s, the original name of the hardware store that opened in 1937 and went on to become Bridges and Lane. Lane bought the store in 1950. Anita’s parents owned a drugstore up the block and got to know Bill Sr. and Lane quite well.

Eventually, Anita worked at the drugstore and would go down to the hardware store sometimes.

“It is very possible we wouldn’t have met had Allsmiller not hired Bill,” Anita said.

Since they met, they’ve spent many wonderful years together, she said.

Many of their memories were at Bridges and Lane. Anita always heard about the pranks Bill Sr. and Lane would conjure up.

For years, Bill Sr. and Lane were known for their antics. Bill Sr. recalls one prank they’d often pull on their customers: Lane would tell a customer there were two rabid dogs on the loose, saying they caught one, but the other was still at-large. In the meantime, Bill Sr. would sneak behind the customers, pinch their leg and start barking with his best rabid-dog impression. It’d scare them every time, he said.

“The things we did back then, we’d probably be in jail today,” Bil Sr. joked.

Lane sold the business to Bill Sr. 25 percent at a time starting in the ‘60s until Lane was ready to retire. In 1985, Lane sold the last half of the business to Bill Sr. For a time, Bill Sr. owned and operated the business with his son, Bill Jr.; they never changed the name.

In 1999, Bill Sr. handed the reins over to Bill Jr. Bill Jr. then went on to run the store with his son, Zach. Bill Jr. died in May 2014, leaving Zach and his wife, Pam, to run the store.

The hardware store stood the test of time for 78 years but closed for good in 2015. The third-generation hardware store liquidated all its inventory, down to the building itself and the farm tractor parked on the third floor.

It was a hardware store that filled a niche in Clark County, but it was also more than that, Bill Sr. said. And if it weren’t for the customer service and personal touch the store had, they wouldn’t have lasted as long as they did.

“When people ask me what I miss most, it’s the people,” Bill Sr. said. “The people of Winchester, Clark County.”