RAND, W.Va. -- Florence Roach remembers the twinkling Christmas display that illuminated the windows of The Diamond Department Store in downtown Charleston.
"People flocked to see it," said Roach, who worked at the department store from 1970 to 1983. "The way that blue light shined down on the manger scene -- it was breathtaking."
Roach and nearly 40 other former employees of what was once the state's largest department store gathered at the Rand Community Center on Sunday for a reunion 30 years after the store's closing. It was a gathering of what former employee Cathy Proctor calls "an extended family."
The employees have held a reunion every year since the store closed.
"It was just one big, happy family," said Proctor, who started in the store's drapery department in 1979. "It was devastating when we received the news that they were closing us down. I'm not sure whose idea it was originally to have a reunion, but it sounded good."
The Diamond opened around the turn of the 20th century as a shoe store owned by Wehrle Geary. Geary partnered with retail store owner A.W. Cox in 1926. The building, at the corner of Capitol and Washington streets, was built in 1927 and was purchased by Associated Dry Goods in 1956.
The store closed its doors in 1983, the same year Charleston Town Center Mall was constructed and shortly after Fred Haddad purchased The Diamond and its Parkersburg branch, according to former employees. The building now houses the state Department of Health and Human Resources.