Moundsville’s Downtown Looking Onward and Upward
By ALAN OLSON
New business owners in the Moundsville business district say the city’s downtown seems to be entering a period of growth in a time when many would otherwise point out the city’s apparent decline.
Laura Francis, president of the Uptown Moundsville Activities Committee, is one such business owner. Francis owns Buried Treasures, an antique shop near the south end of downtown, and says she sees growth and new life entering the area, even in the normally slow winter months. This inspires new growth in turn, she said, as other prospective business owners are encouraged by the new locations and decide to become part of the movement.
“The growth (is what attracts new businesses) — I notice on this avenue, more businesses opening up,” Francis said, pointing out neighboring business New Beginnings, a salon and clothing store. “Historically, you’d never hear of someone opening a business in January, but they heard how we’d been prospering and growing, so more and more, new things are happening on the avenue.”
Francis pointed out, in addition to the new businesses cropping up, several older businesses which have been in operation for generations are still going strong, such as Allen’s Bootery. Jim Petit, whose grandfather Allen Petit first opened the doors at the Jefferson Avenue location in 1947, retired in November 2016, handing control of the store over to Carla and Eric Siburt, who now operate the store under its familiar name.
“They kept the name, they kept everything. They’re still sticking to the traditional standards (Petit) had done all those years — just a little more modern,” Francis said.
Carla Siburt said it had been her dream since she was young to own a business, and to operate in her hometown was an added bonus.
“The people of downtown Moundsville, they’re friendly and they needed a neighborhood shoe store,” Siburt said. “I’ve always wanted to own a business since I was a child, and when I found out it was going to be for sale, with the owner retiring, in July, I started the process to buy this.”
Just up the road, Avenue Pizza opened its doors in the same month, where entrepreneurs Derek Turk and Dorothy Myers came together to join their efforts. Myers, who had owned Dot’s Catering and a pie shop, both outside town, said she was happy to relocate her efforts to a more central location. Myers and Turk spent the better part of the year renovating the Jefferson Avenue building, which was previously vacant, to get their operation ready for business.
At the opening of Avenue Pizza, Moundsville Mayor Gene Saunders said he was highly pleased with the arrival of new businesses and a revitalization of the downtown area.
“It’s always great to see new things in town,” he said. “It’s good to see these old buildings being used. It’s going to be very good for Moundsville.”
Francis assumed her role with the UMAC recently, having been elected vice president at the end of last year. Former president Phil Remke resigned at the start of the year after being seated on the city council, elevating Francis to the role of president in short order, though she’s been a member for some time.
Dave Knuth, executive director of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, said a big draw of outside interest to the area is the historical area, which Francis said the UMAC aims to preserve.
“They keep it looking very nice, it’s very presentable, with their flags and the flowers in the summertime,” Knuth said. “They’re slowly getting more businesses in there, which themselves attract new business. It’s slow in coming, but I see progress in that area.”
Knuth and Francis said the annual festivals, such as September’s Fall Festival, also serve as a big draw for customers and vendors
“With the fall festival, we had more than 90 vendors last year, which brought in a couple thousand people, just on a single avenue. Those people come back before Christmas, which helped business, because they’re saying ‘We saw you and wanted to see what you do and what you have!’ And me, personally, I had a record year.”
A common sentiment at Moundsville City Council meetings is the looming issue of a declining and aging population, with several council members, and residents, voicing concerns that downtown is less active. The business owners along Jefferson Avenue, though, would beg to disagree with the notion.