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Morris Hardware

Historical Tour Takes Locals Back in Time at Morris Hardware

Main Street businesses in McConnelsville, Ohio, recently invited the community to celebrate local history and culture through an event called McConnelsville Open Doors. One of the many attractions available during the Sept. 15 community celebration was a guided tour of Morris Hardware, a family business that dates back to 1845.

Morris Hardware employees gave customers and other locals a chance to learn about the six generations of hardware history during 30-minute tours throughout the afternoon. Shayna Roberts, a Morris Hardware employee, did extensive historical research prior to the event and gave the tours.

“It’s the first time we’ve done something like this,” Roberts says. “Somebody from the historical society told me they were planning on hosting an event on Main Street that was inspired by a similar statewide event and I thought it would be great to get the store involved.”

Bringing Hardware History to Life

With a background in tourism and an interest in history, Roberts got to work in the weeks ahead of the store tour. She dug through documents about Morris Hardware as well as documents about Morris family members to fully understand the store and come up with an informative and fun way to share the store’s history with customers and guests during the tour.

While Roberts knew the four-story building had housed the store since 1849, she developed a greater appreciation for her workplace as she read through and pieced together the history from the family’s well-kept records.

“I think understanding your history is important in any context, but with an independent family business like Morris Hardware, it just really helps you stand out,” Roberts says. “Through our tour and by visiting with us at our store, our customers can see and even touch our history. Documenting your history is so important.”

Current store owner Tom Schanken who is a member of the sixth generation of the family to operate the business, followed the tradition of his predecessors and kept business records and genealogy records. As a result, the information Roberts had to work with included historical photos with detailed captions and articles written by various newspapers over the years.

“The more I learned about Morris Hardware, the more it made sense to me why it’s survived and thrived since 1845,” Roberts says. “It was built on a foundation of incredibly determined people who understood the needs of the community. The founder was an immigrant who came and made a name for himself and his family. It’s a very inspiring story.”

According to Roberts, George P. Morris immigrated to Ohio from England with his brother in 1817. In 1845, Morris started a tinsmith shop two blocks from where Morris Hardware is today. He and his sons were looking for a better place to house their business and built a three-story structure. They later added a fourth floor to the building.

Over the years, the store has successfully passed from one generation of the Morris family to the next.

Hardware Tours Open Attendees Eyes

During McConnelsville Open Doors, Morris Hardware employees were eager to welcome visitors for the tours.

They couldn’t take guests through the entire building, but visitors were able to walk through the basement, which isn’t usually open to the public.

The tours started in front of the store, where Roberts spoke about the founder and talked about the original building. She then led tour attendees to the side door to enter the building. Once inside, Roberts talked about the second generation to run the business and pointed out the store’s original tin ceilings.

Toward the end of the tour, Roberts led guests to the basement, where they could see beams original to the building.

Finally the groups ended their tours in the paint department, which had historic documents and tools on display. Visitors were able to touch different documents and tools and ask questions.

“Ahead of the event, the response we received from our loyal customers and other people who were RSVPing to our Facebook event was very positive,” Roberts says. “The community was very excited and people were happy to learn more.”

During the tours, Schanken answered questions and talked to customers about his family business and its rich history, which he says is just another way he is able to build relationships with customers.

“These types of events underscore our business’s connection to the community,” Schanken says. In conversations with visitors and their shared memories, they become aware of their history with our business. This outreach keeps us relevant and visible.”

In response to the overwhelming support of the community, Morris Hardware will be offering the tour again during Morgan County Heritage Day on Oct. 20. And moving forward, she plans to continue to digitize, preserve and exhibit the history of the business.

“In the future, my goal would be to work the photos and different historical pieces we’ve collected into our store displays,” she says. “The store will celebrate 175 years of business in two years, so there is definitely more we would like to do to honor this long-standing retail operation.”

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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