Braxton Farm Supply...another family-owned business serving the community for decades
By Shirley Shuma
Definitely another of the local businesses on which many Braxton Countians depend, Braxton Farm Supply had its start with the Cole family. Later the Hutchisons acquired the business and have been operating it since that time.
Lois Cole, the daughter of one of the three original owners explained that her grandfather ——Simon Cole Sr., along with her father—Simon (Bud) Cole, Jr., and Harry Wright began the first Braxton Farm Supply when she was in elementary school. “They began what many at that time termed a ‘feed store’ because the only one in the Gassaway area at that time was Gerwig’s in Chapel,” she said.
The original Braxton Farm Supply was located at the end of the bridge entering Gassaway as one travels from Sutton. The building which housed the store was a corrugated building which the Coles erected and which still stands. It has been, however, moved behind the church located down from the bridge. One former customer who used to buy feed from this store recalls that she “stopped right next to the store, it was so close to the street, and they loaded the feed into my car.”
Cole remembers running the cash register when she was eleven. She said, “My brother and I would go to the store after school, and I’d work on the cash register while he and my mother helped customers load what they’d bought. I remember I could barely reach the register.” She explained that her grandfather and both her parents worked full time and then went to the store after work. “In the evenings, after store hours, they worked on the books, making out orders, stocking and shelving, and just general maintenance,” Cole said.
“Dad and my grandfather both worked for Hope Gas, and my mom, Leo ‘Fidge’ Cole, was a nurse. She worked as Braxton County Health Nurse and then, later, for Dr. Huffman,” she said. Max Crislip worked full time at the store when the Coles owned it.
The original Braxton Farm Supply, a Southern States store just as the current one is, sold “all kinds of feed, potatoes to plant, medicine for animals, farm tools, salt blocks, and feeders along with many other types of merchandise,” Cole said. She particularly remembers that her parents sold baby chicks, “which came in boxes of 25 or 50.” Something which has stayed in her mind, she noted, was what her mother said about the baby chicks. “Mom told us, ‘You’ll find that one chick will be dead because the other chicks will have found the weakest one among those in the box and will have pecked it to death.’” She added, “Mom was right. There was always a dead chick in the box.”
Cole said her family sold the store “because it got to be too much.” At that time, Willis Hutchison took over the business, according to his son and present owner of Braxton Farm Supply, Bill Hutchison. That was back in 1966. “My father didn’t really buy the business,” Hutchison explained. “The Coles sold out the merchandise, and my grandfather rented the building from them,” he said, adding “We became a Southern States dealership, which we still are.” In 1979, the Hutchisons moved the business to its current location on Route 4.
In the beginning, Hutchison said, he worked part time, and his mother also worked in the store.”I added business classes to my college courses, and I did the accounting for the store,” he noted. His brother Willis Lee “was in the business to start with and was the only one there full time for a while.” They did, however, hire a cousin to work part time, Hutchison explained. Then his brother “went to the service.” [Bill ] Hutchison had graduated from college and was teaching at that time. In 1999 he bought out his brother’s share of the store and is currently sole owner of the business.
Asked how the merchandise which they offer has changed over time, Hutchison explained, “Our business in a sense has changed a good bit in the way we operate.” For example, in 1996, they began using computers instead of cash registers. Also, at one time, he said, “All of us waited on people and loaded their merchandise. However, once we moved to the current building, we hired people to do the loading.” Currently Braxton Farm Supply has a total of 10 employees, although only eight work regularly. One works “maybe one day a week,” and the other fills in for the owner or his wife Loretta, a retired teacher who takes care of the financial end of the business.
Hutchison also described one change in what they offer in appliances. “At one time, about the only appliances we sold were freezers and refrigerators,” he said. “Freezers were a hot item because a lot of the rural people bought them to preserve what they grew in the garden along with meat,” he added. “Now people have smaller families and fewer grow gardens so freezers don’t sell as well as they once did,” he explained.
Currently, Braxton Farm Supply is “the only business in the county which sells washers, dryers, refrigerators, and ranges.” Although it isn’t advertised, the store does “sell tires, put them on, and balance them.” In their current location, they also sell “lots more lawn and garden stuff” than they had sold in Gassaway although that was a big part of the business even before it was moved.
At one time, the Hutchisons sold quite a few garden plants, and they still offer some each spring. The owner explained, “We still have some garden plants but not nearly as many as we once did. At one time, maybe for two years, we did get in some perennials, but discontinued that because of a lack of demand.”
Responding to a question about the possible impact of the soon-to-come Super Walmart, Hutchison answered, “Probably some things will attract people to WalMart, but overall I don’t think it will make a lot of difference.” Something on which he probably depends is the relationship he and his employees have built with the people of the area. That, as most local business owners know, means a great deal.
Bill Hutchison still greets customers at the store his family has worded in and owned for nearly fify years.
BCHS Band receives $5,000
Delegate Brent Boggs added a new depth of enthusiasm to Braxton County High School’s pep rally last Friday. The long standing public representative was on hand to present a certificate to BCHS Band Director Allen Heath representing $5,000 which he recently secured. The funds will be utilized for new uniforms.
Burnsville woman’s death believed to be homicide
On Sunday, October 12, the family of Crystal E. Dean (36 years of age, from Orlando, West Virginia) reported her as being a missing person to Deputy Cleve Westfall of Braxton County Sheriff’s Department. Trooper First Class P. A. Huff, of the Sutton Detachment of the West Virginia State Police, and other Troopers from Webster and Gilmer as well as Braxton Counties began assisting in efforts to locate Ms. Dean. Investigators determined that Ms. Dean was last seen at a local establishment in Burnsville, in the early morning hours of Saturday, October 11. Surveillance cameras showed Dean in the accompaniment of two males.
On Monday, October 13, at approximately 4:06 pm, a citizen reported that a body had been found in a stream, in a wooded area, in the Oil Creek area of Braxton County to the State Police. The deceased individual was confirmed to be Ms. Dean. Her body was sent to the West Virginia State Medical Examiner’s Office to determine a cause of death. Troopers from the Sutton Detachment and Braxton County Sheriff’s Department, worked with Trooper Huff in securing evidence and informaiton. Authorities believe foul play was involved in Dean’s death.
The West Virginia State Police issued a statewide news release earlier in the week requesting the public’s assistance in locating a person of interest in ongoing investigation; Mr. Jeremy A. Wolfe (29 years of age, from Spruce Run Road, Glenville, West Virginia) is wanted for questioning. At press-time, Wolfe has not been located, according to Trooper Huff. Anyone have information concerning his whereabouts or circumstances surrounding Crystal Dean’s murder is encouraged to contact the Sutton Detachment of the of the West Virginia State Police at (304)765-2101. All information can remain confidential.
Town of Gassaway to host “Call to Arms on Drugs”
The Mayor and the Town Council of Gassaway will be conducting a public meeting, at their regularly scheduled council meeting on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the Gassaway Community Building.
A short business meeting will be held at the beginning.
This public meeting will be an open discussion on the effects of drugs on our children, families and communities.
A panel will lead the discussion, followed by a question and answer period.
It is important that the citizens of Braxton County come out and participate in the discussion of drugs in our communities and what actions need to be takento revitalize and save our communities.
Several appear before County Commission
Several different individuals appeared before the Braxton County Commission at their regular meeting last Friday, October 17. Mike Baker, EMS/9-1-1 Director was first to address the Commission.
Baker requested that Tony Rogers’ status with the EMS be changed from part-time to full-time. Rogers had resigned his full time position in recent months to take a position with the Town of Sutton. Baker asked that Rogers be made full-time at an hourly rate of $11.23 per hour with full county benefits. The request was approved on a motion by Gary Ellyson. Rogers will serve a 90 day probationary period.
Baker also requested permission to hire two on call employees for the EMS system. He recommended Clyde Beatty and Kayla Hess for the positions that will pay $9.00 per hour without benefits. The request was approved on a motion by Commissioner Ellyson pending their background check and pre-employment drug screening. Each will serve a 90 day probationary period.
Braxton County Sheriff Eddie Williams requested approval to submit a DUI Grant in the amount of $6,000. Permission was granted on a motion by Gary Ellyson.
James Lee Wine appeared before the Commission representing the Burnsville Park and Recreations Board. He stated that the air-conditioner at the community building had to be turned off due to it leaking. He inquired about the availability of the funds granted the facility by the State. Wine was told by the Commission that they would attempt to get the “ball rolling” and put the item on their next meeting’s agenda.
Wine also requested the Commission send the Burnsville Fire Department a letter outlining what their financial responsibilities was pertaining to the building.
Sara Rexroad addressed the Commission concerning action taken to appoint Mickey Skeens to the Holly Gray Park Board of Directors. She stated that the Commission said in a previous regular meeting where they removed Skeens from the appointment that they would gather more information and reconsider the position at their next regular meeting. Rexroad stated that she learned at the last regular meeting that the matter had been addressed at a special meeting prior to the regular meeting. All three Commissioners stated that the handling of the matter at the special meeting was done legally. Ron Facemire told Rexroad that the Commission’s statement was to handle the matter at their next meeting and in fact, the special meeting was the next meeting of the Commission. Gary Ellyson expressed his belief that everything was appropriate and that Skeens was a qualified candidate for the position. Terry Frame stated that the matter had been handled legally, but she voted against the appointment because she felt it should have been carried forward to a regular meeting. Rexroad voiced her disapproval of the action stating that the Commission had told the park board that their actions must be transparent and now the Commission was not doing the same.
In other action, the short form settlements for the following were approved: Larry James Bush, Dan Carpenter, James Harold Cogar, Opal Gregory, Daniel Minney, Robert William Perrine, Nina G. Plum, Ronnie Franklin Radcliff, Patricia C. Shipley, Vera Grace Workman.
Gary Ellyson introduced action to correct the erroneous assessment for Elizabeth Potts. As second request, from Rogers Cunningham, was tabled.
Ellyson made a motion to advertise two vacancies on the Braxton County Development Authority.
Ron Facemire made the motion to approve the budget requests made by the County Clerk.
Following an introduction and explanation by Sheriff Eddie Williams, the Commission unanimously approved the hiring of Jeff Freeman as a part time employee of the Day Report Center.
Ron Facemire made a motion to include the OES Jeep with the surplus vehicles being sold through sealed bids by the Sheriff. That action passed, only to be rescinded since the other vehicles had been advertised. Gary Ellyson made a motion to table action on selling the vehicle pending additional information.
The Sheriff was given permission to use the county credit card to order a hand held phone system for the deputies at a cost of $248.
Gary Ellsyon made a motion to approve the applications for three record management grants to be utilized by the County Clerk, Circuit Clerk and Sheriff.
Ron Facemire made a motion to approve the Governors Community Partnership Grant contract for the American Legion.
Following a review, the county and EMS invoices were approved for payment with the exception of water purchased from the Shelter Workshop which the Commissioners stated was the responsibility of individual employees.
The minutes of previous County Commission meetings were approved as presented with minor corrections.
The Commission recessed until 10:30 a.m. for a work session with Mountain Valley Pipeline to discuss the location of a large gas transmission line through the county. No additional action was taken.
The next regular meeting of the Braxton County Commission is scheduled for November 7, beginning at 9:00 a.m.