For 44 years, Fred King’s Department Store has been a tradition in Red Bay.
It is time now for the tradition to end.
Fred King’s Department Store will be closing its doors in January after a lifetime of sales and service to the area.
“We had never been to Red Bay when we came here with our suitcases 44 years ago,” Edna Holley, shop owner said.
“We began the business and have been here ever since,” said Odus Holley.
Edna’s father, Fred King, had opened a department store in Anderson.
After Odus returned from the war in 1945, King located the store building in Red Bay and sent his young daughter and son-in-law to operate their new business.
“We lived in the Red Bay Hotel for three months,” Edna said, “before we found a house to live in.”
“We didn’t have a car either” for about six months,” Odus said, “The times were hard back then, just after the war.”
“After the war merchandise was scarce,” Edna said. “We sold whatever we could find to sell. We sold material, notions, patterns and ready-made clothes.”
“We always stuck to the good-quality merchandise though,” Odus said.
Edna’s family owned and operated a department store when she was a child, and it was only natural for her to become involved in the retail business.
The couple has worked side-byside since they made the move to Red Bay 44 years ago.
“There has been a lot of give and take for us to work together,” Odus said. “We have always known in order to succeed, we had to pull together and agree on major decisions.”
“We’ve always been able to work out our differences,” Edna said.
The Holleys also made the decision to close the department store together.
“There is never a good time to quit,” Odus said. “But, we gave it a lot of thought. We weighed the pros and cons and made a decision and went with it. We have no regrets whatsoever.”
“I almost cried,” Edna said about the decision. “I grew up in the store business and it was a very hard decision to make.”
Odus and Edna decided to keep their gift shop and tuxedo rental business open.
“We opened the gift shop five years ago,” Edna said. “I plan to continue operating it while Odus will take care of the tuxedo rentals.”
Although the Fred King’s store is a family owned and operated business, the Holley’s two daughters are both involved with careers of their own and do not have time to include the department store business.
“We had always hoped Lynda (the oldest daughter) would want to come home and operate the store,” Edna said. “But she is married and teaches school at Coffee High School in Florence.”
The Holleys’ younger daughter, Marilyn, and her husband are both pharmacists in Guntersville.
“The girls were upset with the decision to close,” Edna said, “but they wanted us to do what we wanted too.”
Before deciding to close the Fred King’s Store, the Holleys considered selling it, but realized it would involve so much time and effort.
“We grew into the business,” Odus said. “We started and worked hard to build this business. It would just involve so much to sell it.”
The Holleys are both proud of the success the business has had through the years.
“The key to our success has been to have what the people want, when they want it, at the right price, and to offer good service,” Odus said. “That is a lot to offer, but we have always strived for that goal, and it has worked for us.”
They also attribute their success in Red Bay to their loyal employees and customers.
“The people in Red’ Bay and the surrounding area have been so nice and supportive to us these 44 years,” Odus said. “We deeply appreciate their friendship and loyalty.”
“Our work here in Red Bay hasn’t ever seemed like work,” Edna said. “It has been a fun business.”
The Holleys plan to stay in Red Bay after the close of the department store.
“Our home and property is here,” Odus said. “We wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. We plan to stay just as active in our church, business, and community affairs as we always have been.”
Even with the close of the business, the Holleys are still making their final business decisions together.
“I guess we will just give what we have left in the store to charity,” Odus said.
“Yes, I guess we had rather do that than sell it for so little,” Edna said.
“I really hope someone else will take up the slack in the business and put money back into the economy,” Odus said. “The business is out there, but we just can’t go forever.”