Editor’s note: This is the 412th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — Charles S. Fleeger grew up in an orphanage and later was apprenticed to a shoe merchant in Butler, Pennsylvania, where he worked for nine years. Later he managed a small department store owned by W.H. DeArme. Before long DeArme and Fleeger decided to try their luck selling wallpaper and paint in the growing town of Huntington.
In 1912, the two men arrived in Huntington. They stayed at the old Florentine Hotel, where they were advised to get in touch with Thomas Garland, a prominent local merchant. On Garland’s advice they leased a building under construction at 326 10th St.
The two went to Pittsburgh, where they purchased merchandise to be shipped downriver by riverboat, then went to New York to buy more. When they returned to Huntington they learned that the riverboat “City of Parkersburg” had sunk, carrying down with it all their goods, which weren’t insured.
They ordered more merchandise (directing that it be shipped by rail) and finally opened their new store — just three weeks before the 1913 flood, which left the store a soggy mess. At this point, John W. Croll purchased DeArme’s interest, and the store prospered until the arrival of the Depression in 1929, which forced it to close in 1932.
Less than a year later, Fleeger and Frank R. Withrow, a former employee, reopened the store under a new name, Fleeger-Withrow Inc., and a new location, 1037 3rd Ave.
Over the years, Fleeger-Withrow was a popular retailer of wallpaper, paint. carpet, linoleum and window shades. Charles Fleeger could still be seen hard at work at the store into his 90s. According to records in the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, the store closed in 1973.