1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


Red Nickell

Entrepreneur - Humorist - Friend

Clever A. P. (Red) Nickell has quite a following a his general store on Riverside Ave. in Alderson. The 72 year old store owner whistles to the tune of popularity and his colorful store.

About the only thing you can get for a nickel at Red Nickell's store is five cents in change.
"There's nothing here this day and time for a nickel", the 40 year veteran storekeeper mused from behind the counter of his colorful store on Riverside Ave.

Born at Hinton, Nickell came to Alderson in 1932, working at the old "Mick or Mac", where he served as a butcher and manager. Then in 1945, after serving with the U. S. Army during World War II, he returned to Alderson and started to work at the store owned by the late C. K. Miller on Riverside Ave. He bought the store and named it the A. P. Nickell Co. in 1953.

Even though the veteran storekeeper displays a variety of fresh meats, vegetables, and general merchandise, Nickell says the real reason customers come to his store is to hear him whistle.

"I whistle all day long, all the time. I'm known for my whistling."

"If a salesman comes in and doesn't hear me whistling, he's liable to leave, thinking I'm not here." "I whistled before I said mama." And though he whistles most of the time, Red admits he isn't conscious of his musical diversions. "Half the time I couldn't tell you what the song is". Customers will ask, "What was that you were whistling when I walked in?" "I very seldom can answer." Sometimes his customers will remark how refreshing it is to find someone so happy.

"To them I say that I'm one of the few people who can whistle and cry at the same time." Nickell said, smiling broadly.

He went on. "Strangers say, "Boy, You have everything." "Yeah, I say. Everything but service" "Most of my customers wait on themselves."

Still, it's the friendly atmosphere that brings many Alderson residents to Red Nickell's general store, customers say. "He's just an all-around good person, willing to help", explained Dreama Highlander, manager of the Super General in Alderson, stopping in while on her way home after work. "He stays open after 5 P.M., so we can get our lunches for the next day. He's always nice. He's never rude, and he's always whistling when you come in."

The clever Nickell got the last word with a grin. "It's one of the few stores where you can get Easter candy during Christmas. People come in aching all over, but they go out laughing"

(From an article written by John Blankenship - Staff Writer - Beckley Post Herald)

The passing of Red, and eventually the tearing down of his store, brought a lot of sadness. His store sat right across from the entrance to Camp Greenbrier and I wonder what memories are still in the minds of the once young impressionable lads, who frequented Camp Greenbrier every summer. I always thought it was a great location, people coming from three directions would have to go by it. I always knew of Redís store, but never went in there much until we moved to maple avenue, a couple of blocks away, when I was 14. I was in there a lot after that. The building was an old place, probably before Red put his store there.  It had a certain charm. It was not only a grocery store, but sort of a general store. I even bought a fishing reel there once. But it was Red who was the real attraction.

He was a man who was always in high spirits. Always had a smile for everyone, and the kids just loved him. I think he really enjoyed having them in the store. Even my kids, when they were young and would visit Nana, the first thing out of their mouths was, ďCan we go to Reds?Ē

Seeing these pictures is saying goodbye to something that was permanent in our lives, if not in our minds. Itís also saying goodbye to an entrepreneurial institution of a smaller scale that keeps this country moving along. First Red, and now his store. The passing of these things are certainly good reasons for sadness. But it is also sad  to come to the conclusion, that Alderson is not the Alderson we once knew. - Barry Worrell

Please enter your name to comment.