It's been almost three years since Kaufman's clothing store closed its doors in downtown Wheeling. The building remains, but now empty of its lovely wedding gowns and bridal party attire. There are no pink or red hearts dangling from wires in February or snowflakes frosting the windows in December.
Since the store closed, and others before and after it, new reporters have joined our staff, several from areas outside of Wheeling. So when I tell them to run up to the old Kaufman's building because there is a water break or traffic accident in front of the building, they look at me like I have lost my Google map mind. They never saw Kaufman's in business. My mistake.
In casual conversation, nearly every day of the week, some of us older (seasoned) types in the office discuss a story that includes a landmark location that no longer exists. I will refer to, for instance, the place where Bernie Glenn's used to be or Elby's out-the-pike Big Boy restaurant. Of course Bernie Glenn's also formerly housed St. Vincent de Paul's' store and now another business, and the old Elby's was torn down to make way for the very popular Perkins restaurant whose pies rival those of its predecessor's.
When West Virginia Northern Community College began its renovations at the former Straub's auto showrooms at 16th and Market streets, a couple of us recalled the Winky's hamburger joint that once graced a part of that property.
That brought to mind all the fuss and excitement when downtown Wheeling welcomed an Arthur Treacher's fast food eatery on Market Street some years back. The place was packed every lunch hour until the novelty wore off and surrounding retail businesses dwindled.
The Blaw Knox factory on the peninsula that turned out tank turrets during World War II is now the location Top Notch Landscaping and serves as parking for tanker trucks for another adjacent business.
And St. Michael's Angelus Center was built on the site of the former Kroger store which was constructed after tearing down some homes and removing Hundley's auto dealership. Are you still with me?
I miss the old drugstore, gas station and office complex that now is home to the Sheetz gas station out on Bethany Pike and National Road, but that is progress. The same goes for the hardware store that used to be in the Washington Avenue Plaza which now is occupied by the new Dollar General store that is fast becoming a big hit with the neighborhood.
I have reacquainted myself with many of the "old" sites and now make the proper notations when sending a reporter out to a story. I refrain, with great effort, from saying anything about what "used to be there." I promise to do better at giving directions when asked. Just be patient while I pull out the folded up map in my desk.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.