Editor's note: This is the 79th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON - Richard Warren Sears was a railroad station agent in North Redwood, Minnesota, when he received a shipment of fancy watches from a Chicago dealer. A local jeweler had ordered them but said he had changed his mind and didn't want them. Sears could have returned the watches. Instead, he purchased them, sold them at a hefty profit and then ordered more. Eventually, he started a business selling watches through a mail-order catalogue.
Moving to Chicago in 1996, Sears met Alvah C. Roebuck, who joined him in the business. In 1893, the two men renamed their watch company Sears, Roebuck & Co. and began adding new items to their catalog. Farmers discovered they could buy tools and supplies from the Sears. Roebuck catalog at cheaper prices than they had been paying at local general stores.
Soon the company was selling bicycles, sewing machines, sporting goods and a host of other items. And the company's catalogs kept growing in size - first to 300 pages, then 500.
Next, the company took a giant step when it began opening downtown retail stores in communities all across America. In downtown Huntington, Sears operated a retail store at 823 4th Ave. from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Beginning in the 1950s, Sears decided to leave crowded downtowns behind and build new stand-alone stores, modern in design with lots of free parking, In 1958, Sears moved its Huntington store from 4th Avenue to a new location on 5th Avenue at 29th Street. The store was big in size, modern in design and, of course, surrounded by acres of parking.
When the Huntington Mall opened in Barboursville in 1981, Sears opened a store there, closing its 29th Street store. Big Bear supermarket moved into the vacant 29th Street building. Then, when Big Bear went out of business, St. Mary's Medical Center bought the building and transformed it into its Education Center.
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