Retail was the heartbeat of downtown Washington

Published 5:45 pm Monday, April 3, 2023

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Donna Mills from Williamston commented to me recently that Washington has made a resurgence.  I suppose with the recent Streetscape program and the new clock on West Main Street that it would appear that downtown has made a comeback of sorts.  Let me tell you what I told her.

I can remember when our downtown was the heartbeat of our small community.  We had so many shops from Belk Tyler to Suskin and Berry.  They did not have to compete with the big box stores like Walmart on the outskirts of the city.  We had Buckman’s, Stewart Jewelry, Guy Swindell’s, Small Bookstore and we bought our records from Jowdy’s.  Men could shop at Togo’s or Mr. Hilton’s and later Russell’s for clothes and shoes.  We had The Charles Store and further down Main Street White’s Store, for ladies clothing and materials or they could shop at Belk’s or Buckman’s if they chose to. A person could buy hardware at either Harris Hardware or Mallison’s Hardware. People could buy their sporting goods from Kugler-Nicholson’s or either hardware store.  We even had two walk-in theatres on Main Street!  I know that we had plenty of professional offices and even an ice house where you could buy blocked ice.

Further down West Main was G.W. Walker and Sons where you could buy carpet and next to that was Heilig-Myers and you could always buy furniture there or Phillips-Wright.  You could buy second-hand clothes from Mr. Bill Abeyounis next door to Phillips-Wright. Around the corner were the famous Bill’s Hotdog Stand and Mr. Ammons Bakery.  Next door, the farmers bought fertilizer from W.B. Gerard and Sons, Walter and Parker, and they bought a many a pound of pecans from Dave Tayloe and me.  I know that I have left some out but not meaning too…

None of the above mentioned stores were open on Sundays and most were closed on Wednesday afternoon but two were open, Tayloe Drug Company and Jimmy’s News Stand where we stopped by after church on Sunday to get a coke and nabs.  You had your shoes shined at Mercer’s on Saturday or repaired during the week, but like other stores, they were not open on Sunday. If you bought anything, it was from downtown.  It was our small town’s heartbeat and the center for trade to local citizens who could find anything they needed UPTOWN or DOWNTOWN!

 Now, stores have turned into restaurants, antique stores and art galleries.  There are a few retail stores remaining.  I urge our local citizens to spend their money locally, not at some big box store.  They can better help the schools, churches and our youth groups out if you do.

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.!  The Original Washington!

Harold Jr.