BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — For almost 30 years, Beckleyans have found Tom Sopher inside of Best Fabric and Foam, his family business at 309 South Fayette Street.

Sopher, who represents Ward I on Beckley Common Council, is always available to hear a problem and to look for solutions — whether it involves street paving, upholstery, or sewing machine repair.

Sopher’s family built the cozy, brick building in 1942.

When the store opened, the downtown business district was booming, and a number of stores owned by Jewish families, like the Sophers, and immigrants from the Middle East and Europe were thriving.

Most of those businesses have since closed their doors, as shoppers migrated to the malls, far away from downtown.

“Some of them, you may have thought they were more prominent than me, like, the Hub and Vogue and George’s and Rahall’s, but this little store here, it outlived them all,” Sopher mused on Monday, November 21, 2022.

Sopher grew up in the store, spending childhood Saturdays helping his father, and, as he said, running along the rows of fabric and stamping his feet on the hardwood floors.

“Kids do it, and I like doing that too,” Sopher noted.

Sopher, a historian, took over the store in 1996 and prided himself on running things, as much as possible, the way his father, Ira Sopher, had done.

He said business was going well in 2019. Then, the Covid pandemic struck.

“It kind of just put a damper on stuff,” reported Sopher. “And the year after the beginning of Covid, I was not able to get some of the supplies I needed, and it just made it awful difficult.”

Sopher said, even with the delivery problems, the business is surviving. But he’s now retirement age, and both of his children are involved in other ventures.

So he plans to sell his fabric, close his accounts and stamp his feet on another kind of floor.

“My wife and I, we plan to travel,” he said, “and our little dream is to go sit in every baseball stadium in the United States.”

He said he will continue repairing sewing machines in the shop after it closes on December 30, 2022.