Dosser Brothers Was Department Store Success Story
Many area residents fondly recall shopping at Dosser’s Department Store that once stood at 228-230 E. Main Street, sandwiched between Sterchi Brothers on the west, Beckner’s Jewelers on the east.
According to an unidentified 1924 newspaper clipping (from the John Fain Anderson Collection, ETSU’s Archives of Appalachia), James H. Dosser came to Jonesboro about 1836. He gained business experience working as a store clerk.
In the 1850s, Dosser and a Mr. McEwen of Philadelphia erected a three-story brick building diagonally opposite the Washington County Courthouse and offered an extensive line of men’s wear and ladies’ yard goods. During the same decade, he formed another partnership known as Dosser and Stevenson. The businessman ultimately became an active builder with two large storehouses and several excellent dwellings as evidence of his prowess.
James Dosser had four sons: Robert N., Albert T., Frank F. and J. Harry. In 1907, Robert established a mercantile establishment in Morristown. Two years later, he and his brothers opened a store in Johnson City, known aptly as Dosser Brothers. Robert was president and principal owner of the business. He lived in Johnson City while his three siblings resided in Bristol, Morristown and Knoxville.
A 1915 Chamber of Commerce publication had glowing remarks about Dosser Brothers: “This is one of the big and successful department store enterprises of Johnson City. The location is at 228-230 E. Main Street. The firm deals extensively in dry goods and notions, millinery and shoes and high-grade ladies’ ready-to-wear suits. The business has been established at this point for the past five and a half years and during this time has become recognized as one of their real leaders in the trade and the patronage is largely with the leading and representative families of Johnson City and vicinity. The family also operates stores in Bristol and Morristown.”
The Johnson City business experienced steady growth since its conception. The amount of trade during 1923 was said to be the largest in the history of the store up to that time. Sales were encouraging during those early years with the exception of one year just after the war.
The company began making plans in early 1924 for an even bigger and better Dosser Brothers Store. With this determined vision in mind, they installed new equipment on the first and second stories and acquired additional space by acquiring and connecting an archway with the second story of the adjoining Crumley Building. This gave the facility about 75 x 100 feet in the ready-to-wear department. Their strategy for ongoing business success was to keep pace with Johnson City’s growth and to ensure the capability to meet its demands.
A 1915 advertisement in the Johnson City Staff further offers an idea of the nature of the business: “The Millinery Department is showing a wonderful number of beautiful hats, adding new shapes, new trimmings and new ideas daily. Suits coats and dresses still are arriving in the latest and most approved models. Silk sweaters are attractively priced at $5.00, $5.50 and $6.00. The Billiken shoe is the most satisfactory selling shoe sold in Johnson City.”
During his life, Robert was affiliated with the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Country Club. He was an active member for many years of Munsey Memorial M.E. Church, South. He died on March 22, 1927 of pneumonia after being struck by a passing car.
Dosser’s Department Store, as it later became known, closed its doors in downtown Johnson City sometime after 1972 after a successful run of over 63 years.