Editor’s Note: This is the 321st in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — When the Huntington Mall opened in 1981, one of its anchor stores was the J.C. Penney Co., which moved to the mall from downtown at 827-29 3rd Ave., where it had operated since the early 1930s.
Penney’s was founded by James Cash Penney (1875-1971). A Missouri native, Penney started out working for a small chain of dry goods stores called Golden Rule stores. Ultimately, he became a partner in the chain and opened a store at Kemmerer, Wyoming, in 1902, the birth of what would become a retail giant.
Abandoning the Golden Rule name, Penney put his own name on the 34 stores he soon opened in the Rocky Mountain states. By 1917, the company operated 175 stores in 22 states. By 1941, it had grown to 1,600 stores in all 48 states.
Charles Amos, a Logan County native who had a long career with Penney’s, started out at its downtown Huntington store and says he has great memories of those early years. When Amos graduated from Marshall College (now University), Tom Campbell, manager of the Huntington store, chose him for management training with the chain. After leaving the Huntington store, he went on to manage Penney’s stores in three Ohio towns — Springfield, Steubenville and Wapakoneta — for a total of 28 years. When he retired, he and his late wife, Chloeette, returned to Huntington. Today he divides his time between the Woodlands Retirement Community in Huntington and his winter home in Largo, Florida.
On Oct, 21, 1950, an explosion blew out the rear wall of the 3rd Avenue Penney’s store and enveloped the building in flames. Sparks from the fire blew across the alley and ignited the roof of the Tipton Theater. The flaming roof fell into the theater, leaving it a charred ruin. The damaged Penney’s building was repaired, and the store reopened. The theater was not rebuilt.
Today, the former Penney’s building is still standing. It now houses Taste of Asia, a Japanese steakhouse and grill, on the ground floor. Upstairs are the offices of Steptoe & Johnson, a national law firm.