Wheeling’s oldest business, Berry Supply, is officially up for sale.
The owners, Tom and Sue Smith are looking to retire, but before they shut the doors, they’re reflecting on the building’s history.
According to Sue, Berry Supply began in Wheeling in 1824 after John Berry came through the area on a flatboat, and determined it would be a great place to start a rope-making business to service ships traveling the Ohio River.
Berry needed large open spaces to weave 50-foot ropes, and he began operations on Water Street near where the business is today. His son John would join him in the business, and they initially sold rope from a shed on 12th and Main streets. They later constructed a building at the business’s current site.
In 1871, the central part of the existing building was destroyed in an arson fire. Two people were killed as they attempted to save pigs that were being kept on a lot to the north side of the building, and the building collapsed upon them, according to Sue Smith.
The Berry family went on to rebuild the structure and continue their business. By this time, they were making and selling oakum, a rope infused with tar use to caulk seams and joints on river barges.
Sue Smith said the Berry children sold the family’s business to her grandfather, G.A. Barrett, in 1945. By the 1950s, Berry Supply was selling metal Youngstown kitchens and plumbing supplies.
Her father, Frank Voitle, took over the business in the early 1980s.
Next in line, Tom and Sue moved back to Wheeling from Columbus in 1984.