Sentimental Journey

Berdine’s 5 & Dime takes visitors back in time

The Inter-Mountain photos by Shannon Bennett Campbell Sitting just below the County Courthouse in Harrisville, the 1908 establishment is a modern-day time capsule open for business daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Sundays and major holidays.

If a totally uplifting experience is desired, do make the trip to Harrisville, West Virginia, where you can enjoy a retail store named Berdine’s 5 & Dime that is known for being the oldest establishment of its kind east of the Mississippi River.

The drive can easily be made in less than two hours, and the roads of Corridor H to Weston, I-79 to Clarksburg, and Route 50 toward Parkersburg are in good shape, ensuring a smooth journey.

By taking the Harrisville-Ellenboro Exit and looking for the town’s Courthouse Square, one will practically be sitting in front of this specialty store. Parking is plentiful.

It is debatable who will have more fun at Berdine’s — a child or an adult who has many memories of finding special toys and affordable items during early years when having a quarter in your pocket guaranteed a worthy purchase with change.

As one treads upon the front steps with rough-hewn boards showing, they realize they are stepping back into time. And, once the door is open, it is an absolute panacea of relics and old-style playthings you thought you would never see again.

For 39 years, visitors have been welcomed by Store Manager Karen Harper, who ensures that every guest is greeted kindly, and that no need goes without help.

The store manager, Karen Harper, who has helped patrons operate toys there for nearly 40 years, is an absolute master of hospitality and engaging assistance. She understands her customer’s desire for trial and error and she knows exactly when to offer help and guidance in locating the perfect toy or desired item.

It will be no small matter to maneuver through this place and find the perfect treasure. In addition to the large toy assortment, there are racks upon racks of merchandise including cards, jewelry, candies, kitchen items, books, hand-crafted boxes, puzzles, games and musical tapes. Everything is very affordable and much less than can be found in even discount stores.

According to a Proprietor’s Fact Sheet, this business opened in 1908 — 112 years ago — and was founded by K.C. Berdine, who had married a local Ritchie County girl. At that time, nothing in the store cost more than 10 cents.

His son, Fred W., who served in the Navy in World War II, took the store over until he reached 70. In order to keep the building and contents in tack, Dean Six bought it in 1983 to preserve it for the town. The landmark certainly has been maintained well for the wear and tear I am sure it has seen.

The store reminds visitors of antiquated places they have visited and times gone by that were pieces of their past filled with people and memories that added richness and special qualities for living. If one enters this store and does not have flashbacks of their early youth, I would be surprised.

Just when one thinks they have seen everything at Berdine’s, they start down another aisle and realize their visit may never end.

Almost two hours of perusing was done before my car of smiling joyseekers were finally able to depart with arms full of toys and presents. They described feelings that they had not had for years, and were already thinking of who they would tell about this place so they could all return.

If you choose to take this trip back in time and experience this yourself, you will find it is not for someone who specializes in high-tech. The down-to-earth attitude blends all parts of the store together and the package you will find will be priceless.

Life in Ritchie County is still old. The streets are calm, one can hear the wind in the quiet, and being relaxed is a standard. The nostalgia will take your breath away and you will wonder why you have never heard of this place before now.

As my group started home, it was difficult to leave. Berdine’s guarantees total fun and certainly is an escape from many of the challenges we now experience. It has provided more than a century of fun, and I am reminded of the George Washington statuette I saw above all the toys when leaving, as we soon will commemorate the War for Independence on July 4.

According to the 2003 “Quotations of George Washington” published by Applewood Books, our first president noted, “We ought not to look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dear-bought experience.”

I think many useful lessons resulted by taking this trip, and considering past experiences, I realized at the journey’s end that it is a refreshing thing to reach back into time and let our minds escape from always thinking of the new and difficult obstacles we have to face today.

It would do us all good to include more happiness in our schedules. I think our early leaders, like this famous general, would want us to enjoy the 4th of July with flags raised everywhere, and also encourage each of us to “stay well.”


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