B.F. Long & Company has served the community of Parsons for nearly a century. Three generations of Longs have run this store, and now, over ninety years since his grandfather opened at his original location, Ben Long III continues in the proud tradition of his family.
Offering a wide range of goods over the years, Long’s continues to be a staple in this community, selling unique products to a loyal customer base. The history of this particular family shop is long and varied, and indeed it has grown and changed along with the city of Parsons.
The original B.F. Long and Co. was opened by Long’s grandfather, Ben Long, in 1922 on Walnut St. in Parsons. Long had moved to the area in the 1890’s to do work surveying for timber mills in Davis. When he opened his original store in 1922, he prided himself on selling everything he had for less than a dollar. In fact, the store operated as a five and dime for many years, offering an array of products at reasonable prices to residents.
In 1924, Long purchased the building in which the business still operates, off of route 219 along the main street in Parsons. Long sold many goods in his store, serving both household needs and offering more specialized equipment for hunting and other outdoor activities. In particular, over the years, he collected and sold many different guns, which still rank among the store’s most popular goods.
During World War II, Long rented guns to people who could not afford to buy them. During harder times, and especially in the store’s earlier days, he often would barter with people for the goods they needed, as money was frequently scarce. He survived the great depression and the second great war; the store also survived a fire in 1936 mostly intact.
In 1938, Ben Long Jr. came to the business, after graduating from WVU with a degree in engineering. At this time, additions were made to the store, and over the period from 1938 on to 1950, the operation of the shop fell more and more to Long Jr. Until 1957, the store was heated with coal and lit with gas lighting; during renovations in ‘57, the store switched over to electric lighting.
Long’s has also survived a series of floods through its nine decades in operation; with the most severe of which being the 1985 flood in Parsons. In fact, the store – along with much of Parsons – was nearly completely under water, and the building was ultimately condemned. Ben Long III was offered money for the building by the government, but he decided to rebuild his family’s store himself. When he finally reopened the store on October 27, 1987, he had one gun, which he brought from his personal collection. He sold that gun and used the money to begin to rebuild his inventory over time.
Through its time, the store has survived a number of robbery attempts, with most not being particularly damaging for business. One such attempt was actually made during the 1954 flood in Parsons, when Long Jr. walked in on a robbery in progress when he returned to check on the shop, which was filling with water. He shined his light into the building and surprised a man already inside who took off and was never found. However, despite floods, fire, and hardship at times, Long’s has continued to operate in the same building since moving from its original location on Walnut St.
The store didn’t have a phone until after reopening in ‘87, and didn’t have a credit card machine until just last year in 2012, but despite taking slow steps into the world of technology, the business sustains itself and maintains its unique status as a sign of a bygone era.
Many of the goods that were originally offered are now obsolete; times have changed, and the goods sold have changed as well, but the business has remained. Still offering an array of hunting and fishing supplies, along with various general goods, Long’s continues to occupy a unique niche in Parsons. Many of the people who come here are longtime customers, or know people who are, and this atmosphere of small town community lives on in the store today. The personal touch, the sense that you’re among friends and neighbors, is still a part of this store, and is likely what draws many of its customers to return.
Still offering various products that are unique, Long’s builds on a tradition begun over ninety years ago in 1922 by current owner Ben Long III’s grandfather. Long III continues to operate his family’s store and has intentions to keep doing so for years to come.