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M&K Marks Anniversary

By Staff | May 13, 2015

Birthday celebrants inside the bar checking their cell phones. (Photos by Bill Abraham or supplied from public domain collections)

The weather could not have been better on May 2 for the 55th anniversary of the M&K Bar, which was celebrated with burgers and hot dogs on the grill, music and games.

Whether or not you are or have been a patron, the M&K is to New Martinsville what “Cheers” was to television land: a local brew house where friends have gathered to sip some beer, play some cinch or euchre, tell some stories, laugh and just have fun together.

Although the M&K structure has been many things over the years, it evolved during a time when business was conducted by a handshake. When a person’s word was his, or her, most prized possession.

And it was on that basis that the late Bea Vogel established a “new” M&K Bar that has remained in the same family for 55 years and has folded into a bit of New Martinsville history.

“I can remember my mom shaking hands with Wells Eakin,” said Bea’s daughter, Martie Vogel – Howell, who has operated the business since her mother’s death in 1999. “He said ‘A handshake was good enough for my mom and it’s good enough for me.”

Structure with the present M&K Bar added.

By most reckoning, the original building itself is older than the state itself, built around 1833, some 30 years before West Virginia became a state. What is now the M&K Bar is believed to have been added to the original building around 1877. But its history is sketchy and there are no known written accounts of who built the building, when or why.

The structure may have been built originally as a hotel. And, at some point, it is believed that a “Schmulback Brewery” may have been present in the building. It is not known, however, if it was a manufacturing or distributing operation, neither or both.

John C. McEldowney’s 1901 “History of Wetzel County” does report a Schmulback Brewing Company of Wheeling as having an ice house and storage building that may have been located at the present M&K site.

Some emeritus observers of New Martinsville and Wetzel County say the location also was a women’s hat and lingerie shop owned by Hattie Burlingame Brown. They also agree that sometime later, an Irvin Kinkade turned the location into the “Coffee Cup” – a business that continued by the same name with a new owner, believed to have been a Tom Grim. Both Kinkade and Grim were Wetzel County residents.

Then, the original M&K Bar emerged sometime in the late 1950s under the ownership of a “Marshall and Koontz,” two businessmen believed to be from the Parkersburg area. They operated that business until it passed to Hattie and Everett Neff, who kept the name until they sold the business, in 1960, to Bea Vogel, for $2,000. Bea, also, continued with the name “M&K,” but changed it’s meaning to “Mom and Kid,” recalls daughter Martie.

Bar and house today.

It was around this time that ownership of the building passed from Sarah Wells “Sadie” Eakin to her son, the late J. Wells Eakin, a New Martinsville native, banker and retired businessman. It is not clear when Sadie Eakin acquired the structure, but Wells Eakin fixed it sometime in the early 1900s.

When Wells died in 2012, ownership of the building passed to his son, Jae, now a banker in the Pittsburgh area. Through an arrangement, initiated by Jae, Martie Vogel-Howell was able to purchase the structure in 2014.

Included in the transaction was the two-story building to which the M&K is attached, now on the National Historic Registry, and an adjacent small structure at the corner of North Street and Clark Street. That structure was for many years a barbershop owned and operated by the late Ray Potts, who died in 1996.

Things inside the M&K have changed only slightly over the years and Martie has no intention of “modernizing” or expanding. However, because of its historical significance, she is awaiting word on grants funding to repaint and otherwise restore the building.

Knowledgeable business people say that seven years is a long life span for a tavern to remain in business. Martie, smiling, remembers that her grandmother predicted, “My mom wouldn’t last six months” in what was then considered a “man’s business.” And now, “55 years later, we are still here.”

In addition Martie, the M&K has six other full and part-time employees: Shannon Ritchie, manager; Linda Parrish, Mary Throckmorton, Sarah Jenkins, Stephanie Palisco and Trent Riggenbach.