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The former Gordmans store in downtown Logan.

I had every intention of concentrating today’s writing on another one of Logan’s landmark locations, one situated directly across Stratton Street from the Logan County Courthouse. The property, which last was operated as Gordmans’s Department Store, recently sold for the third time in the past few years and remains vacant. Some folks will remember the business there that was formerly operated as Peebles, while some of us still think of it simply as Watson’s.

The history of the property is significant in that it might have been the first movie theater in the county. It was operated there as the Bennett Theater, a silent movie extravaganza built and opened by Charles Bennet, who came to Logan in 1883 and was noted for his masonry work. He built many structures in Logan, including the former Guyan Valley Bank, the first bank in Logan County.

Bennett, born in Italy, also started and operated the first water plant in Logan, and as he expanded the operation, it became one of the finest water plants in West Virginia. In 1928, the City of Logan was using more than a half million gallons of water daily from the plant that originated from just a spring.

Bennett, whose actual last name was Bennetti, was instrumental in the development of Logan in the early 1900s, as he did masonry work that included concrete and block walls that still exist within Logan, including the Stratton Cemetery in Logan, and he did work for Judge J.B. Wilkinson, whose house was turned into Harris Funeral Home and is now Honaker Funeral Home on Main Street.

The property has a long history that involves names such as Hatfield and Peck, but more modernly it should be known that Watson’s Department Store became a reality after a 10-year lease was agreed upon by Ira A. Watson Co. and Lucille Rose Adams in 1961. After purchasing the property in 1967, Watson’s operated until 1998, when it became Peebles.

A Houston, Tex., based company, Stage Stores, acquired 136 Peebles stores located in 17 states. Including the acquisition of all Goody’s stores and some other retail businesses, the plan for Stage Stores Inc. was to rename all of the stores as Gordmans, which meant that the company would be operating approximately 700 Gordmans stores as off-price retailers.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed many of those stores and by May 2020 Stage Stores filed bankruptcy and was declared defunct on August 29, 2020. Although the Logan-based store was said to have profited, it also had to be included in the bankruptcy agreement.

In October 2020, the Logan store was purchased by another Houston company titled Jetall Companies Inc., whose president is listed as Ali Choudhri. A recent auction was conducted in which the highest bid of $162,000 was presented, but no one seems to know who made the bid.

No one knows of any plans that may lie ahead for the building. Nonetheless, informed sources said that while operating as Gordmans the well-lighted store’s electricity bill averaged approximately $3,000 per month.

At the present time, there are some positive actions being taken in Logan and a few other locations outside the town. Therefore, it is with high hopes that the former Gordmans site is transformed into a positive business aspect for Logan County and especially the town.

With the new owners of the former Logan National Bank building promising improvements for that five-story building — including a first-floor food court — and the complete restoration of another concrete dinosaur, the former four-story building behind the Logan post office formerly known as Logan Hardware, there is hope of new business life coming to fruition in Logan.

Although a restaurant is set to open soon at the former Logan Hardware building that has been renamed as McCoy Station, there will be much more featured in the totally stripped down and reenergized building, formerly owned by the local hospital. In addition to a second-story large bar area with dumbwaiter service from the first floor restaurant, there already is an axe-throwing station on the third floor and plans for numerous sleeping quarters for Hatfield-McCoy trail riders on the fourth floor. In addition, there are plans for different museum rooms featuring local exhibitions.

Even still, the former Topps nightclub location at Stollings has been transformed into a restaurant/bar that includes a total refurbishing of that once popular young people’s hangout that already features good reviews since its recent opening.

When you consider that the former location of The Logan Banner has been purchased with the new owner already totally renovating that site for a business operation that is expected to create nearly 50 jobs, there would seem to be a sense of optimism emerging from “old” places in Logan.

Now, when you contemplate that the former homeplace of Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield at Sarah Ann is currently in the hands of Jack Hatfield (a descendant of the Hatfield clan), who is planning a museum for that location, it would seem that — with or without the help of government — moves are being made in the right direction to restore and utilize historical settings within Logan County.

Just last Thursday, I was honored to address 150 8th grade students from Logan Middle School at the site of the former home of legendary Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin. The house, which became the Logan Woman’s Club public library and home to the club in 1946, has for the past five years been the scene of many nighttime visitors at Halloween season to view what annually has become the “Pumpkin House.”

While I was admiring the hundreds of pumpkins and the many lighted Halloween blowups surrounding the house, and as I waited for the oncoming students to arrive, I couldn’t help but think about the terrible condition the historic site was in not many years back. To me, it is a perfect example of what can be done when someone has the vision and determination to do what some people deem to be as next to impossible.

Here’s to hoping the planned improvements will be successfully made and that others may be inspired to invest in new beginnings that make Logan County a better place to live.

Already with a fine restaurant and village setting for Hatfield-McCoy trail riders at the former Rita Mall site located between Man and Logan, it would seem to me that — once completed — all of these destinations will serve to better the other in one way or another.

It’s nice to see good things happening for a change.

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