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Antique dealer Phyllis Rose thrives as her town’s greeter
|Written by CHARLOTTE FERRELL SMITH, Charleston Daily Mail|
|Thursday, 06 December 2012 09:30|
SOPHIA, W.Va. (AP) – The Unique Antique and Mercantile on Main Street attracts those in quest of antiques, collectibles or a history lesson. “I love to talk to people,” said proprietor Phyllis Rose, who is also known as the town historian. “I know everybody in the whole country.”
Even with an abundance of merchandise, she keeps the shop clean. Everything sparkles from mirrors and knickknacks to pictures and glassware. She also carries decorations, books, dolls, ornaments, music boxes, lamps, clocks, pottery, hats and assorted other items.
“This is my physical and mental therapy,” she said of the shop. “I love it. I meet friends and new people who come to town. My life is greeting people.”
She comes from a long line of merchants with a love for the area.
Her grandfather, John Hunt, who once had a general store, was the first merchant in Sophia, she said. In her shop, she has a picture of him with her grandmother, Lockie, from the early 1900s.
“My dad was a merchant, and I began working when I was 8,” Rose said. “Our roots go deep in Sophia. In 1912, when Sophia was incorporated, he served on the board.”
Her parents, Guy and Ceretha Hunt, had a number of businesses over the years, selling items such as furniture, cabinets, carpet and clothing. She worked in all of them.
Whenever a building fell into disrepair, her father often purchased and restored it and then either offered it for lease or sale.
In the early 1900s, many frame buildings in the area burned to the ground, she said. The materials were so flammable that a flick of a match could send them up in flames.
“We suffered so many fires that frame buildings were banned by a city council ordinance,” she said. “Italians and Greeks were coming here to work in the mines. Many chose to start laying rock, brick and stone to build our buildings. In Sophia, each building is independent. The Greek and Italian immigrants came in the 1930s when the last of the original buildings were built.”
Rose worked for a local funeral home for several years before opening Unique Antique and Mercantile 10 years ago. She said she is technically retired and the shop is a hobby because she opens when she wants. That is usually six days a week, but she hands out many business cards so folks can call ahead to make sure the shop is open.
She and husband, Raymond, have three children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Rose, 75, once carried more furniture but that is a heavy item. So, she now focuses on smaller things. She shops estate sales and yard sales. She also has loyal customers who know what she likes and volunteer to pick up goods for her whenever they travel.
However, she is not one to be idle.
When anything of historical significance is going on in Sophia, you can bet she either initiated it or is involved in some way.
She loves telling visitors about the rich coal mining history of the area and recent restoration projects.
She was named a West Virginia History Hero in 2011 through the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
In 2003 she was instrumental in the formation of the Gulf Preservation Authority, founded to unite communities in an effort to preserve the history of the Winding Gulf coalfield in southern West Virginia.
“A group decided we needed to develop the Winding Gulf into a tourist area,” she said. “We first met in a blizzard with about 50 people. People started working on coal camps to clean them up. They cleaned streams, rubbish and rebuilt homes.”
She was also part of the effort that placed Sophia on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
Other projects have included restoration of Main Street in Sophia and renovation of an historic Boy Scout cabin built around 1937 by members of Boy Scout Troop 75. The cabin was empty, covered with brush and in danger of demolition. Members of the Gulf Preservation Authority began raising funds to move it from W.Va. Route 16 to the site of the old Sophia Elementary School.
“People volunteered time and took that building apart and numbered the logs,” said Rose, who added the project took several years and met final approval in October 2011.
Rose immediately found a scout leader and Troop 75 was reformed.
The scouts traveled to the nation's capital in October 2012 when they had the honor of placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery.
Rose noted the honor was bestowed upon the scouts because so many previous members served their country in the military. At the Vietnam Memorial, the scouts made rubbings of the names of former troop members who died in that war and displayed the names in the Boy Scout cabin in Sophia.
Rose is excited about a group's efforts to revitalize the old Sophia High School as offices for businesses.
Ask around town and folks will tell you that Rose is the town historian with these and plenty of other stories to relate about Sophia, the town she loves.
“They come here and I tell them what I know,” she said. “It's a wonderful story. It's a wonderful life.”
Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.com
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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|Last Updated on Thursday, 06 December 2012 09:43|