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T.S. Morrison

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T.S. Morrison was a fixture in Asheville for years, from its opening in 1895 to its eventual demise sometime in the last few years. Originally, it was THE hardware and livery type store, and its enormous front doors were tall and wide enough to allow carriages and wagons and other equipment to pass through (a little before my time, but you get the idea).

I worked there from 1995-1998 (one of two permanent jobs and one occasional job I worked to make ends meet…otherwise known as the relatively high cost of living in Asheville). It was no longer a hardware store at that time, but an interesting mix of old-fashioned candy store, card shop, hard-to-find-kitchen tools, vintage-style toys, and so on and so forth. Something for everybody, even if you didn’t realize you needed it.

 Some old-timers didn’t realize it was no longer a hardware store–they’d come in looking for canning jars and pressure cooker gaskets and what-not. The phone calls were even more interesting: “do y’all still carry that stuff that kills spiders?” and “do you have any greasy cut-short seeds this year?”. (Luckily, as a true G.R.I.T. or “girl raised in the south”, I knew what greasy cut-shorts were and that no, we didn’t carry those anymore.)

When Mast General Store opened its Asheville location on Biltmore Avenue, it was pretty much the end for T.S. Morrison’s. Mast is better lit, better stocked (in some items), and pays homage to its North-Carolina’s-Oldest-Store-Valle Crucis roots without sacrificing its selection of outdoor gear, “Life Is Good” line, or candy barrels.

No complaint with Mast–I shop there on occasion–but I miss Morrison’s big creaky doors, old-school cash registers, and the deep connection to Asheville history. I still remember some of my “regulars” and their candy preferences: the guy who bought six red licorice whips every week to help him get past his stop-smoking discomfort; the guy who bought nothing but Wilbur Buds (like Hershey’s Kisses, but much better quality chocolate), and “James” who insisted on choosing each slice of jellied fruit candy individually by the amount of sugar on it. And Lime Slice Guy (his name says it all). And The Sultan of Spoons, who was a triple-dipped malt ball man, all the way. 

The building–between TOPS for Shoes and the new location of Old Europe–is still empty at the moment, I think. Somebody will buy it eventually–it’s a great space–and fill it up with Asheville’s next big thing.  Whatever it becomes, I bet the new owner will still need “that stuff that kills spiders” to get it back in shape.

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About ltbrwnhare

A real Ashevillain, from the fabled town of Asheville, NC. There aren't too many of us "from here" any more, but don't ask about the secret handshake. Few people know I blog; they think I work for corporate America. I do. Both. There's probably a secret handshake for that, too. You can think of me as a "locavore," if you like: someone who consumes local food and culture. I'm not just local, though--I like finding out interesting stuff from all over the place, traveling, tasting, reading, writing fiction (actually, I write non-fiction--I just don't let my family read it and get mad at me for spilling the beans. There are some pretty funky beans to spill, sometimes, but that's just a fact of life in the South...), and lots of other things. If I think of them, maybe I'll blog about them.

15 responses »

  1. locavore4lore

    Passed by the old T.S. Morrison’s location today; noticed the building seems to be under contract and/or renovation. I knew it would happen sooner or later–it’s a great space!

    Reply
  2. I too loved TS Morrisons! I loved the stories and the people that worked there! I worked across the street and spent many of my lunch hours cruising the aisles. I was sad when they closed…. sometimes progress is not all that great 😦

    Reply
  3. Scott Chamness

    My grandfather was one of the three Morrison brothers to own the shop. He had to quit in the 80’s because of failing health. When my aunt, (Who still lives in Asheville), told my mother that T.S. Morrison & Co. was closing, my mother was crying. It was so sad. I was only able to go to that store a few times but I really liked it. I’m sorry it’s gone.
    Oh and the former store is being turned into a restaurant and bar.

    Reply
  4. I’m really sorry to hear that T.S.Morrison’s is gone. I have been away from Asheville for sixteen years.I bought a sock monkey there for my daughter’s first birthday. I was hoping to find one for my goddaughter who just turned one. I couldn’t remember the name of the store but I came across a wooden train whistle that I purchased there and the name of the store was printed on the side. The store will be missed but I still have my train whistle,my daughter’s sock monkey, and my memories.

    Reply
    • Dear Debra:

      The location has become a sort of pub, I think, called Lexington Avenue Brewing Company (or something close to that). I’m sorry about TSM, too; it was a neat place and I’m glad I had a chance to work there. If you’re looking for a sock monkey, I think Mast General Store on Biltmore Avenue has them. I was at The Carriage House at Biltmore recently, and noticed that they had “updated” sock monkeys in some different colors–they were very cute!

      Reply
  5. Wiley Robinson

    Wow! Around 1990-1991, I operated “Asheville Trading Co.” in the upper two floors of this building. This was a combination of an antique store and recycling buisness. I am the guy who rebricked the windows, moved the roof tiles around to cover the holes, painted the grey columns, had the oak entrance at 23 Rankin Ave. built (in fact, it’s designation 23 Rankin Ave. was obtained by me from the post office) and restored electrical service to the upper floors of the building.

    I spent many hours inside that building and came to love its unique charm (such as the huge wooden beams on the third floor. We had the paint sandblasted off them to reveal the wood).

    Glad to see a brewery going in where T.S. Morrison was. I too worked there behind the candy counter (if they were still there, I was the guy who drew the cartoon hillbillys on some of the displays). When the buisness was sold to the elderly couple that ran it last, I took over the job of cleaning and renovating the upper floors and started my buisness there. Fun times!

    Reply
    • Hey, Wiley!

      I worked there 1995-1997 for the Shahans (Dick & Gloria). Nice folks, and a fun place to work. I hope the brewery is successful, because it’s such a great space and has such a history. I miss the store–those were good times–and especially the candy counter. I can still remember some customers’ candy orders (Licorice Whip Man came in every week for six red licorice whips to help him stop smoking; Lime Slice Guy wanted only lime fruit jellies; Sultan of Spoons always got 1/2 lb. of our double-dipped maltballs…I could go on and on!)

      Reply
      • Yep, I did the inventory for Walt when he sold it to the Shahans (they were the ones that let me go at T.S. Morrison when the sale took place but no hard feelings on that). I had some of the best times of my life renovating the upper floors of that building and used to stand on the roof and talk to the other denizens of Lexington Ave. This was back when much of that part of Asheville was still pretty seedy.

        I sure wish I could go back to those days sometimes, it was great fun.

    • The Pontificator

      Wiley Robinson…I’ll be damned.

      I remember you when I worked at T.S. Morrison during the final year of ownership by Lou, Walt, and someone else whose name escapes me.

      If you happen to see this post. How about letting me know the whereabouts of any of the former owners? I’m trying to locate the name of the distributor that supplied all those hard candies. I think they were out of NYC.

      John

      Reply
      • John–

        I worked at TSM after the original owners had sold the place. The hard candies (during my time) were from H.T. Hackney Candy Company…

      • I just saw this post. As I recall, we got the candies from quite a few suppliers but I the only one I remember was that the fudge came from the fudge company in Lake Lure (Rocky Mtn fudge???). The only supplier I can recall is “Stone County Ironworks” that made the potracks.

        I was wondering who this is and after seeing “The Pontificator” I realize it’s John Ponti (or as I remember you “the PETA guy”).

      • The fudge did come from that company in Lake Lure/Bat Cave; they used to drive it up the mountain to us every week. We also carried tons of candy from Koppers (cordials, Jordan almonds, etc.) and dark & milk chocolate Wilbur Buds (from the Wilbur Candy Co. of Pennsylania), and triple-dipped malt balls. Yes, those were good times!

  6. I was there the day they tore out the guts of the T.S. Morrison store. I was walking by, as was my usual routine, as pieces of fixtures and displays were being removed. I remember feeling a very deep sense of loss. I only wish I would have grabbed a few items from the junk as keepsakes of the place.

    Reply
  7. I just returned from a trip to Asheville and NC. When my deceased husband and I traveled there we ALWAYS went to “the oldest store in Asheville” and found many “goodies”. Last week, my friend Betsy and I looked several times “down the hill from downtown” and could not find it. I was SO disappointed. my cowboy hat….my long feather duster…..many souveniers…..the elevator, the bead-board walls, the many “things”! …..I am so sad for the
    demise of this store…..but thanks to Betsy for finding that it really DID EXIST!
    jh pinson TN

    Reply

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