Fas Chek closes after 40 years in the community

FAS CHEK FOOD Store on Third Avenue in Marlinton began business in 1975 with the purchase of stock and equipment from the A&P Supermarket. Changes in the economy led to the closing, in April, of the Marlinton store, as well as other Fas Chek stores in the state. J. Graham photo

FAS CHEK Food Store on Third Avenue in Marlinton began business in 1975 with the purchase of stock and equipment from the A&P Supermarket. Changes in the economy led to the closing, in April, of the Marlinton store, as well as other Fas Chek stores in the state. J. Graham photo

An entry in Pocahontas County History – 1981 records the following information concerning the Fas Chek store on Third Avenue, which discontinued business in April 2015: 
“On May 25, 1975, Ken and Carol Swiger, in partnership with Kenneth Martin and Don Tate, of Charleston, purchased all stock and equipment of the existing A & P Supermarket located at 916 Third Avenue in Marlinton. The building is owned by Mack and Bonnie Brooks.
“The business was incorporated as Supermarket of Marlinton, but operates under the franchise name “Fas Chek.”
“We were fortunate to retain the services of five former A & P employees: Harold Shifflett – Co-Manager; Kenneth Faulknier  – Head Meat Cutter; David Hicks – Journeyman Meat Cutter; George Duncan – Produce; and Robert McNeill – Dairy.
“After much hard work of the men named above and seven newly hired cashiers and clerks, the new “Fas Chek” was fully stocked and cleaned.
“We opened our doors for business on May 28, 1975.
“Fas Chek has been very well patronized by the residents of Pocahontas County and has enjoyed steady growth in the past six years.
“We believe Fas Chek has been an asset to the town of Marlinton and Pocahontas County in many ways, not the least of which is the employment of high school students as part-time clerks.
Many students have worked here over the years, providing Fas Chek with the manpower required to operate and in return received invaluable on-the-job training and financial reimbursement which helped many of them save the money required to pursue a college degree, purchase their first automobile, and other worthwhile endeavors.
“On October 9, 1976, Fas Chek was flooded with twelve inches of water. As the water receded, we began cleaning up and re-opened for business the following day.
“In February 1978, we installed new Hill meat, dairy and produce cases which greatly enhanced the appearance of the store and our ability to provide the freshest merchandise available
“In March 1981, in an effort to reduce our heating and cooling costs, we installed an insulated lowered ceiling. This gave the building a clean, bright appearance in contrast to the previously exposed steel beams and insulation.
“From the beginning, our main supplier has been Malone & Hyde of Memphis, Tennessee, the second largest grocery wholesaler in the nation and supplies eighty percent of the merchandise we sell. We are serviced through their warehouse in Salem, Virginia.
“Since opening day, our policy has been to offer the best quality merchandise at a fair price and in a genuinely friendly atmosphere. Time has proven this to be the best policy and we pledge to continue in the future.”
 From the time this article was published in the Pocahontas County History until the day it closed, Fas Chek continued its policy of quality products and excellent customer service. Through the years the business suffered through multiple floods, but the store always reopened.
Fas Chek partner Ken Swiger, his wife, Carol, and their children, Karen and Kevin, moved to Marlinton with the acquisition of the store. Ken was manager for many years, and Carol worked at the store from 1978 until she retired in 2004.
“The children grew up in the community, and it became our home,” Carol said. 
Kenneth Faulknier, a former A & P employee was the first Fas Chek employee. 
“I was the first employee there,” Faulknier said. “Kenneth Martin and Don Tate, from the Kanawha Valley, bought the store. I was still an employee of A & P, but it had pretty much shut down. We were cleaning up the meat room and those guys asked if I was interested in employment with them. They asked me about my salary and benefits, and they said they would match them. I said, ‘you’ve got yourself a meat cutter.’ I enjoyed working with Ken Swiger. He was a good manager.”
 Faulknier spoke of his experience with A & P and how he carried what he had learned into the Fas Chek store. 
“A & P had a specialist for everything,” Faulknier said. “There was one guy who would tear down the coffee grinder. He would wear a white coat, and he worked it like he was working on an Elgin watch. I had a specialist in the meat department. I had steaks cut and I turned the good side up. The specialist told me to turn the good side down. Not to deceive. Turn the worse side up and when they take it home, you’ve sold it twice.  I did that for Fas Chek, too. The philosophy of the meat inspector – he took his coat off and asked how he could help me. People still like that kind of store.”
Fas Chek has been a lifesaver for residents of the community who have no means of transportation. With its closing, there are no grocery stores in the downtown area. A trip for groceries now requires traveling north on Rt. 219 to IGA, Dollar General or Family Dollar.
Retired Pocahontas Coun-ty Schools cafeteria manager Louise Barnisky was one of Fas Chek’s walking customers.
When asked about the effects of Fas Chek’s closure, Barnisky said, “Tremendous, tremendous, tremendous. It’s the worst thing to happen to me in a long time. I walk. I don’t drive. I have a neighbor who went to the store for me – no matter when I asked him. If it was too big a load, he would take my wagon. Now, I have to wait. I do a lot of baking, and it has affected my baking. Now, I have to wait for my family to take me to the store. There is a loss of independence. It’s just bad.”
Mark Stauss and Roger Trusler are members of GoMarlinton.
Both offered their thoughts and shared an idea as to how to meet the needs of those who lack transportation.
“I can’t walk daily to the store, now,” Trusler said. “When something comes up – milk, bananas – you just can’t get the food when you need it. People who do not have family or relationship connections don’t have the assistance they need to get to IGA when they need to. We need a van and a schedule for transportation in the interim.”
Trusler, a retired employee of the Board of Education, also spoke of the many high school students who gained good work habits and job skills through their employment with Fas Chek.
Twenty full-time and part-time employees lost their jobs when Fas Chek closed.
Although individuals and the community as a whole have been affected by the loss of Fas Chek, its impact will live on in stories and in the work ethic instilled in its employees.
One of those employees is Randy McPaters, who began his Fas Chek career just out of high school. Through the years – 39 in all – and through long hours and dedicated service, McPaters moved up the ranks, eventually taking on the roll of manager.
“Randy has done an outstanding job running the store for us,” said Fas Chek co-owner John Fitzwater.
The Marlinton store was not the only Fas Chek store to close.
“The overall economy in the state is not good right now,” Fitzwater added. “Our stores in the southern part of the state have been affected by mine shut downs and miners leaving the area.”
“The Marlinton store was always a great one for us until the last couple of years,” co-owner Don Tate said. “It just seemed like the customer base began to dry up.”
As a result of Thursday’s GoMarlinton meeting, dialog has begun between Family Resource Network director Laura Young and Pamela Robertson of the Pocahontas County Senior Citizens about the possibility of offering van service two days a week.
Nothing is scheduled, as yet, but, in the meantime, Robertson said seniors and disabled persons who need to go to the grocery store or pharmacy may call the Senior Center at 304-799-6337.
Transportation will be offered as drivers are available.

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