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Heilig-Meyers chain to close Weston store

by James Fisher

STAFF WRITERS

WESTON -- Many Lewis County officials were surprised to learn Wednesday Heilig-Meyers Co. will be closing, leaving numerous people without jobs.

When the Richmond, Va.-based company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, closes the store, it will leave downtown Weston with just one large chain store, G.C. Murphy's Co., and one furniture store, Bennett's Firestone & Furniture Center.

"Obviously, we're concerned whenever anything closes in downtown," said City Clerk Becky Swisher. "But to be honest, I'm just now hearing about this for the first time, so I don't know why they closed."

Swisher noted downtown Weston has numerous smaller, locally owned stores remaining and she didn't think the absence of Heilig-Meyers would be devastating to the town.

Lewis County Economic Development Director Robin Poling said Wednesday she believes the store's closing could be extremely detrimental.

"This will be a definite loss and a definite economic blow to Weston," she said. "It was a large store that probably provided significant money to the tax base of Weston."

Swisher, also the city treasurer, said Wednesday she could not comment about how much business and occupation tax money the furniture store paid to the town or how the retailer compared to other large stores in Weston.

Councilman Allen Evans said he was surprised by the sudden announcement.

"I think this will definitely affect Weston, but we still have another large furniture store," he said. "I think this is something that is recoverable for the city, but it may take a long time."

Heilig-Meyers Co. announced Wednesday 302 stores throughout the country will be closing, leaving the company with 596 stores and about 12,900 employees in 29 states. In addition to the Weston location, the Keyser, Martinsburg, Oceana, Rainelle and Point Pleasant stores will close, leaving West Virginia with 21 stores, including Bridgeport, Elkins, Grafton and Morgantown. The chain also is closing two distribution centers and will no longer offer in-house financing.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446.

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