Goodbye, Morrison’s

morrisons-closed

It’s with a sad heart that I report that after nearly 40 years as a bargain-hunter’s paradise, Morrison’s Discount Store has closed its Redding doors.

Just like that.

No more Morrison’s party favors, bodice-buster paperbacks, 9-cent jumbo flour sacks and creepy-finger rubber pens.

morrrisons-finger

No more car-battery-scrubbers, StarWars Thermoses, day-glo foil matchbooks and 89-cent FireKing white plates (I’ve got three dozen).

No more 69-cent fashion earrings, 44-cent hair accessories and mind-blowingly steep markdowns on boutique Zodax items.

No more glow-in-the dark stars, Fiesta Texas coffee cups and such specialty items as size-XXXX hospital gowns, extra-long hospital sheets, and black Santa statues.

Most of all, no more stops by Morrison’s to shop and talk with 73-year-old Bill Morrison, the store’s namesake, whom I’ve known since I was a kid.

morrison

Mr. Morrison (can’t call him Bill) is a complicated guy, in an Archie-Bunkerish way. He’s soft and sensitive on the inside; he’s blunt and gruff on the outside.

He frowns, scowls and complains about business – even when it’s not so bad. He’s honed sarcasm into a sharp-edged, endearing conversational style. He gives endless guff to the indispensible people who helped run Morrison’s, like his daughter Beverly, and their longtime friend, Joel.

Still . . .

He donates thousands of dollars of merchandise each year to the needy.

He gives discounts to regular customers and random shoppers alike, even when they protest.

He welcomes a group of developmentally disabled adults into his store for hours on end – people whose highlight of the week is their Thursday-afternoon Morrison’s excursion.

He’s been known to invite foster families and others he deemed worthy in for after-hours Christmas-shopping – for free.

He once donated a building to a church.

And the year he got a shipment of oil lamps that turned out to be dangerous (make that exploding oil lamps), he would not rest until the message had been broadcast far and wide – he called legislators, media, you name it – to warn people.

For many years I tried in vain to get Mr. Morrison to agree to let me write his profile, but he always refused.

It’s too bad, because he’s quite a character, with a rich history and some amazing stories. He was born in the Redding Hotel. His father built what’s now Jack’s Bar and Grill, a place Mr. Morrison said he managed in his younger years.

Monday he explained what led to his decision to tape a bright yellow “Closed” sign on Morrison’s.

“Number one, I don’t feel too good – you know I’ve fallen twice, punctured my leg, bruised my lungs, probably bruised my heart – that was sure stupid,” he said.

“Number two – Christmas Eve you know how much I took in? Ninety-six dollars! What?! Ninety-six dollars? I should have taken in at least $3,000! The fact is I haven’t made a dime since we opened here.”

When Bill Morrison says “here” he means his store’s latest location in the Cypress Square Shopping Center off Athens Avenue in Redding.

Morrison’s first “important” store was on Oregon Street, a tall old building with sloped-wooden floors, crammed literally in some places to the rafters with baskets, boxes and every kind of merchandise. That’s the Morrison’s in which I first shopped. It was a place unfit for fire marshalls or the claustrophobic. It was a place where the rich and poor shopped side by side.

Morrison opened that first store in 1969 after one of Redding’s biggest snowstorms – the one that collapsed roofs of places like WonderWorld (where OSH is now) and Thrifty’s Drug Store.

That storm gave Morrison his lucky break.

“I opened Christmas Eve 1969 by selling all this wet stuff from Thrifty’s that I’d dug out with a snow shovel,” Morrison said with a laugh.

“For a long time after that some customers would joke and ask where my wet merchandise was.”

Over the years Morrison packed up his wares and relocated this store all over Redding on his quest for the perfect spot: Court Street, Eureka Way, Lake Boulevard and finally, Cypress Square.

In Morrison’s early days he opened his store just a few days a month. The only way we knew which days were from hand-written signs on the doors with scribbled dates, which women (OK, mainly) would relay from friend to friend and relative to relative. On those special dates, shoppers lined up before opening time, and rushed for overflowing tables and bins as if they were filled with treasures, which sometimes they were. (I still have a vintage purple bowling ball to prove it.)

Speaking of which, it’s not as if Mr. Morrison has run out of stuff to sell. In fact, Morrison’s is full, and one 17,000-square-foot warehouse is also completely packed.

For now, he’s selling off truckloads of stuff to vendors, like two trucks that just left for Oregon, and some other inventory to a guy from Hayfork who paid cash.

“Cash!” Morrison said sarcastically. “Can you believe that!”

Morrison has threatened to quit before. But this time sounds serious. Besides, he said his health isn’t so hot, and between the rotten economy and the nearby bridge project (that he’s convinced hurt his business), he doesn’t know if he can make a go of it any longer.

Even so, he did say there’s a very, very remote possibility he’ll reopen again one day.

But don’t count on it.

He promised to let me know (so I could tell you) if he decided to hold a liquidation sale.

I asked if that means he’ll retire.

“I really hate that word,” he said.

I said it wouldn’t be Redding without a Morrison’s – that his store was an institution.

“Maybe I should be in an institution!” he said.

I said I’d miss his store – and him.

Mr. Morrison said he’d miss me, too.

I choose to believe he meant it.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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12 Responses

  1. It is really sad to see a business who has been so involved in the community leave us permanently. At least, we do have the memories to ponder.

  2. Avatar Michelle says:

    I remember Christmas shopping On Oregon street on those wooden floors that went up and down like ramps. We had just got married and lived on $400 a month in 1982. I always knew that every other week schedule so I could be there on opening day to see the "new" merchandise. I bought these paper stained glass Christmas decorations and put them in our windows in our first home. Cast off years since and replaced with more timely decor, they were relegated to my classroom Christmas box at school. Just last month I had several students and one teacher say, "What pretty decorations those are!" I laughed, "Yeah and I bought them the year I was married!"

    Morrison's may be gone, but I still have many mementos to remind me…the jack rabbit clock I got for $2.00, stocking stuffers for Christmas, a picture on my wall, a poster in my class, knick-knacks on my shelves, and the list goes on…

    Best wishes to you and yours….

  3. Avatar Darcie says:

    Please take care of yourself, Mr. Morrison. As much as your store will be missed, it might be time to concentrate on your health. We want you around for many more years!

  4. Avatar Joe Snyder says:

    Goodbye to Morrison's. I have to admit that I didn't go into Morrison very much; it wasn't because I didn't want to. My wife went there often and came home with a bundle of stuff each time.

    Your name goes along with Redding. Redding without Morrison's is like the Sacramento River without Salmon. It won't be the same.

    Best of luck, Mr. Morrison, you are a blessing to people and may you live a long time.

  5. Avatar Larry says:

    This is as good as a profile. Hope he is not too discouraged about the $96; the bridge will be completed someday and traffic will return.

  6. Avatar Kirsten Plate says:

    Dear Bill- I always called you that, but maybe I should have been more formal? Well- too late!.

    I have been in Redding since 73, and remember the old Oregon store. It WAS indeed a treasure hunt to visit. What FUN.

    I also remember borrowing every, single necklace in the store, to decorate for an AAUW celebration. How about all the crayons for thecolouring books that were programs for the Redding Symphony? Whatever, I have neede in that area, I could always count on Bill.

    And now that I am going on another medical mission, where on earth will I find all the little gifts, we usually bring??

    Dear Bill: you will be sorely missed

    Fondly,

    KIrsten

    Items, I remember:

    Royal Copenhagen China…………. yeah- the REAL stuff!

    Mocca candles from Holland- the best, you can get, and I think

    I bought the entire inventory, because I still have some left.

    Cocktail napkins from the 50's

  7. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Good luck, Bill, we will miss your stores. Enjoy your retirement, you deserve it!

  8. Avatar Grammy says:

    I never found Mr. Morrison gruff. He was always a sweetheart to us.

    Wow Redding without Morrison's. I remember looking in the ads for the days that Morrison's would be open. He was always helpful in tryig to offer schools a good deal for their various fund raisers. Come basketball season he would offer me the candy deals for the snack bar.

    The kids grew up buying stuff with their allowance at Morrison's. He would always give them a good deal.

    I put off untill after the holidays to buy some parts for frames. Serves me right for waiting.

  9. Avatar Rick Goates says:

    Sorry to see that he is closing down…People vote with their dollars and $96 on what should have been the best days of the year makes me think that the dollar store and the 99c stores had more to do with this closing than any bridge.

    As in any business the competition is very strong…once the passion or health go down the writing is on the wall….

    You will be missed!

    But remember Reddingites love OPENING'S and Closings…..If you waited a month and then had a final blow out you would probably clear the rest or the inventory and make some more memories for many….just a thought…A one day sale that topped ALL others!!

    Rick

  10. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    I had no idea they moved to a new store when the Lake Blvd location closed. Who goes to Cypress Square anymore? Just when I need a hot dog. Many of us remember the Red Bluff stores more than the Redding stores. Great bargains everytime. A little bit like Variety City, but cheaper.

    I think Morrison's will still have another life someplace.

  11. Avatar Connie says:

    In 1977 when my young adventurous sons discovered Morrison's on Oregon St. They couldn't wait to get home and tell mom about it. Morrison's became one of our favorite places to shop, look and visit. My sons have grown up but Morrison's was still a special place to shop, look and visit. I can look around my house and find numerous treasures from those shopping trips. I am sorry to see Morrison's go it has been such a staple of our Redding lives. We will miss you.

  12. Avatar Iris Sanders says:

    My husband and I have been here for ten years, and I never this this wonderful place existed. We came from Santa Cruz County and I would guarantee that this store would be on everyone's shopping list. I am so sad.