Editor's note: This is the 276th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — Sears, Roebuck & Co. has been much in the news of late. And the news hasn't been good. Plagued by sagging sales, the big retailer filed for bankruptcy and is barely clinging to life. Its future is uncertain.
Sears began, of course, as a mail-order company in the 1890s and before long its thick catalogue was showing up in millions of the nation's mailboxes.
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 821-23 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.
Located on an 11-acre tract that once was home to the traveling tent circuses that visited Huntington, the new store was big in size, modern in design and, of course, surrounded by acres of parking. Besides seemingly endless aisles of merchandise, the building included a snack bar, a garden shop, a huge warehouse and a service station built to accommodate eight vehicles at a time.
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.