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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

John Conley, founder of the White Elephant, dead at 90

July 22, 2017 Updated Sat., July 22, 2017 at 10:10 p.m.

By Abby Lynes The Spokesman-Review

John Conley, founder of the Spokane-area White Elephant sporting goods stores and a highly regarded figure in the community, has died. He was 90.

Conley opened his first store in 1946 after finishing a stint in the U.S. Navy. The young entrepreneur recognized the potential market Spokane offered for military surplus, and named his store accordingly – a “white elephant” being a term for something large and expensive that no one actually wants – according to a Spokesman-Review article from 2011.

Over the years, Conley expanded his inventory to include hardware and sporting goods and, as his own family grew, toys and games as well.

Today, the two stores – one in Spokane, the other in Spokane Valley – are operated by two of his sons, Pat and Rich.

Even as an octogenarian, Conley remained involved in the family business, paying bills from home, The Spokesman-Review reported. And he remained a much-recognized face of the store.

An homage published to the company’s Facebook page Saturday recalled Conley’s “eternal commitment to build a business that welcomed all, and encouraged enjoying time with family, and friends pursuing happiness in recreational activities.”

The White Elephant will be closed on Monday “so we can celebrate the reason we all enjoy a better life due to knowing him,” according to the page.

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