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Oct. 28, 1986 – O.J. Morrison's Announces Closing Of Charleston Store
By Heath Harrison
July 20, 2013


O.J. Morrison's Department stores were a familiar sight in many West Virginia towns for nearly nine decades.

The locally-owned chain, founded by Ripley native Okey Johnson Morrison, was launched in 1890 with the motto “Make a dollar worth a dollar." Morrison began his career by peddling goods around Jackson County in a horse-drawn wagon before establishing his first store at Kenna.

The company had two main Charleston locations over the years. The original, established in 1910, was destroyed by a fire in 1920. Construction of the second location, a five-story building at 216 Capitol Street on the site of the former Burlew Opera house, commenced a few days later.

At its peak, the chain numbered at 15 stores, with a location in most of West Virginia's larger towns

Morrison died at age 83 in 1952. His company outlived him by three decades.

On Oct. 28, 1986, the Charleston store's manager David Morrison announced the Charleston store was going out of business. The shareholders, many of whom, were descendents of the founder, voted to liquidate.

While the company was still solvent at the time, it had been losing money for two years, due to changing shopping patterns in the city. At the time of its closing, O.J. Morrison's was the last major retailer left from the pre- Town Center days of Charleston's old Capitol Street shopping district.

A short-lived location at the Kanawha Mall closed first, followed by the Capitol Street store’s closing sale. The chain's remaining location, a smaller store in Ripley, closed shortly after the Charleston locations.

The chain's founder was also something of a local journalist. Morrison's 1897 book "The Slaughter of the Pfost Greene Family” is considered the definitive account of the murders by John Morgan near Ripley that year which led to the last public hanging in West Virginia.

This weeks video, courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives at the Culture Center, features a WCHS report from the announcement of the store's closing in 1986

Remember When: Oct. 28, 1986 – O.J. Morrison's Announces Closing Of Charleston Store

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