Editor’s Note: This is the 306th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — In early 1949, Samuel Wortzel was on vacation in Richmond, Virginia, when he went to a local barbershop to get his haircut. While there, he saw his first television set.
Wortzel knew an opportunity when he saw one. He immediately moved to Richmond and opened his first Wards Co. retail store, selling TVs and home appliances. (Not to be confused with the Montgomery Ward mail order business.)
More stores followed. At one point, Wortzel had four stores in Richmond and began opening others in various states. In the 1970s, he helped pioneer the “big box” retail format.
By 1984, the company had nearly 100 stores in 11 states. That year saw the company gain a listing on the New York Stock Exchange and change its name to Circuit City. And 1984 also saw the newly renamed company open a store at the Huntington Mall. The 5,400-square-foot store, located on the mall’s perimeter road, specialized in the sale of name-brand TV sets, stereos, microwave ovens and related electronic items.
Circuit City thrived for a number of years but ultimately found it difficult to compete with other stores, especially Best Buy. In 2007, it laid off 3,400 better-paid employees and replaced them with new workers hired at lower salaries.
In 2008, Circuit City declared bankruptcy and later announced it would close and liquidate all of its 567 stores, rendering 30,000 employees jobless. The final day of operation for all Circuit City stores was March 8, 2009.
In 2011, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet opened a new store in the former Circuit City building at the Huntington Mall.