MOUNT HOPE, W.Va. — The public is invited to tour an old-fashioned hardware store and sweet shop with a vintage soda fountain during a historical open house on July 29 at Mount Hope in southern West Virginia.
The free public event at the Bon-Bon Hardware & Confectionary will feature exhibits and presenters speaking on the store's history and that of coal mining in the New River Gorge region, now home to the nation's newest national park.
From noon until 5 p.m., visitors are welcome to explore the surrounding historic district and the Bon-Bon buildings, which have served as prominent commercial properties since 1912.
The three storefronts of buff-colored brick were long home to hardware and general merchandise stores and a confectionary shop and restaurant through much of the 20th century when they were owned and operated by the Bonifacio family.
At 1 p.m., Dean Bonifacio, whose grandfather, an Italian shoemaker, established a shop in the buildings in 1920, will speak about the property's history. Other speakers are scheduled to follow.
Brothers Dean and Doug Bonifacio extended the life of the Bon-Bon for exactly a century, maintaining soda machines on the sidewalk outside the building for more than a year after they closed the shops.
"We wanted to say that we were in business and selling something on this corner for a hundred years," Dean Bonifacio said.
The Bon-Bon was among the best-known of several mercantiles that served the residents of the surrounding New River coalfields, which boomed through the early 1900s. "At one time, there were so many customers coming into the store that they would have to lock the doors," Bonifacio said.
The Bon-Bon was also famous for its candy, ice cream, and hot dogs, which appealed to the children who attended school across Main Street.
The television show American Pickers featured the Bon-Bon in 2012, attracting national attention to the buildings. The Bonifacio's auctioned the many antiques that filled the building in 2022. Now emptied of many of its treasures, the buildings serve as an ideal gathering space.
The event is being co-sponsored by Foxfire Realty, which the Bonifacio's have engaged to broker the sale of the historic buildings, and the non-profit community development group Harmony for Hope, unveiling 48 streetlamp historical signs to be placed throughout the historic district in August.
Foxfire real estate agent David Sibray, a consultant and the publisher of West Virginia Explorer Magazine, says he's excited to be listing the historic buildings, given their proximity to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
"The national park is now attracting millions of visitors, and that's making the economic viability of historic downtowns in the region all the more promising," Sibray said.
"Investors are coming into the New River region now in great numbers, and Mount Hope has an excellent chance to make it big as a historic destination."
At 2 p.m., Sibray will speak about the benefits of the city's historic district and answer questions about grants and tax credits available to owners of historic property in Mount Hope.
The National Coal Heritage Area, which is opening a visitor center in the town, will also provide mining history exhibits for the event.
Historian Scott Worley will conduct guided tours of the district by appointment and evening ghost tours of the town at $10 per person. For more information on the tours, call 304-575-7390.
Accommodations will be provided for visitors in wheelchairs. Restrooms will not be available during the event. For more information about the free event, contact David Sibray at 304-575-7390.
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