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Family-owned specialty shop closing after 83 years

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Save Supply Co., Charleston's family owned kitchen and bath specialists since 1929, will close within the next 10 days, said owner Monty Coles.

Goldman Associates Inc. will auction the company's multiple buildings and 59,000 square feet of property at 711 Park Ave. on the West Side on Oct. 10.

Coles said, "The last year was great for us. This past March was the best month for us in years. When they started pulling mining and drilling permits, it had a ripple effect. Then we had the derecho."

The June 29 storm brought a lot of commerce to a standstill. Many West Virginians lost power for up to 10 days.

"Then I got to thinking, what if something happened to me in a time like that? My wife would be in a mess. At about the same time my brother-in-law passed away and it hit me between the eyes."

Coles is 68. He has worked at the store since he was 14 years old.

Save Supply was established by David Marcus and Clarence Coles, Monty's father. After several decades, Marcus retired and Clarence bought him out. Monty became owner when Clarence died in 1981.

Monty's sons, David and Travis, have worked in the store over the years. "David is going to be looking for something," Monty said. "He's a very talented person. He managed the countertop operation and, in the last two years, he replaced long-time employee Bob Carter and has been doing a lot of the office work.

"About one-and-a-half years ago Travis decided he was wanting out," Coles said. "He opened his own business as a handyman. He's a wonderful hands-on person. It takes a lot of drive in this store to keep it going daily, planning ahead, and it just wasn't his thing."

Save Supply had about 45 employees when business peaked about 25 years ago.

"We did have a manufacturing operation - we made countertops in lengths and sold them in a 10-state area," he said.

"We quit that around 1984. After my father passed away, running two types of business, I was here almost continuously."

When you run a family owned business, "it's seven days a week, 24 hours a day," Coles said. "I enjoyed this a lot more when I was out selling some."

"We've probably had eight people who've worked here over 50 years," he said. The number of employees is now down to eight. "We've been tightening up," he said.

Most employees have found work or have developed alternative plans, Coles said.

Save Supply's business was built on customer service and the company has done business by the Golden Rule. "That's what made us," he said.

"We tried to have American products as much as we could purchase. Over the last few years some of our suppliers were bought out by conglomerates that bring in people who, I feel, don't have an idea what they're doing and when you have a problem it's hard to deal with. But we've had so many great suppliers over the years it is unreal."

Pile Hardware, also on the West Side, is another business built on service. "I wouldn't be surprised if they sell more lawnmowers in the valley than anyone else," Coles said. "And if they don't have it you don't need it."

"Big box stores have been in the area for 30 years," Coles said. "When they advertised kitchens, it helped us. This is not a big factor in our decision.

 "The West Side's been great for us. I think the things that have gone on, it's everywhere," he said, alluding to crime. "Ninety-nine percent is drug related. If you're not out walking the streets all hours of the night, you're probably OK."

Coles said the only problem he's experienced in the last 20 years occurred some time ago when a woman and her boyfriend found an open door after hours, went to the office, found his name and phone number, and called him.

"She said they were looking for a warm place to stay," Coles recalled. "I called the police and we all met at the store. The police took them to Cutlips Motor Inn and I paid the bill. I appreciated her honesty."

Save Supply was established at 19 Hale St., downtown. When that location was destroyed by fire in 1943, the company moved to 22 Summers St., then to 514 Virginia St. E. The business was consolidated on Park Avenue in 1974.

Coles has not advertised the store closing. "It's all been by word of mouth," he said. "We have so many wonderful customers. We've had ladies come in here, crying. I've sold kitchens or bathrooms to some customers three or four times when they've either moved or decided it was 40 years old, replace it."

Save Supply's slogan is, "We can't save you money, if you don't come and see us."

Coles said the store started a 30-percent-off sale in July. "We intended it to be a warehouse clearance sale," but it was so well received it has continued. "We still have a few kitchen cabinets, probably eight to 10 vanities and a lot of cultured marble vanity tops," he said. "They're marked down below cost."

Asked what he will do following the auction, Coles said, "I have a little farm in Cross Lanes." Also, "After more than 50 years in this business, it might be fun to do something else."

Coles had an airplane for more than 30 years. "I sold it last year," he said. "I miss flying but I don't miss owning a plane."

The Oct. 10 property auction will occur on site. The minimum bid is $325,000.

Goldman Associates' auctioneer and broker Jay Goldman said, "It is a unique piece of property that's not been available for sale for a 100 years, except for these owners. For a contractor who wants on-site storage, a shop, an office and salesroom, it would work well. If a contractor doesn't need it all, he could be a landlord and provide some additional services.

"If you think about it that way, you would be spending less than $10 a square foot for the building or the land," Goldman said. "Somebody's going to get a good deal. The property is on Park Avenue, a main cross street, with a stoplight on Central and Washington, and access from Breece Street."

Prospective buyers can arrange an inspection of the property by calling Goldman at 304-343-5695 for an appointment.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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