published Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Small Biz: Furniture store is an institution in downtown Dayton

Morgan's Furniture Rent-to-Own store towers above its retail neighbors along Market Street in downtown Dayton, Tenn.
Morgan's Furniture Rent-to-Own store towers above its retail neighbors along Market Street in downtown Dayton, Tenn.

DAYTON, Tenn. – Matt McClure’s family has maintained their legacy of furniture renting and retailing along Market Street for 105 years.

Sam Morgan opened his Morgan’s Furniture store along the downtown Market Street strip in 1909. The store has alternated its location on the populated strip throughout the years, but it has survived in spite of the city’s ongoing retail realignments.

At least seven small, rental stores have opened and closed since Morgan’s monumental debut. In the last two decades, brand giants like Wal-Mart, Aaron’s, and Rent-A-Center have located their stores five miles south of downtown, while the family retailer stayed downtown and kept most of its patron, McClure said.

Debbie Freeze, a Rhea County resident for 20 years, said that she returned to Morgan’s Furniture because she “wanted to keep it local.”

McClure said that his family has “worked with the community,” so they could help out their loyal customers when needed.

“We have a heart for the community,” he said.

In its towering white-painted brick building in downtown Dayton, the family-owned and operated business has remained a retail mainstay throughout decades of economic changes. Customers, in need of renting essential furniture necessities, have increased in the last five years, McClure said. The store owner credits the financial turmoil in recent years for much of the rental business.

Increased requests with American-made products also have made the store’s selection change, McClure said. The majority of products bought have originated from manufacturing companies located in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky.

“If the customer wins, we win,” he said.

While Morgan has helped anchor downtown Dayton for more than a century, other retailers, including Paint the Town Pottery, The Gathering Place, The General Store, ArtCrafters, and The Treasure Barn, have entered the downtown market in the past decade.

The Gathering Place and The General Store will celebrate their 10th anniversary this year, while Paint the Town Pottery will celebrate its seventh. ArtCrafters will celebrate its fifth anniversary with current owners Denny and Dianne Knappen, and The Treasure Barn will celebrate three years.

New businesses Grimy Girl Soap, Solutions Market and The Repurposed Life have made their debut downtown within the past five months.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bellsouth.net.

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