By Daniel Townsend
After seven years as co-owner of Leonard’s Department Store, Allen Massey has decided to sell his share in the store because of recent of health problems.
Shaun Blaylock, who has worked at the store since 2002, and his father, Nat, will become the co-owners. “We’ve been talking for a while,” Blaylock said. “After he got back from the Mayo Clinic, the doctor told him to get on disability.” Massey was diagnosed with a debiliating condition in his spine.
Blaylock, a 1998 graduate of Kosciusko High school, was recruited to the store four years ago by then co-owner Jay Price.
Massey’s departure has been a difficult experience for the Leonard’s staff, Blaylock said. “I hate that he’s having to leave,” he said. “He’s been here for so long.”
Massey and Price became co-owners of Leonard's in 1999. Price left in March of this year to work at Bluff Springs.
“The store’s going to continue to run,” Blaylock said. “It’s been here 100 years. Allen wants to see it move on and serve Kosciusko and Attala County.”
Blaylock said he is preparing himself for “a ton of responsibility” that he is going to have to take on in the months ahead.
“One reason (Allen) is leaving is that he knows he can’t put forth what he needs to make the store continue,” Blaylock said.
Leonard's, located on the south side of the court square in Kosciusko, was founded in 1905 by W. C. Leonard, Sr.
His son, W. C. "Billy" Leonard, Jr. took over in 1956 and continued to operate the store until his retirement in 1985, when Bernard Russell purchased the majority interest. Tom Battles became a partner in the business in 1986.
Leonard passed away from complications following surgery in the fall of 2005 at Culpeper Regional Hospital in Culpeper, Va.
Customers frequently ask about Massey, who hasn’t worked the past month and a half, Blaylock said. “We’re gonna miss him up here.”