Retail Is On the Rise

By ALAN OLSON

Staff Writer

MOUNDSVILLE — In recent years, the expansion of the oil and natural gas industry in the area has provided a financial boost to many and, in particular, Marshall County business leaders are pointing to the boom as the impetus for the growth of Mounsdville’s financial districts.

Laura Francis, president of the Uptown Moundsville Activities Committee, which represents numerous small businesses along Jefferson Avenue, said she attributes the growth of retail in the county partly to an uptick in out-of-town customers who find themselves shopping in Moundsville again and again.

“I have people who travel, and once they get something here, they like it and want to come back,” Francis said.

“We’re still not big, like Wal-Mart just up the road, but people are getting to know us … ,” she said. “You have repeat customers that you’ve always had for years, and new customers.”

Francis pointed to the greater availability of options from local businesses that serve as a draw to the financial district, such as the ability to custom-order a greater variety of products including collectors’ items from her own Buried Treasures antique store or custom shoe sizes and styles at Allen’s Bootery.

“Because of the oil and gas, people are coming and shopping locally. … I’ve had people from Louisiana and Oregon come through here. They buy some furniture, and they bring it back home with them. … Most of the oil and gas guys come through, and they have their big rigs, or their wives come to visit, and then they bring it back home when they get a break. We do have a lot of business trending from that.”

The UMAC, funded by the dues of its member businesses, also has been involved in beautification projects along Jefferson Avenue to keep customers returning. These efforts include hanging Christmas decorations during the holiday season, as well as the recent installation of dog waste stations along the sidewalks.

Scott Reager, executive director of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, said the influx of traffic thanks to oil and gas development has led to a positive change in temporary and extended lodging, while providing a general boost to business.

“Gas and oil companies’ presence in the area continues to be a positive economic boost to the county,” Reager said.

He added that impending work to W.Va. 2 and U.S. 250 to improve traffic flow, as well as renovation work to Monarch Stadium, would provide further benefits to the county’s economy.

“Marshall County Schools’ renovation of John Marshall High School and upcoming construction of a sports complex further bolster Marshall County economic potential,” Reager said. “Real estate and development are in demand for the area. Things are progressing in the county.”

The Marshall County Co-Op has seen a recent upswing in sales of fencing and related products since 2016, when the oil and gas business increased, manager David Voithofer said.

“We service the natural gas pipeline, big time,” he said. “It was very low in 2016, but it came back in 2017.”

With the co-op business having been in Marshall County since 1941, Voithofer said he’s seen multiple generations of families come through the doors. In more recent years, access to the Internet has made customers more knowledgeable about the products they’re looking for.

“They do know — in a lot of cases — more about their products than we do,” he said. “With 6,000 products in our inventory, we can’t know everything about everything. … I think this is the most diverse retail store anywhere, from propane, to, in May, our garden center, we’ve got half an acre of ground covered in grass, tree, shrubs and there’s livestock feed, dog food, birdseed.”

The store’s selection of products keeps the same families returning season after season, Voithofer added.

Other options for retail shopping that continue to draw a crowd are the strip malls on the west side of town, where Goodwill sees a continuous influx of new and returning customers due to its rotating and varied stock, alongside regional chains such as Busy Beaver.

“Everyone’s sharing in the growth,” Francis said.

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