Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Last night, Jim was cleaning out one of the drawers of his bedside table when he pulled out a large envelope from The Charleston (WV) Gazette (used to be the morning newspaper). It was addressed to my father. At first, I assumed it was probably a copy of pictures from a time when my brother played high school football or when one of my uncle's teams won the state high school basketball championship. But I was wrong!

It was a special insert published by the paper called "Remembering The Diamond". For those who did not grow up in WV or frequent Charleston as a shopping destination, you might say "So what?" My experiences shopping there with my family are definitely an inspiration for the kind of experience I want to create with Zoe.

Located at Capitol and Washington Streets in downtown Charleston, The original five story Diamond opened in 1927, the collaboration of Wehrle Geary (who opened a shoe store at 25 Capitol Street in 1906) and A.W. Cox, who opened a Capitol Street Department Store. A remodeling in 1948 included the installation of the first escalators in West Virginia. The Diamond was THE center of commerce in Charleston, until the Charleston Town Center shopping mall was built three blocks away in 1983. The Diamond lasted five months after the Town Center opening.

Now, Zoe is not going to be a department store, selling everything imaginable. But I hope that it will be an experience that people will remember for a long time, just like some of my memories of The Diamond...

  • The Fifth Floor cafeteria, where we always had lunch. The cafeteria ladies were always SO grouchy, it was almost funny. And they put gravy on everything.
  • The Fifth Floor was also home to the book department and the location where I bought my set of Laura Ingalls Wilder "Little House" books.
  • At Christmastime, there were toys on the Fifth Floor also - even more reason to go there first!
  • The Fourth Floor was furniture, and lots of it. Of course, ever chair and couch had to be tried and a game of hide and seek with my brother usually commenced.
  • The Third Floor was the Children's Floor! They had funny mirrors that made you look tall and thin, short and fat, and just bizarre! Of course, we perfected our ham routines in front of these mirrors.
  • Mom and Dad normally convinced us that we needed to try on some clothes too. Many a "first" item in my past came from this floor.
  • The Second Floor was the magical floor with my mom - women's clothing and shoes. LOTS of time was spent on this floor!
  • I'll never forget being old enough to walk around the floor on my own and look around. I felt so grown up.
  • And the shoe department was where I purchased my first pair of espadrilles (yes, I had a preppy phase in high school).
  • We rarely stopped at the Mezzanine floor - it contained the offices and the beauty salon.
  • The First Floor was full of delights, including cosmetics, perfume, hats, the men's department and a snack bar! We normally managed to wrangle a Coke and a treat from my parents by the end of the day.
  • I'll never forget my mom letting me buy bubble bath (The Diamond had their own brand).
  • The charge plates were the kind that looked like a giant press. And any transaction was put in a pneumatic tube and sent to accounting prior to completion of the purchase.
  • The Basement was the Bargain area and a Hickory Farms store. They also had gift wrap there! The gifts were always so beautifully wrapped that we kept the decorations from them and now trade them back and forth on the gifts we give each other as a family at Christmastime.
  • The elevators had real elevator operators.
  • They shipped items free of charge. I'll never forget my mom calling for an item one day and we received it the very next day. Does anybody ship anything for free now?
  • By the end of the day, we were loaded down with bags and ready to head back to Beckley.

While we visited many other places on our trips to Charleston, The Diamond always stands out as the favorite. My mom still has her charge plate (I think we still think that maybe someday someone will open it again). Can I create that same magic with Zoe? Or are those times now in the past?


  1. What a lovely post. It sounds like the Diamond inspired you!

  2. Juice, it truly did. There are so many happy memories of family time there!