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Charles Town businesses fight to revitalize their block

March 25, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Kelly Davenport, owner of Beasleys Books and Eccentricities, sits Friday in her tavern bookstore in Charles Town, W.Va., as Assistant Manager Shawn deLadurantaye rushes to fill a lunch order.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — For years, the 300 block of West Washington Street from Lawrence to West Street was the city’s orphan child.

“It was not considered part of downtown,” said Angela Jones, owner of the recently opened So Angelina, which she called a “a small Italian cafe” at 304 W. Washington St.

“My family has been in business here for 30 years,” she said.

Her father, Thomas Jones, owns Jones Insurance at 300 W. Washington St., as well the building housing her cafe.

“Everything stopped at Lawrence Street, the parades, the block parties. This block is not included in the street celebrations.”

She said she and Kelly Davenport, owner of the recently opened Beasley’s Books and Eccentricities at 307 W. Washington St. across the street had to fight for the block’s revitalization.

“Kelly and I were pioneers.” she said.

Both supported the new CVS Pharmacy being built on the intersection of West Washington and North West streets.

The project won the approval of city leaders, including the Historic Landmarks Commission, over the objections of a citizens group that opposed the demolition of four buildings in the city’s historic overlay district to make room for CVS.

“The first thing people see coming into the city off (U.S.) 340 is these ugly old buildings and that’s not what Charles Town is,” Davenport said. “They left the impression that Charles Town is a dumpy little place, but it’s not a dumpy little place. This will change the look of downtown.”

Davenport said she chose the block because she wanted to help revitalize it with destination businesses like hers, Angela Jones’ cafe; a skateboard shop; Wear It Again Kid, a children’s clothing consignment shop at 311 W. Washington St.; and CVS.

“I wanted to be downtown. This store is eclectic, different, it doesn’t belong in a strip mall,” she said. “We have nine employees. We’re creating jobs here.”

Davenport is not only bucking the west end block’s longtime negative image. She’s also bucking big business.

An edition of author Stacy Mitchell’s “Big Box Swindle,” subtitled “True Cost of Mega-Retailing and the Fight for America’s Independent businesses” is on prominent display in her store’s front window.

She said her husband told her that she wouldn’t sell books, that every book is now on Kindle.

“I didn’t agree with that,” she said. “A lot of people still love books, their feel, their smell. We sell as many new books here as old books.”

She makes some concession to modern trends.

“I sell books online through a website,” she said.

The front of the store is dedicated to used books. The checkout counter is there and, like the rest of the store, there are several sitting areas for reading.

In the middle is the bar and tables for serving wine, beer and pub food. The largest area, in the rear, holds the new books and more reading areas.

Davenport said she recently catered to 30 members of an area garden club. A local book club meets regularly at Beasley’s, which is named after a family cat.

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