Service Merchandise was originally founded in 1934 by Harry and Mary Zimmerman as a five-and-dime store in the town of Pulaski, Tennessee, near Nashville. The first of what evolved into a huge chain of catalog showrooms opened in 1960 on Broadway St. in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Service Merchandise was the nation's top catalog-showroom retailer. At its peak, the company achieved more than $4 billion in annual sales. As the company expanded, it began to open showrooms nationwide, mostly in the vicinity of major shopping malls, which were coming into vogue in the mid-1970s. In the early 1980s, the Service Merchandise headquarters moved from Nashville to nearby Brentwood, TN, becoming one of the first businesses to plant itself in the area that is now known as Cool Springs. In May 1985 the H. J. Wilson Co. was acquired by Service Merchandise for approximately $200M. Raymond Zimmerman, CEO was attracted to Wilson's stores to gain a firmer foothold in the Sunbelt states. Several of these Wilson's locations included an off-priced apparel department of about 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2). Service Merchandise also had other wholly owned subsidiaries featuring retail stores such as Zim's Jewelers, HomeOwners Warehouse (later called Mr. HOW Warehouse), The Lingerie Store, and The Toy Store.
Service Merchandise was a prominent sponsor of Wheel of Fortune. During that game show's shopping era (1975-1989 in daytime, 1983-1987 in syndication), contestants could opt to take a gift certificate from the company if they didn't have enough money to purchase any of the prizes shown. In addition, they also provided some of the prizes on The Price Is Right, Shop 'til You Drop on The Family Channel, and Shopping Spree.
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