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TEAYS VALLEY — Even on a weekday at noon, there is no lack of customers trekking in and out of West Virginia Hobbies & Crafts at Putnam Village Shopping Center. One mother-daughter duo is on the hunt for embroidery supplies. A paint-spattered gentleman clasps a pack of paintbrushes on his way to the register. There is a Mountaineer-clad fan searching for a model car to gift to someone whom she says is “pretty special in my life.”

Retired St. Albans resident Sue McIntire shops here for craft supplies.

“I like to paint with my grandchildren, and I buy my supplies here,” she says. “Like many others, I have been coming here for years.”

If you were to ask owner Chuck Willey the secret to successfully operating a small, family-owned business for 25 years, chances are that he would immediately deflect the attention from himself.

“We are still here by the grace of God and give Him all the glory,” he would say.

An Indiana native who adopted the Mountain State as his own 30 years ago, Willey is certainly too humble and unassuming to give himself any credit.

Willey’s customers, while not denying divine favor, suggest some other additional secrets to success.

“One ‘secret’ has got to be the friendly, attentive customer service,” McIntire posits. “When you enter the store, friendly staff members always greet you. Then they make sure to ask if you need help.”

Willey’s attentiveness to his clientele is noticeable. He moves about his store quickly and quietly, seeming to be anywhere and everywhere at the same moment. One moment he is deftly arranging flowers for a customer who wants a cemetery arrangement. The next moment he is recommending paint for another customer’s project. Meanwhile, he is also manning the register up front.

McIntire says, “I don’t like self-service checkout like you find at big box stores, so I appreciate the personal attention of a real person checking me out.”

Most often, it is Willey who runs the register, his soft voice wishing each customer a “blessed day” as they depart.

“The most rewarding aspect of running this business by far is the people I have met and the relationships I have developed over the years,” Willey states.

“And some of my favorite memories are of working with the college kids we have hired over the summers,” he adds. “They became like children to my wife Sherri and me, and we still keep in touch with them.”

Sherri, a Huntington native, operates Nitro Hobby and Crafts on 21st Street in Nitro. It was her expertise with arranging flowers that initially prompted the couple to open that craft and hobby store in 1993. The Willeys had worked in retail and big box stores for years and had done their time in the corporate world. When the opportunity arose to purchase the Teays Valley location in 1996, they jumped at the chance.

Chuck and Sherri wanted to offer something different than large retail chains had to offer, and that included personalized, friendly customer service.

They also intentionally incorporated a small hometown vibe in their Putnam County establishment. Evidences of that are seen in personal touches like the handwritten notecard taped to the door that reads, “Thank you, come again.” Or in fluorescent orange price stickers affixed to items throughout the store.

“We strive to keep a hometown atmosphere here,” Willey admits. “There is nothing overstated or gimmicky or flashy here.”

Characteristically, the shop’s 25th anniversary in October will not be celebrated sensationally.

“We will probably run some sales during the month of October,” Willey says, “but we keep our prices low all of the time, so we don’t really need to advertise big sales here.”

It is that type of down-to-earth honesty that loyal customers like Sue McIntire respect.

“Another element contributing to the shop’s success is the local touch,” she says. “I like that West Virginia Hobbies & Crafts is locally owned, close by, and easy to get into. I also like that they are open when they say they are going to be and post on their website if they are going to be closed.”

Besides customer service and hometown atmosphere, McIntire believes another important thing contributes to Willey’s success.

“Supply and selection,” she says. “They have a great selection of hobby and craft supplies. They always have what I need and sometimes what I didn’t know I needed!”

Willey can’t help but agree.

“We are a specialty retailer offering products that the big box stores don’t offer and we try to carry unique and hard-to-find items. For example, we offer cemetery supplies, full lines of craft paint, unique seasonal décor, and a diverse selection of car, plane, ship, train, and Gundam model kits.”

Every aisle of West Virginia Hobbies & Crafts is indeed a revelation. One half of the extra-large store is devoted to floral, art supplies, scrapbooking, beading, yarns, fabrics, woodworking, and more, while the other half houses model trains, rockets, plastic model kits, coin supplies, remote control vehicles and aircraft, and general hobby supplies.

If you want to experience West Virginia Hobbies & Crafts’ friendly customer service, hometown vibe, and abundant selection, the shop is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you would like additional information, check out the Facebook page or call 304-757-6474.

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