6 WV stores that have been passed down generations

In an era where convenient big-box retail stores are the norm at every freeway exit, finding local flavor and unique businesses can sometimes be a challenge when you’re on-the-go. However, the hills and hollows of West Virginia still nestle stores that embody independence, family and tradition— providing experiences you will not get anywhere else in the world.  

Here are 6 of the most iconic stores in the Mountain State that have been passed down over the generations. Drop into any one of them, and you’ll see why their communities keep them around!

1. Colabrese Brothers General Store

Although not still in the same family as when it started, the history of this Thomas, WV, institution makes it too iconic not to include. The Colabrese brothers originally came to the mountain town of Thomas, along with many other Italian immigrants, to work in coal mines. Like many entrepreneurs, they found that they could make more money selling dry goods to coal miners, and they opened their first store in 1936. In the 1960s, they moved the store to its present location, which still has an old Italian restaurant and dance hall upstairs.  Although owner Bill Colabrese passed away in 1998, in 2000, the Anderson family purchased the store, and actively strive to maintain its historical character, with unique signs, trinkets and penny candy bins— symbols of a bygone era.

2. Alderson’s Store

In case the name doesn’t give it away, this place is as entrenched in the local history of its town as can be. Located in Alderson in southern West Virginia and started by the same family that founded the town, the store’s earliest incarnation goes way back to 1887. It began as the classic dry-goods general store of the rural 19th century, selling and bartering dishes, tools and work clothes to local farmers and railroad workers, while also buying meat and produce from farmers. In 1930, following a disastrous fire, Alderson’s Store moved into its present building, which still stands as one of West Virginia’s finest examples of Art Deco architecture. Today, it is mostly a women’s clothing, antique, and curio shop, and remains an institution in Alderson.

3. McCormick’s Furniture

This institution has been open in the same Logan location and owned by the same family since 1936. Opening during the Great Depression was a rough start, and the McCormick’s originally leased a small storage space out of a hotel to peddle whatever large appliances people could still afford during those years of scarcity. Eventually, however, the store tapped into post-WWII prosperity, buying out its hotel landlord and expanding into a full-on department store. Today, even in this era of large franchises, it continues to be the place to buy furniture in southwest West Virginia, and the McCormicks still offer free delivery along country roads within an 80-mile radius.


4. Holl’s Swiss Chocolates

Although they’ve “only” been a chocolate store since 1986, the story of this West Virginia institution goes back much further. In the 1950s, Swiss immigrant Fritz Holl would make signature chocolates as gifts, and after retiring in 1986, he began selling them out of his kitchen. By 1990. The business had become successful enough that he and his son Dominique moved their headquarters to its current location in Vienna.

Today, Dominique runs the operation, selling high-end chocolates, truffles and even seasonal dipped strawberries. You can visit their store in Vienna, or at their shop in Charleston’s Capitol Market.

5. Harper’s Old Country Store

This place is no secret to those of us who travel to the remote town of Seneca Rocks to climb or hike around the breathtaking sandstone fins that top the nearby Allegheny Mountains. Harper’s Store has been open and continuously operated by the same family since 1902, making it one of West Virginia’s oldest businesses. The store’s interior and exterior have changed little since the early 1900s, right down to its antique shelves, counters and fixtures. There is no better end to a day of Seneca Rocks hiking or climbing than to buy a cold beer at Harper’s and then eat a pizza on the second-floor balcony of the upstairs restaurant.

6. Chambers General Store

This old-time general store is definitely one of the hubs of Bethany, a small college town in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. Established in 1917, it is well into its 4th generation of ownership by the Chambers family. If you need a place to pick up some hardware supplies for your home improvement project, local produce, and then grab a tasty soup and sandwich lunch, this is it. They even have dollar sandwiches, perfect for budget travelers!

What’s your favorite generations-old WV shop?

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This post was last updated on March 15, 2022