In our Throwback Thursday Sponsored by the Highlands, we’re remembering a downtown favorite, Imperial Display.
The five-building storefront at 1040 Main Street was the only big box store in Wheeling. It was a favorite to walk through, especially during the holidays. Opening in the 1950’s Imperial Display was the only store of its kind, “Oh you know, our favorite place to go when we were kids was Imperial,” said Imperial Christmas Store Owner, Cathy Jackson.
In April of 1996, the Wheeling Fire Department responded to one of the biggest fires in recent history, the three-alarm fire bringing in all off-duty firemen and Ohio Firefighters too. The blazes ripped through Imperial on Easter Sunday causing $2.1 million in damages, “Four of those stores burned down, the teacher store was the only one left. So they moved to Murphy’s for a couple of years but the rent was kind of prohibitive so they went out of business as Imperial Display,” Jackson said.
That’s when Cathy Jackson stepped in, inspired by her love for the downtown store, she spent her retirement opening the teacher store and Christmas shoppe in 2001,”Back then there was no mall, there was no Walmart, there weren’t any big box stores and that was like the only “big box store” So it was just kind of neat browsing through and it would take hours to kind of just walk through it all and take it all in.”
Cathy says keeping the doors open has been a challenge over the last 17 years, but people still come, “We have a lot of people from out of town. So, they come in and I have to remind them you know it’s not imperial display but it’s a continuation of the Imperial Theme.” And if you’re still decking the halls, “We still sell these bulbs that were the original Christmas bulbs and everybody loves them,” Jackson said.
People come in for reunions in Wheeling and choose the Imperial Christmas Shoppe just to turn back time, “I mean we get thanked every day that we’re still here,” Jackson said.
If you want to stop by the new location on Main Street in Center Wheeling, Santa will be in from 11 until 2 on Saturdays. You can take part in a meet and greet and pictures with Santa completely free of charge!