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
"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
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
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
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
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