Commander Jim guards the entrance to Whitey's Army Navy store on Public Square.

Commander Jim guards the entrance to Whitey's Army Navy store on Public Square.

Whitey’s Army- Navy store has stood on Public Square since 1949. To read more about Whitey’s:

In 1949, former Navy pilot Harold (Whitey) Thwaite opened an Army-Navy surplus store on Public Square.  Military surplus was in plentiful supply at the end of  World War II, and in great demand.

These days, according to store manager Debbie Wentz, U.S. military surplus is not as easily obtainable, and what they get comes from foreign sources like Italy and Israel. Whitey’s now sells work clothing like Carhartt’s and camping gear, as well as military insignias and quasi-military banners.  They also print dog-tags.

“However, she adds, “U.S. Navy peacoats are available and they are huge! They fly off the racks. The quality is so much better than what you find in stores, and the cost is much less.”

Whitey’s thrives on cold weather.  “Whenever there’s a blast of cold air,  the customers come pouring in for fleece and heavy socks,” Debbie Wentz observes.

It is not just men who shop at Whitey’s.  Women come in as well, to purchase fleece hoodies and canvas bags, or to buy gifts for the men in their lives.  Stephanie Doutt of Medina, shopping for heavy socks for her husband remarked, “This is a cool store. I come in here all the time. I like to shop Medina.”

Whitey’s is located in the oldest building on the square, the former county courthouse completed in 1826. The basement of the building once served as the local jail. A series of holes in the old wooden floors indicate where iron bars once confined the drunks and swindlers of frontier-era Medina.

And what about the super-sized G.I. Joe standing guard in front of the store?

“That’s Commander Jim,” Debbie Wentz replies.  “He’s become a great landmark. We found him at a military trade show ten years ago. He gets dressed in different outfits — Santa hat at Christmas, sunglasses when it’s bright outside.  He also serves as an informal lost-and-found.  If anyone leaves a scarf or hat at the store, Commander Jim gets to wear it.”

Commander Jim dresses for the occasion: ear muffs in winter, sunglasses when it's bright outside.

Commander Jim dresses for the occasion: Santa hat at Christmas and sunglasses when it's bright outside.

Camouflage items are very popular at Whitey's.

Camouflage items are very popular at Whitey's.

Whitey's offers a wide range of military insignias.

Whitey's offers a wide range of military insignias.

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