Heck’s Inc., a chain of discount department stores headquartered in Charleston, competed with Kmart and Walmart until it went bankrupt in the late 1980s.
In 1959, four Boone County businessmen opened the first Heck’s department store in Charleston: Fred Haddad, Thomas Ellis, Lester Ellis, and Douglas Cook. Heck’s offered a large inventory of clothing, home furnishings, hardware, health and beauty aids, jewelry, toys, small appliances, and sporting goods. It sold nationally advertised items and its own line of goods at low prices.
The company expanded greatly in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. It bought Woodrum Home Outfitting Company, West Virginia’s largest furniture store, as well as several out-of-state discount chain competitors. It built a new headquarters on Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston and a distribution center in Nitro. At one point, Heck’s was the only West Virginia company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1980, Forbes Magazine ranked Heck’s third nationally in profitability and growth, above Kmart and below only Walmart and one other chain.
At its peak in the mid-1980s, Heck’s operated 127 stores in nine states, employed more than 8,000, and had assets of $300 million. But Heck’s faced increased competition from Walmart and others. Despite a redesign of its stores, profits fell. In 1987, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It continued to operate in a smaller capacity until 1990, when Jordache Enterprises purchased it by paying $1 and agreeing to assume its large debts. A year later, Jordache closed the remaining stores and liquidated their assets.
This Article was written by Scott Finn