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On Oct. 7, 1975, a crowd of about 300 people waited patiently for the 10 a.m. grand opening of the new Harts Family Center store on U.S. 60 East.

Editor’s note: This is the 369th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.

HUNTINGTON — In 1954, Big Bear Stores Co., the Columbus, Ohio, based supermarket chain, purchased Harts Family Centers, a regional general merchandise chain. Under Big Bear, Harts grew rapidly.

At its peak in the late 1980s, it had 29 stores. When Big Bear opened a new supermarket, it often opened a Harts store in an adjacent space. Harts also had several free-standing stores in locations that usually had been vacated by other retail stores.

In 1975, Harts opened a free-standing Huntington store at 3100 U.S. 60 East in a building that had been occupied by an Arlan’s Department Store, which had gone bankrupt. The new store employed about 130 people. It carried clothing, jewelry, hardware, sporting goods, small appliances, housewares, bicycles, prescription drugs and other merchandise.

In 1976, a second Harts store was opened in conjunction with a Big Bear supermarket at the Ceredo Plaza. Company officials said the Harts portion of the complex employed about 180 people.

In 1981, Big Bear opened a new supermarket and a Harts store in a sprawling building at 5th Avenue and 29th Street that had been vacated when Sears, Roebuck & Co. moved to the then-new Huntington Mall at Barboursville.

A few months later, the company closed the free-standing Harts store on U.S. 60. A company spokesman said declining revenues resulting from the national recession had made it impossible to keep both the Route 60 and 29th Street stores open.

In 1989, Big Bear was acquired by a Pennsylvania chain, Penn Traffic. Later, Penn Traffic encountered financial troubles and ultimately filed for bankruptcy. In the process, it agreed to sell or close all the Big Bear stores.

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