MULLENS, WV (WVNS) — As 59News concludes the look back at the 20th anniversary of the 2001 flood, we are focusing on recovery. Some people thought Mullens would never bounce back from that tragic event.
The City of Mullens was once a bustling community, but as coal mines closed in Wyoming County and jobs became scarce, people left and so did the businesses. The flood of 2001 only made the situation worse, with some people thinking the city would never thrive again.
“You don’t know where to start because it was like it was for so long and then when something as negative happens as what happened, you don’t know where to turn,” Nathan England Sr., a Mullens City Commissioner, explained.
The recovery process was difficult. Some of the businesses in Mullens were forced to shut their doors for good because of the flood damage.
“It just stayed stale for so long. Because I don’t know if it was the idea it would happen again, or there were people leaving because of it, and then some people really didn’t want to rebuild or progress anything because they were afraid they’d lose it all again,” England said.
Twenty years later, the bustle is starting to come back. Jason Mullins is the owner of Rebel Smokehouse in Mullens. He opened the restaurant a couple years ago, and business is booming.
“We’re doing quite well. We’re seeing business that we’ve never seen before. We’re seeing a lot of traffic out of Raleigh County on a regular basis, we see a lot of visitors every weekend come from all over the country,” Mullins said.
A big part of that growth can be attributed to tourism. City leaders started marketing the community to ATV riders. With a Hatfield McCoy trail head just outside of town, more people are choosing Mullens as a destination. It is also easier to get to with the completion of the four-lane highway into the city.
“I’ve walked into restaurants in town that are crowded, and I don’t know anyone there. And it’s strange, it’s a good thing, but they’re from different surrounding areas that would’ve never been here before,” England explained.
People like Andy Keehbauch from Michigan, who took his family on a vacation to ride the trails.
“We’ve tried to eat local the whole time we’re here, visit as many shops as we can, many ice cream shops, but it’s neat and it’s the history. It’s so neat to see other people’s history,” Keehbauch said.
Although it took nearly 20 years to get the city back on its feet, the possibilities for Mullens are now endless. Proving the comeback is always greater than the setback.
“It’s fantastic to live in a time where we’re seeing our town build back up and maybe back to the heyday and the wonderful things that it once was,” Mullins said.
“Just the stuff we’re working on and how it’s progressed just over the term we’ve been in office, and even talking to people from out of state, how much they like it here and how much growth it has and potential,” England said.