Morgan Imports: More than Merchandise

By Durham Chamber of Commerce / Published 06.28.19
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HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS?

We have been in business for 50 years.

WHO/WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR BUSINESS?

I wanted to go in business for myself. I loved creating spaces. I loved traveling to foreign places in the world. I loved interesting, unique, quality products that were representative of different cultures and countries. I needed to fill the spaces I envisioned creating.

While in military service in Vietnam, the wife of one of my colleagues that worked in retail introduced me to the idea of going into the retail import business. The idea was very appealing and as I finished my military services in the Marines, the thought of owning and creating a store in Downtown Durham where I grew up and where I went to school became my dream, and I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.

Durham in 1969 had an incredibly small selection of gift and home furnishing stores! At this time there was a universal interest in “import” stores, bringing products from all over the world to the USA. It was a way of connecting with the art, culture and history from different countries, and a way to offer alternative choices in the US market and like everything in life, our store evolved, changed, adapted and grew.

HOW MANY EMPLOYEES DO YOU HAVE? HOW MANY WERE HIRED IN THE LAST YEAR?

We currently have 19 team members. We hired 3 in the last year to replace those that had either retired or quit.

WHAT BUSINESS OR COMMUNITY NEED DOES YOUR BUSINESS MEET?

Morgan Imports offers a great shopping experience! Our store offers a wonderful place for out of towners and regulars to enjoy while passing time, sharing moments with friends and family, and finding something that they might like to purchase for their home. We are housed in an old laundry building that has been completely renovated and transformed into a space that is, aside from being a space that holds beautiful treasures, a wonderful architectural admiration.

We are a Durham store. We love Durham and are amazed how it has grown in the last decade.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST BUSINESS CHALLENGE YOUR COMPANY/BUSINESS HAS HAD TO OVERCOME? HOW DID YOU DO IT?

No challenge that we have overcome in the past is as big as the internet challenge we are facing now. In the past, we have overcome a massive fire that totally destroyed our store on Main Street. We lost our store, the building, our products, our history; we had to face new decisions. Fortunately for us, Brightleaf Square was being renovated around this time which gave us the opportunity to move into a 16,000 ft., two story space that we have occupied since 1981.

There have, of course, been other smaller challenges, but that was the largest. Presently though, our main issues are parking and the Internet.

WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS’ GREATEST NEED?

More customers, of course. Getting rid of complicated parking meters as well as ensuring that employees have ample parking is another need that we hope to address. Everyone profits if business is in a good district. It is more desirable to be there with more to offer.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS?

50 years of great merchandise and customers who tell us so often how much they love the store. People who lived here 30 years ago come back in town and visit Morgan Imports because of the memories held here.

We also have employees that have learned so much while working with us. Some that played in our store as kids now work with us. Many of our employees have gone on to open their own shops.

Our customers are so wonderful. We recognize them, we like them, and we do what we do to make them feel welcome and to meet their shopping needs. This is our life! It is more than just selling. It is a representation of who we are and what we want to offer to our city, our customers and our employees.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU HOPE YOUR BUSINESS WILL GROW IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS?

Most recently, the explosion in our district has presented a huge problem! Customer traffic is down for many reasons. Many of our customers worked in buildings which are now destroyed or uninhabitable so they are no longer in this district. We no longer have foot traffic shoppers.