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Witschey’s Market Anniversary

August 28, 2019
By Kim Eidel , Wetzel Chronicle

The Witschey family and staff are eagerly anticipating the September 18th anniversary date and celebration of 75 years of growth, expansion, and community service in the New Martinsville area. This dedicated locally owned supermarket is stronger than ever and is successfully surging forward with the times, while holding on to the sentiments of older customer service that sets them apart from other groceries. This service philosophy was demonstrated by one of the owners, Bill Witschey, as he personally conducted a tour of the store, warehouse, and offices to a Wetzel Chronicle media team.

The Witschey's heart for family, employees, friends, and the community was evident by the many pictures of past and present customers and memories that were hanging on the walls throughout the office, warehouse, and the store. The tour also revealed the extensive and detailed history of the changes, growth, and expansion of the life of the Witschey's Market.

Some of those changes are represented in the personal account of how Witschey's Market was first established a generation ago. Harold and Ethel Witschey, parents of Bill, Walter, Wayne, Warren, and Lila purchased the local store from Harold's then employer, Lawrence Amos for $500 on September 18, 1944. This purchase price included all the inventory, equipment, and all contents of the building.

Article Photos

Witschey's Market Owners L-R Lila, Warren, William (Bill), and Wayne Witschey.

The agreement indicated that the Witscheys' were to pay Amos $10 a week towards the purchase price and $50 a month to rent the building. The size of this first store was 20' X 50' and was located on the southeast corner of North and Main Streets.

Due to the personalized service and commitment to the community, sales quickly increased and more space was needed. The Witschey's Market than moved to a new building that accommodated 2,000 square feet for shoppers in 1958. With ongoing success and growth, more space was needed yet again. Ten years later, on October 1, 1968, the present building of Witscheys, measuring 12,600 square feet at the time, was completed and the doors opened to the public. This new store and atmosphere catapulted the family-owned supermarket to a new level of growth where four years later, the first of many remodels and additions took place.

During these years of operation and growth, four of the five children (Bill, Wayne, Warren and Lila) of Harold and Ethel, joined the family business and have been a vital part of the continued growth and operation of the Witschey's Market.

Many of the additions and transitions that have taken place over the years are major parts of who the Witschey family and market represents: advancement with a determination to meet the needs of the community! One request from local residents in the early years was to have a dedicated store to buy alcohol. Wayne took up the mantle of this endeavor and for 20 years successfully operated a separate store-front liquor store in association with Witschey's Market. In 2010, the family re-evaluated the alcohol establishment's records, numbers, and assets and decided to close the doors of the liquor store.

Another opportunity to better serve the neighborhood was presented to the Witscheys' in 1996 when Dave Harmon, owner of Harmon's Drug Store offered the family-owned supermarket the opportunity to purchase his pharmacy. Bill stated that he would agree to this business adventure as long as Harmon agreed to stay and work as the pharmacist. Harmon agreed to these terms and the business deal was finalized. Witschey's owned and personally managed the pharmacy as part of Witschey's until 2018. During the year of 2018, Jason Turner, owner and pharmacist of Sistersville Pharmacy purchased the supermarket drug store and now leases the space within Witschey's known as New Martinsville Pharmacy to continue to provide a service to the community.

Other services that have become part of the past history of the Witschey's Market was business bartering, with other local establishments and residents being able to purchase groceries and other needed items on credit. Bill specified how dedicated customers and friends would call the store and place their orders and would charge the supplies to their store account. He went on to specify how these groceries and supplies would then be personally delivered by store employees to the residents. Bill then went on to report that most residents would come in either once a week or once a month to pay their account. He relayed how this system worked well at the time. He continued his dialogue by stating that later, individual personal credit cards and other forms of payment replaced in-store credit.

Bill stated how life was changing, but during this shift of time, the family-owned supermarket did not want to compromise the personal contact and relationships they had developed with the community over the years. In addition to these concerns, the family wanted to maintain a pleasant shopping experience for local consumers. The family contemplated this dilemma and planned and orchestrated additions of having a deli and a bakery that would offer neighboring shoppers what they wanted in a snap. They also applied to the state and and was able to be a contributor for supplies to those who carried WV Food Cards. These new additions combined with continued personal service and greeters raised the standards of a supermarket experience that successfully propelled them to the futureright into the present.

Some may question what makes this family-owned supermarket so special. One trip to the Witschey's Market to buy groceries will demonstrate the difference and illustrate what sets them apart from other stores. Of the many factors that come in to play with their stand-out service is the continued offering of bagging groceries and carting them out and putting them in the customer's vehicles. Another unique feature of this family-owned supermarket is the hours of operation.

To help meet the needs of shift-workers to homemakers, and everyone in between, Witschey's Market opens at 6:30 am and closes at 11:00 pm. Many positive comments have also been made in regards to the cleanliness of the store, the fresh and ripe produce, and the option of a butcher on premises to tenderize and cut meat to requested specifications. The variety of options and selection of products have also been a favorite service of the small-town market. Another mentioned item of high praise towards the supermarket is the rare option of requesting products that are not normally carried. Witschey's have a reputation of adding said merchandise to their regular product line if there is enough interest.

The most stand-out customer service example is actually a blast-from-the-past memory. In June of 1972, Hurricane Agnes left a devastation of severe flooding in Wetzel County. Witschey's Market had over eleven inches of water throughout the store. The store staff, wearing hip-boots, mounted cash registers on concrete blocks and many desperate customers rowed boats to the store for supplies. Lila Witschey recounted this memory and stated, "This is a hallmark of Witschey's Marketbeing open when the public needs you". Even though this event is a memory from the past, this true story embodies the very hard-core dedication the Witschey's have for the communitya community that they view as neighbors, friends, and family.

Today, Witschey's Market is a home-away-from-home for employees. Dedicated workers enjoy the many benefits offered by the supermarket. Bill replied, "It's all about how you treat people. Not only do we offer great benefits, including paid vacation time; but I also make it known that I have an open-door policy. Treating people with consideration is a part of my motto". Bill went on to announce that they are currently hiring. It is their goal to hire more help to ensure the hours of operation may be maintained.

Towards the end of the tour and interview, Bill and his siblings frankly discussed their age and plans for the future. Bill specified that he is 88 years old and announced that he and his siblings do not have any family to take over the business. However, he did announce that the present management staff, husband and wife team, Denny and Rose Wichterman are doing an excellent job overseeing the store and business and have had many opportunities to put their skills to the test while the Witscheys' have taken time off for family days and vacations. Bill furthered his report by declaring that he and his siblings have confidence in the Wichterman's ability to successful continue the business, if need be. Bill stated that plans have been established to ensure the success and room for future growth for the family-owned supermarket.

He ended the interview with a call to the publica call to come celebrate the past, present and future of Witschey's Market. A celebration of 75 years of service is a monumental accomplishment and the Witchey's family desires to share the festivity of the occasion. Shoppers will find special deals, incentives, and significant price reductions from now through the 8th of September. The family-owned supermarket hopes to convey its appreciation to the neighborhood. After-all, there would be no Witschey's Market without the community.

 
 
 

 

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