Artifact Details


Morris, Mervin oral history

Catalog Number





Mervin Morris, born July 4th, 1920 in San Francisco, comes from a long line of retail shop owners. His father owned a “dry goods” shop in the small town of Delano California where he sold apparel, blankets, etc. Going back further, his great grandfather owned a shop in Columbia where he sold clothing to the gold miners. During the Depression, at the age of 12, Mervin started working in his father’s store, so he got an early start in the retail business.
After graduating from high school, he left his small-town home to attend UC Berkeley. However, his studies were cut short when his father suffered a heart attack in the middle of final exams at the end of the first semester. He hurried home and went back to work in the store to help support the family.
Mervin stayed in the family business until 1941. When the war broke out, he joined the army and, after a few transfers, was chosen to be a “post exchange officer”. He was stationed in Camp Chaffee, Arkansas and eventually had the responsibility for 18 retail stores, 4 restaurants, and a couple of non-commissioned officers clubs. So, in his early 20’s, he was running a major retail operation.
His experiences in the service opened his eyes to the world, and at the end of the war, he knew that he didn’t want to settle down in Delano. After a brief stint as a traveling salesman, he discovered a bankrupt store in San Lorenzo, California which he turned into the first Mervyn’s department store. He carved out a market niche between the large department stores and the discount operations and began growing a very successful retail empire. As with his father’s stores, he sold soft goods – clothing, linen, etc.
By 1971 he had grown Mervyn’s to 6 stores and was quite profitable. He was able to take the company public in 1971, alleviating a long-term cash crunch for the company and provided the capital it needed to expand rapidly. By 1979, Mervyn’s had grown to nearly 80 stores and Mr. Morris decided to sell ownership to Dayton Hudson. He wanted to make sure his family was permanently provided for and he needed to escape the personal stress of running such a large operation.
Mervin later made a small move into auto dealer ownership but decided that was not for him and quickly sold the two dealerships he had acquired. Since then, he has been mainly focused on managing his own real estate investment company and working with the Boys and Girls Club in Redwood City and the Peninsula Volunteers in Menlo Park. At the time of this interview, he lives in Atherton and enjoys time with his four children and many grandchildren.




Fairbairn, Doug, Interviewer
Morris, Mervin, Interviewee


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA


26 p.






Mervyn's; Dayton-Hudson; Target; Peninsula Volunteers

Collection Title

CHM Oral History Collection


Computer History Museum

Lot Number


Related Records

102795130 Morris, Mervin oral history