A Period when Downtown Huntington was the city's Hub

A Period when Downtown Huntington was the city's Hub
Photos: FB 70s/80s Huntington

In the 70's, downtown Huntington was clean and vibrant. There was a hustle and bustle down the city streets as people scrambled through the stores like a big outdoor mall. There were department stores like Anderson Newcomb, The Huntington Store, and The Bazaar. McCroy's  and H.L. Green were variety stores.

(Editor's Note: Prior to the Mall and urban renewal, Downtown was a mecca and zenith of local attraction. For instance, Bradshaws, O.J. Morrison, and The Union were department stores. Women's Shops included Style Shop, Belles, Kurzman's, Smart Shop, Powder Puff, Wender's and others. Men's Shops included George H. Wright, Amsburys, Robert Kopp, and others. The five and dime variety stores also included W.T. Grant, Woolworth, and Kress. Although the Keith Albee, Cinema and Palace continued operations until a year after Pullman opened, in the 40s and 50s, others included the Roxy, Rialto, State, and Tipton downtown and nearby the Margaret (20th /8th, shell still there), Westmor, Abbott (torn down by Jean Dean), and The Park.)

Huntington had three downtown records stores with the chain store National Record Mart, local store Davidson's Records and farther down fourth avenue there were three different stores at different times. First there were Audio Tapes and Records. Local chain Opus One replaced it and then in the eighties, Gary Fizer ran Sight N Sounds.

A Period when Downtown Huntington was the city's Hub
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Sight N Sounds was successful for years. Gary specialized in getting hard to find import hard rock albums and collectibles. Gary even helped usher in cds. Used record stores moved into the area and Gary delt with used records as well. But as the phonograph went out of business, so did Sight N Sounds. Although Now Hear This has done a good job in keeping Marshall students in cds.

 

Dan's and Glen's Sporting Goods have thrived in Huntington for years. Back then, Pied Piper was a successful stereo and musical instrument outlet. Nick's News sat on the corner next to National Record Mart and across from the courthouse. Owned by the Tweel family, Nick's specialized in magazines and out of town newspapers. They also carried books and cards. There were fast food places like Burger King and Bowincals. Bailey's Cafteria offered a fresh assortment of home cooked foods. Chili Willi's was just starting out in the building that used to house a jean store.

 

There always has been and will be a nightlife in downtown Huntington. In the 80's after the new library opened, the Old Library became a bar. Ah, yes, beer and books. Lots of young comics there on comedy night. I am not positive but I think I saw a very young Jeff Foxworthy there.

A Period when Downtown Huntington was the city's Hub

 

The big teen hang out before Cruise Avenue that is: was the game room Scratch and Tilt. Teens from all over the tri-state would fill it up on weekends to play pinball, Space Invaders, and Pac Man. Cruise Avenue was a place for kids to drive around and socialize. Of course the gas was high at around 99 cents a gallon.

 

Downtown had jewelry stores, shoe stores, and dress shops. During the Christmas season all the stores would stay open until 9. Love's Hardware kept the tri-state hammering and building. There were a few drug stores as well: Revco, Rite Aid, and Bogess Drugs. Downtown was alive and well.

 

In the 80's and 90's, things began to change. Downtown lost a chance at the Huntington Mall in the mid 70's. So for that we have the Huntington Mall in Barboursville. The rumors were that the old money that controlled Huntington did not want the mall downtown. Their theory was that the competition of the mall would destroy downtown stores.

 

 

Downtown did start to die out slowly after the mall opened. Downtown was likely to suffer either way. It is just the way downtowns have trended out in other areas. Many downtowns are ghost towns. Huntington's downtown went through that stage but has been given a slight shot in the arm by Pullman Square. The Cinema, Camelot, and Keith Albee have been replaced by state of the art movie theatres that pull in customers from all over the tri-state. Steak and Ale is long gone and so is Albrects but Max and Ermas, The Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe and others are now there.

A Period when Downtown Huntington was the city's Hub

 

Most of the company's that were downtown in the 70's have long gone out of business so the Mall really can not be totally blamed. The slow demise of cultural city downtowns dying has been an American epidemic. It is just the changing of the guard as people's shopping habbits have changed over the years. Downtown's emphasis is now on smaller, local companies instead of chain stores. Downtown is not as alive as it once was but it is not as dead either. True, the preseance of bums downtown do make any attempt at shopping certainly less pleasurable. The violence that has marred the downtown night scene also hangs over a Saturday night like a storm cloud. Pullman Square will ensure that the parking lots downtown remain full. Although it is now The Big Sandy Superstore Arena instead of The Huntington Civic Center, concerts and events do continue to bring downtown alive. Although the regatta no longer exists, there are several events at The Harris Riverfront Park that brings in outsiders. Although no longer the hub of the city, Downtown Huntington is still alive.

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