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Witschey receives Key to the City

By Rick Loy - Staff Writer | Nov 18, 2020

Bill Witschey with the key to New Martinsville.

On November 9, 2020, New Martinsville Mayor Sandy Hunt, City Recorder Kim Whiteman, Councilwoman Iris Isaacs, Councilmen Steve Pallisco, Jeff Gieseke, Joel Potts, Joe Smith, and Police Chief Tim Cecil gathered at Witschey’s Market to present Bill Witschey with the key to the city. After serving the area for 76 years, owners William, Warren, Lila, and Wayne have sold the business to Riesbeck’s Food Markets.

The Witschey’s opened their business on September 18, 1944, after Bill’s father and mother Harold and Ethel purchased it from Lawrence Amos for $500 which included all the inventory, equipment, and contents of the building. The building at that time was located on the southeast corner of North and Main Streets, across the street from the current store. Since that time the Witschey’s store has remained in constant operation to serve the residents of New Martinsville and surrounding area. Come flood or high water they were there to serve the community.

Bill was overwhelmed with the presentation of the key to the city and thanked the Mayor and all who attended. He said, “I will still be hanging around the store because we kept a few of the offices.The only real plan I have is to go out to our Arizona home for a couple weeks and relax.”

Mayor Hunt said, “Witschey’s is a New Martinsville institution. All of us who are living cannot remember a time when there was not a Witschey’s! They have served our city faithfully for 76 years. They have given jobs to many of our youth, supported more benefits and causes than we can count, and if you experienced the loss of a loved one, they were always there by either coming to the funeral home to express their condolences or sending food to the family. Today Bill mentioned my father, Jake Whitehead, who died in 1969. He was going through some old diaries that his mother kept and found the obituary of my dad. Bill told me how much he liked him. Those memories matter to those of us who wonder if we are the only ones who remember.They have kept historical information about New Martinsville for all these years and I know the Wetzel County Museum has years of football programs in their digital file courtesy of the Witschey family. One of my favorite memories of Witschey’s was riding in a rowboat during a flood (1972 maybe?) to get some necessary supplies. The store stayed open, even then. In fact, Witschey’s was one of those places you could always count on. My family moved here from the south in the early 1950’s. My mother made a mean gumbo that required okra. There was none to be found so she asked Harold if they could possibly get okra and sure enough, they did. An unusual vegetable then and it shows how responsive they have always been to their customers’ needs. I am so thankful that the market will remain and that Reisbeck’s is taking up the mantle of our beloved grocery store. We will welcome them with open arms and Bill has assured me that he will still be hanging out in the office, checking in on all of us. Well done, good and faithful servants.”

Several others were eager to add their personal feelings.

“The Witschey family have been such a positive force in our town. They are a generous family that gave many people employment through the years. We are so blessed to live in small town, USA.” Councilwoman Isaacs said,

“I have fond memories of the store. Lot of trips to the store with my grandmother. Enjoy your retirement,” stated councilman Potts.

Councilman Steve Pallisco adds, “Thank you for your 76 years serving our community. It is really appreciated.”

“Ward 1, and the rest of the city are going to be different from here on. You made the city a better place just by being here. Thank you!” said councilman Jeff Gieseke.

“He was always there for the community. Always greeted you with a smile on his face and a warm welcome when you came to the store. Sad to see it change hands. Thank you for all the years,” Police Chief Tim Cecil added.

City Recorder Kim Whiteman said, “Thank you to the Witschey family for their many years of trusted service and dedication to our great city and the surrounding communities.”

Even though the ceremony was about him, Bill asked me how I was doing and how my family is getting along. That is just the kind of gentleman he is! He went on to tell me a story of my grandfather.

“He bought seed potatoes from me for many years, and I would always ask him if he had his potatoes planted yet,” he said with a chuckle.

When my grandfather passed, Witschey’s sent bags of groceries to my grandmother and her six children. They stated if there was anything they needed, not to hesitate to ask, and at the visitation the Witscheys were some of the first people to show up. They have always been good friends to my family. My family and I wish them the best on their retirement and offer our thanks for their many years of service to our community.

Many locals and people in the surrounding area can tell numerous stories of Witschey’s, and their service and commitment to our community. They will be dearly missed! In time, outsiders new to the area will hear locals say, “I’m running to Witschey’s for something,” and we will grin, as they look confused.