HUNTINGTON - For more than 40 years, in an era before Walmart spread nationwide, Hills Department Stores was a popular discount shopping chain.
Hills was founded in 1957 in Youngstown, Ohio, and disappeared in 1999, when it was acquired by the Ames discount chain.
Hills stores mostly were located in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia, though the company did make a push into other states, opening stores in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and as far west as Michigan.
Huntington had two Hills stores. In 1973, it opened a store in the then-new East Hills Mall on U.S. 60, just east of the junction of Interstate 64 and U.S. 60. In 1982, a second Hills location was opened on 5th Street Road near the I-64 interchange. There was also a Hills store in Ashland, Ky.
Hills was founded by Herbert H. Goldberger, who later sold it to the Shoe Corporation of America (SCOA). In 1985, he led a management buyout, again taking control of the discount chain. Later his son, Stephen, took over.
The Hills stores offered a broad array of merchandise - clothing and shoes, housewares and hardware, paint, automotive and toys. Lots of toys. An outsize share of the company's sales came from its year-round sale of toys. And, of course, no shopping trip to Hills was complete without a bag of buttered popcorn from the snack bar.
In 1998, the Ames chain acquired Hills, renaming some of its stores and closing others.
But by the end of 2002, Ames, too, would be out of business, a victim of a crushing load of corporate debt.
The former East Hills Mall on U.S. 60 is now an office park, and the Hills store building on 5th Street Road is now home to a DirecTV call center.