In part one of a series, we profile ten locally-owned
Article by Shelly Betz
A popular song from the 1960s claims "You can forget all your troubles; forget all your cares and go downtown." With the Ohio River serving as a natural and sometimes majestic backdrop, downtown Huntington seemingly has more to offer residents and visitors these days. And while we all revel in the new business and entertainment attractions, there are even more tried-and-true businesses which help make our great city what is is today.
Most of us recognize the picture of many downtowns in cities across the United States is not always rosy. Many are laden with boarded up buildings, long abandoned by once-thriving businesses that either sought shelter at the neighboring suburban mall or were simply swallowed up by the one-stop-shop megastores which seem pervasive in today’s society.
Nonetheless, there are times when we need to count the small blessings within our community and realize that the presence of locally or family-owned businesses can have just as much impact upon our lives as those which extend beyond the borders of our city—Huntington is no exception. Here are a few of them in Part One of our coverage of “The Local Charm of Huntingon.”
Bliss Boutique, located in the heart of downtown Huntington, offers a refreshingly eclectic blend of unique fashions for women ages 25-45. Filled with a broad selection of casual wear, formal gowns, fashion jewelry, shoes and even some home accessories, the whimsical atmosphere of BLISS is sure to capture the essence of any woman-of-style, as well as the man who loves her. Owner Rita Pike-Grahamn says her idea to open the boutique in February of 2005 was borne of many years shopping out of town. “For years I traveled to other places to find clothing that was unique and well made. I know quality fabrics when I see them and also pay attention to the fact that our customers do not like to see themselves repeated around town,” she said. Staying true to the mantra, ‘All Things Feminine’, BLISS is more than the name suggests. It is also a state of being contrived of a celebration of being a woman. The store opens at 10:30am Monday thru Saturday and offer after-hours shopping by appointment.
T.K. Dodrill Jewelers
If diamonds really are a girl’s best friend, then Kirk Dodrill may very well rank as a close second choice. As the area’s only certified gemologist, Kirk Dodrill prides himself on selecting only the finest precious stones, silver, gold and platinum rings, plus high-end watches for customers. Tucked neatly along the downtown plaza strip that conveniently leads to Pullman Square, T.K. Dodrill Jewelers is reminiscent of a once upon a time multi-generation family-owned business, overflowing with elegance and subtle irreverence for the ordinary. “From the beginning (1984), our focus has been on the gemstones, providing good customer service and overall quality. I’m sensitive about our family name and its reputation,” said Dodrill. The store offers jewelry design and the rare ideal cut Lazare diamond, which allows for maximum refractory to return light to the top of the stone. Dodrill’s also carries unique jewelry by such exclusive designers as Lyric, Richard Krementz Platinum bridal and colored gemstones, A. Jaffe and Diana wedding bands and bridal. Business hours are 10am-5pm Monday thru Friday, Saturday 10am to 4pm.
Wender’s Apparel, Inc.
As one of the oldest businesses in downtown Huntington, Wender’s has outfitted many of the area’s most sophisticated and professional ladies for some 70 years. It is truly a landmark. Specializing in sportswear, dresses, designer separates, hats, handbags and accessories, the shop continues to attract ladies of distinction and class, as well as those looking for up-to-date, yet classic and practical fashions. Edna Dunkle, store owner for the past 40 years, believes the success of the store is due in part to a longstanding tradition of excellent customer service. “We have a sales staff that gives every customer special attention. I think it’s a advantage to really know the customer and what she likes and dislikes,” she said. Wender’s also provides custom fitting and alterations and prides itself on keeping abreast of the latest fashion trends. Some popular designer labels include Liz Claiborne, Irene Allison, Graff and Blast. Store hours are 10am until 5pm Monday thru Saturday.
The Peanut Shoppe
Now here’s a business we can all sink out teeth into—literally. Whether it’s the warm cashews , chocolate-covered peanuts, pistachios or homemade fudge that pleases your palette, most Huntington residents can attest to the seemingly intoxicating aroma that emanates from the popular downtown business on a daily basis. For many, it is a must-do stop on the way to or from the movie theater. Family owned since 1924, the rich tradition of offering fresh peanuts and candies continues to guide the business as a favorite among local residents and visitors alike. All shelled nuts are deep fried in peanut oil ad seasoned with select spices. Other nuts still in their shell are dry roasted to peak flavor. Doug Myers, current owner, says The Peanut Shoppe enjoyed a boom in business throughout last spring’s filming of the “We Are…Marshall” movie. “The Warner Bros. staff gave our display windows a much-needed facelift by decorating them for the movie,” he said. The shop now offers custom-order party trays, as well as gift tins filled with tasty treats, complete with area school or sports team logos.
Stewart’s Original Hotdogs
Perhaps one of the most nostalgic eateries in Huntington is found on 5th Avenue. Since 1932 customers have enjoyed the famous hot dogs, BBQ and root beer served up by Stewart’s Original Hot Dogs. This fourth-generation family owned business continues to thrive and delight fans of all ages with its trademark chili sauce, friendly car waiters, convenient location and down-home flavor. John Mandt, Jr. says it’s no surprise that Stewart’s is a favorite among the locals. “When you come to Stewart’s you know exactly what you’re going to get. Everything tastes the same as it did back in the beginning,” he said. Stewart’s Original Hot Dogs is the official hot dog for Marshall University athletics. They also provide catering for special occasions and accept internet orders. In the past four years, Stewart’s has shipped more than 3,000 orders throughout the U.S. and to such faraway places as Iraq, Italy and Korea.
City Kids & Co.
The best-dressed kids in town most likely have visited City Kids located in the heart of downtown Huntington. The specialty children’s boutique opened in 1989, offering unique, affordable fashions for children from preemie sizes all the way up to size 14 for boys and girls. The store carries such favorites as special occasion dresses, Christening gowns, hair bows, boys suiting and all-weather gear to name a few. The business is a ‘sister store’ to Pumpkin Patch in Ceredo, both carrying different merchandise to serve two distinct customers. As owner Sherry Houveras explains, both stores have plenty to offer by way of children’s fashion. “We have brands that are unique to each store. The City Kids shopper tends to prefer a more classic and conservative look. Of course, we have many customers who shop both stores. They know that, if it is to be found, chances are City Kids or Pumpkin Patch carries it,” she said. City Kids is open Monday thru Saturday, 10am until 5pm.
Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti House
It’s hard to imagine Huntington without the legendary Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti House, which is synonymous with the city itself. The popular restaurant started by Jim Tweel back in 1938 is a favorite among area residents, with its celebrity photo-clad walls and waitresses who continue to don the traditional all-white uniforms. But it is the food that draws customers by the thousands year after year, with a focus on quality, consistency and good service. Many customers visit the restaurant weekly to get the famous spaghetti, white fish and signature cheeseburgers on a grilled bun. Daughter Jimmie says the popularity of Jim’s restaurant transcends time. “I think the restaurant holds so many memories for people in Huntington. They come here to celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, graduations and more. Jim’s original ideals about good service and food, as well as cleanliness are reflected even down to the uniforms the ladies wear. When you come here, you know exactly what to expect and I think we do a great job of making customers happy,” she said. Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti is open Tuesday thru Saturday, 11am until 9pm. Take out orders are accepted.
Glenn’s Sporting Goods, Inc.
When it comes to athletic wear and shoes, there’s one name in Huntington that stands above all others. Glenn’s Sporting Goods opened in 1970, with a shoe selection that was limited to the famous high or low top Chuck Taylor by Converse. Customers had their choice of black or white. Nowadays, Glenn’s carries a broad selection of athletic apparel that includes more than 600 styles of shoes, plus school jackets and uniforms, sweatshirts, Marshall University gear and more. The store also has the high distinction of being a NIKE Elite Dealer, which allows it to carry specialty and limited edition products such as the popular Air Force I shoe line and Michael Jordan clothing. It is also a Russell Athletic RTS team dealer, as well as a Wilson Specialty team dealer, gving them access to pro line uniforms. Customer service is key. A knowledgeable sales staff, many of whom have worked at the store for more than 15 years, still fits shoes and personally attends to each customer. Store hours are 9am to 8pm on Monday and Friday; 9am-6pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Mack & Dave’s
Mack & Dave’s has been a fixture in Huntington since 1949, when good friends Mack Webb and David Cohen collectively purchased the pawn shop where they both worked, then called B&B Loans. Along with the name change, the business relocated to its current spot along Third Avenue in 1974. Today, the city-block-long specialty department store sells everything from furniture, electronics, musical instruments and accessories to jewelry, guns and cameras. With such a rich history that is embedded within the Huntington community, Mack & Dave’s is one of only a few local businesses where the customers may span three or four generations of shoppers. Although Mack Webb passed away 15 years ago, his business partner David Cohen carries on the tradition of good customer service that the two began in the early days. Store hours are 9:30am until 6:30pm on Monday; 9:30am – 5:30pm on Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; and 9:30am – 6pm on Friday.
C.M. Love & Company
Opened in 1910 as Love, Brinker Hardware, Charles Marion Love changed the name several years later when he became sole owner. Then, as now, C.M. Love carried basic hardware products ranging from fencing and well-water pumps, electrical wire, bulk grass seed, power equipment and lawn & garden items. Recently, the third-genration family owned store has broadened its niche offerings to include products more appealing to the ladies, such as housewares, gifts, silver jewelry and some handbags. Gary Pommerenck, company President, attributes the longevity of C.M. Love to staying true to its roots, while evolving with the times. “We have always been committed to carrying items that our customers want or need. Over the years, we have made adjustments to our store inventory where items were taken care of by other businesses, such as the trainloads of fertilizer we used to purchase before manufacturers began selling directly to customers,” he said. Even now, one of C.M. Love’s best assets lies within the product knowledge among its management team and support staff, who offer the right advice to customers each day. The store offers local delivery service. Business hours are 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday thru Friday; Saturday, 8:30am to 5pm.
Shelly Ridgeway Betz is a freelance writer living in Huntington with her husband and two daughters.
© 1999-2005 Huntington Quarterly Magazine