Years before America had ever heard of Coca-Cola, Solomon Halle opened the first Oak Hall in downtown Memphis. Lit by oil lamps instead of lightbulbs, the original store was one of the first ready-to-wear stores in the country. Still owned and operated by direct descendants of the founding owner, Oak Hall’s initial mission remains the same: offer customers the greatest selection, give them the greatest service and exceed their expectations every time they visit.
Today, Oak Hall is known for offering one of the most extensive, carefully curated shopping experiences in the South for both men and women. But present-day customers may not realize the storied past of this Memphis institution — now one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the United States. So we’re sharing some of their rich history with a timeline showing how Oak Hall’s past has intersected with cultural events during the past 155 years. Enjoy!
Oak Hall was founded in Memphis by Solomon Halle during the presidency of James Buchanan.
Back in the 1800s, clothing didn’t necessarily have set prices. People of different social statuses might pay entirely different rates. But Oak Hall’s policy, one that remains in effect today, was that everyone pays the same price, regardless of the current balance in their bank account. Early on, Oak Hall put this promise in writing, designating their store as the “One Price Clothing House.”
William “Buffalo Bill” Cody shopped at Oak Hall at least three different times around the turn of the 20th century. Turns out this Wild West showman had an eye for fashion.
When World War I ended, there was a victory parade held right in front of the Oak Hall store on Main Street.
Oak Hall nearly doubled in size by expanding its second and third floors.
Oak Hall celebrated its 100th anniversary!
After 111 years in downtown Memphis, Oak Hall consolidated all operations to the Perkins at Poplar location.
The first Oak Hall Run for St. Jude raised $16,000 for children’s cancer research.
In 1978, Bill Levy, chairman of Oak Hall Inc., started the Oak Hall Run for St. Jude. He didn’t realize it would turn into the biggest road race in Tennessee during its time and a favorite race for many Memphians. Between 1977 and 2001, the event raised more than $2 million for the world-renowned children’s hospital. The race was known not only as a great way to support St. Jude, but also became a favorite for the running elite in Memphis. The Oak Hall Run for St. Jude is still an annual community-wide event enjoyed by serious athletes, weekend joggers, families and anyone wanting to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Oak Hall opened its ladies’ department.
Oak Hall moved to the Regalia Center at Poplar and Ridgeway, its current location.
The Vineyard Vines by Oak Hall store in Memphis opened, also located in the Regalia Shopping Center.
Oak Hall develops an online presence at oakhall.com and … celebrates 155 years!
There is more!
Enjoy the following timeline of fascinating happenings in Oak Hall and U.S. history. The next time you are shopping in Oak Hall, give a congratulatory handshake to Bill Levy and Bob Levy, the great-great grandsons of the original proprietor, and to Bill’s son, Will Levy, the sixth generation in line to run the business.
Congratulations to Oak Hall for achieving another landmark year and for remaining current to each generation for more than one-and-a-half centuries!
All images courtesy of Oak Hall