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Marson's Men's Store opened as barbershop in 1930

Grandson celebrating store's 80th anniversary
By: LindaLouise Haines, Colfax Record Correspondent
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By LindaLouise Haines Colfax Record Correspondent It was 1930 and Colfax was in its heyday. Despite the impact the Depression was having on the rest of the country, the Colfax area was buzzing with gold, fruit, trains, people of all kinds and sanitariums for tuberculosis patients — hundreds of tuberculosis patients. Colfax had become a center for TB hospitals after tuberculosis pioneer Dr. Robert Peers moved to Colfax and began his groundbreaking work in finding a cure for the disease. Not all the streets were paved yet. And, yes, sewer problems were making front-page news. Still, Colfax was the place to be in 1930. A young barber from San Francisco heard about the fresh air and temperatures that benefited folks suffering with TB. Oswald’s wife, Pauline, was suffering with TB, so the couple relocated so she could receive treatment. Oswald Marson opened a little barbershop on Main Street (where Colfax Theater is now located). Later, he opened a second barbershop at the other end of the street so he could grab the business of the patrons of the many saloons at that end of the street.  He saw another opportunity when he realized the railroad employees, farmers, ranchers and miners working in the community needed heavy-duty work clothes. So he began selling Levis in his barbershop.  In 1937 Ozzie Marson opened “Marson’s Haberdashery and Barbershop.” In addition to Levis, Ozzie Marson expanded the clothing inventory to include work books and caps. The couple became active in the community, including Ozzie serving as mayor for many years, reports his grandson, Ed. Many of the residents and businesses in town experienced what we now call “cash flow” problems, said his grandson, Ed Marson. So his grandfather frequently bartered merchandise for a chicken or a load of coal. There were even times when a child helped out in the store at Christmas time in exchange for merchandise. Others had a credit line and his grandfather kept a very precise log of all those accounts, Ed Marson said. His grandfather may have been generous, but he didn’t give anything away either. One time when a Sierra storm front halted train travel, Ed Marson continued, a railroad official called his grandfather in the middle of the night and asked him to open the store. Apparently the workers needed yellow slickers to wear while working in the elements. “So, Granddad got up, came down to the store and opened it in the middle of the night to supply the workers with the gear they needed to get the trains ready to move again,” Ed Marson said. “It was like the store was open 24/7 in those days to meet the needs of all kinds of emergencies in the area.” When Ozzie Sr. retired in 1960, his son, Robert “Ozzie” Marson and wife, Rita, took over the operation of the store. Robert Marson expanded the store, adding shoes for all ages. Following in his father’s footsteps, Robert also served as mayor. While Ozzie Sr. was 79 when he died, his son died in 1968 at the age of 45. He only ran the store for eight years. Robert’s sons had been working in the store at the time of their father’s death, so they took over management. In 1974, Ed became sole owner of the Colfax store, which is now known as Marson’s of Colfax: Regular, Big & Tall Men’s Wear Store. He and his wife, Connie, have now owned and operated the store longer than any other generation of Marson’s — 36 years. “I was talking to a woman recently and she told me that her family had been in the area for a long time. As long as she could remember, Marson’s was around,” wrote Stacey Kaping on the store’s Facebook fan page. “She told me a story of how her husband’s parents had trouble making ends meet when he was young and how grandpa Ozzie had brought him down to the store and put him in new school clothes at no charge. We both shed a tear. What a wonderful man.” Another longtime resident, Jean Paoli wrote, “I remember buying shoes there when I was a child. Bob would measure my feet and always make sure where my big toe was in the shoe.” Ed has played a key role in community groups. He has coached high school baseball and is head of the Recreation Association. The store also serves as a collection point for numerous community events, including projects supported by Soroptimist International of Colfax. In addition to her work with Soroptimist, Connie is active with the Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce and is past president of the Sierra Vista Center board.  Prior to her retirement, Connie owned and operated Artful Visions, a hair salon formerly located on Church Street. Finally, Ed wants to send his deepest “thanks to all our supporters and loyal customers over the years. You’ve all been a great help over the years.”