Traffic was often bumper-to-bumper as shoppers packed the streets in search of an elusive parking space. Downtown landmarks like J.C. Penney, Leggett, Thornton’s and Montgomery Ward were bustling with shoppers on any given weekend. So was Kresge’s and the Dutch Oven Bakery during the always hectic lunch hour.
These were the glory years for downtown Bluefield. Our heyday. An era we may never see again. The coal industry was booming, and downtown Bluefield was the shopping destination for thousands of families across the region.
But much has changed in recent years. Coal is no longer king, and all of those downtown department stores are now gone. The final tipping point for Bluefield came in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the remaining downtown stores like Penney’s, Leggett and Montgomery Ward all relocated to the then-brand new Mercer Mall.
While efforts to resurrect downtown Bluefield have been underway for a number of years, economic challenges and declines in the coal industry have hampered those efforts. Small business growth is the current trend and success model for the downtown area.
But additional change could soon be forthcoming to the downtown area, albeit of more of a cosmetic nature.
The city Board of Directors announced last week that plans are underway to demolish several old buildings, including the old JC Penney. The hope is to create additional green space and parking, expand Chicory Square and create a possible amphitheater near the intersection of Bland and Scott streets. …
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