The 115 Year History of Zahner’s
In 1908 Alex Giber began his tailor shop in the bustling industrial and fabric producing mill in Rockville, CT. It was a natural as the fabric produced in Rockville, a small section of Vernon, was being worn by United States presidents and was recognized for its quality worldwide (See photo below). The tailor shop grew, moved to several different locations, survived the depression of the 1930’s, and flourished as the mills enjoyed the prosperity of the 1940’s. Unfortunately, tailor Giber died suddenly in 1946. The tailor shop which had become a small haberdashery by this time was purchased from the estate by Ernie Diggleman. Mr. Diggleman ran the shop until May of 1951 when Edward and Emanuel (Manny) Zahner purchased it from him. The store which had now grown into a well known local establishment was run by the Zahner family for the next seventy years when it was sold to the Wiegand family who operate it to this day.
For those familiar with the downtown Rockville section of the town of Vernon, the store was located across from the town green. Currently, the area is occupied by Dave’s Cobbler Shop. In the mid-1900's Rockville was a bustling downtown attracting customers from the surrounding communities of Ellington, Tolland, Bolton, East Windsor, South Windsor, and Manchester. A trolley car also ran from Rockville through Tolland to Stafford. Rockville was such an important woolen fabric producing center that a rail line ran from Hartford through East Hartford and Manchester to Rockville. The purpose of this Hartford connection was to allow the transport of the fine fabric to New York City and world markets.
(photo shows historic downtown Rockville)
After purchasing the store in 1951, the Zahner family began growing the footprint of the establishment. In 1958 a boys and Boy Scout department was added. and as more space was needed, the Arthur Drug space was added when it became available. Additional space was added in 1961 in the former Bud’s music store and shoes were added in the 1960’s, when a third brother Walt began his career in Zahner’s Shoe Shop. As the family participation grew, Ed and Manny's sons Curt, Scott and Craig along with their families became the second generation of Zahner’s. In 1977, a major move to the WT Grant building on the corner took place. This allowed for a better flow of merchandising and the addition of a Ladies Department.
As with so many Victorian downtowns, the City of Rockville was suffering a major struggle to compete with other areas of Vernon and Manchester. As Zahner’s management became aware of the planned Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, new challenges had to be met. The mall in Manchester would further complicate the difficult business environment in Rockville. In 1987 it was determined that a move to the Route 30 Vernon Commons would help the store to face this challenge. The move was a major one but it was accomplished just in time to meet the early 1990’s recession head-on. After a few bumps and struggles, the store was downsized in response to the new realities of the marketplace. Having exhausted its fifteen-year lease at the Vernon Commons a search for available space landed us a spot in the Shops at 30 across from the well-known Rein’s Deli. Our current location was completed and we moved on June 30, 2011.