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For 60 years, Morton's Department Store attracted the bulk of its customers from among poor and working-class African Americans. Beginning with the opening of his first store here in 1933, white owner Mortimer Lebowitz provided inexpensive, fashionable, good-quality clothing to low-income blacks at a time when other department stores did not allow African American customers to try on clothes or use restrooms. In a then-radical move, Morton's was also the first department store to hire black women as sales clerks and to institute the lay-away system, which enabled customers to pay for clothes in installments. Lebowitz pioneered the discount department store in Washington, DC. The Morton's chain of stores closed in 1993 when the founder retired after the deaths of his two closest assistants.

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