The Peanut Shoppe (1924-2009)
Backstory and Context
Now found in most American supermarkets, Planters Peanuts once had its own retail stores across the country. The company was founded in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1906 by Amedeo Obici, an Italian immigrant who ran a successful peanut and fruit stand, and Mario Peruzzi, a veteran of the nut processing business. Although the company was small at first, its popularity quickly grew, especially after the Mr. Peanut character was introduced in its advertising in 1916. Planters Peanuts soon opened retail shops in hundreds of cities across the United States, including a franchise in downtown Huntington. The Planters Peanut Shoppe, located at 941 Fourth Avenue, opened for business in 1924.
The Peanut Shoppe quickly became a fixture of bustling Fourth Avenue. Behind one of the display windows, a statue of Mr. Peanut tapped on the glass with his cane to invite customers inside. This was hardly necessary, however, as the enticing smell of roasted nuts was more than enough to catch the attention of many passers-by. Inside the shop, shelled nuts were deep fried in peanut oil and seasoned with spices, while nuts still in their shell were dry roasted to peak flavor. In addition to peanuts, The Peanut Shoppe sold warm cashews, pistachios, and other nuts, including chocolate-covered varieties. The shop also offered a variety of sweets like homemade fudge, malted milk balls, chocolate-covered raisins, gumballs, hard candies, and gumdrops.
Business at The Peanut Shoppe benefited greatly from its location in busy downtown Huntington. The shop was connected to the Huntington Arcade, which was completed in 1925. The arcade housed a variety of shops as well as the offices of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. The Peanut Shoppe was also just a few doors down from the Keith-Albee Theater, which opened in 1928. Moviegoers frequently bought snacks from The Peanut Shoppe rather than from the concession stand at the theater itself. The shop was also located near a popular bus stop for many years, which allowed it to draw in customers as they arrived or left the area.
In 1961, Planters Peanuts was acquired by Standard Brands. Because the parent company was less interested in the retail business, the Planters stores were either sold or closed down, and Huntington’s Peanut Shoppe became a locally-owned business. Although it was owned by a series of different families, the shop remained in business at the same location, witnessing the demographic and economic changes that affected Huntington over the years. Starting in the 1960s, decreasing coal mine employment, factory closings, and business slumps caused Huntington’s economy and population to enter a decline. As a result, and especially after the Huntington Mall opened in 1981, many of the shops surrounding The Peanut Shoppe went out of business and left behind vacant storefronts. Doug and Donna Myers purchased The Peanut Shoppe in 2000, and expanded the shop’s offerings by adding custom-order party trays and gift tins featuring area school or sports team logos. Business at The Peanut Shoppe also benefited from the filming of the “We Are...Marshall” movie, after the film staff decorated its display windows. However, the shop lost many customers after the Keith-Albee Theater stopped operating as a movie theater in 2006.
In 2008, the Myers family sold The Peanut Shoppe in order to focus on their new restaurant, The Pita Pit. After more than eighty years in business, The Peanut Shoppe closed the following year. Since shutting down, a few businesses have occupied the former shop, but the building has largely sat vacant in recent years. In 2014, a deli called the Mulberry Street Meatball Company was opened at the site of the former Peanut Shoppe. The deli, which was the second restaurant owned by Chef Ralph Hagy, served meatball subs and other sandwiches along with coffee and Italian desserts. However, the deli closed after only a few years in business. Although the former peanut store is currently vacant, its surroundings have recently seen some revitalization, with the transformation of the Huntington Arcade into modern condos called “The Galleria” and the restoration of the Keith-Albee Theater.
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