A Star City glass industry worker’s 1967 risk pays off in a lasting business for his family and community.
Not much is known about the early history of the Prutilpacs (in case you need the assist, it’s pronounced “pruh-tool-a-pack”). A John Prutilpac came over in the late 1800s, possibly from Hungary, of Croatian descent according to family lore, and may have settled near Point Marion, Pennsylvania. But by the 1930s, John and his grown children were living in Star City, and grandson Charles was born there.
Star City was a glass industry hub, and Charles—Chuck—met Beatrice Pompura in the glass factory where they both worked. “My grandfather, because the last name is hard to spell, everyone called him Potato Patch,” says Jimmy Prutilpac. “One of his co-workers went over to my grandmother and said, ‘Potato Patch wants to take you out.’ So he sent a friend to ask her out—I guess he was shy.”
Shy, maybe, but with good instincts: Chuck and Beatrice were married in 1957. They had children Chuckie, Jim, and Lisa. And, in 1967, Chuck left the security of his glass factory job to build something lasting for his family—he bought DeCarlo’s Warehouse in Westover and turned it into Chuck’s Furniture. Soon after, he moved it to a 7,500-square-foot showroom just off the new Interstate 79, the seed of today’s much larger location. He built a house for his family where Pac 5 now stands, and all of the kids worked at the store while they were in high school at St. Francis. In the mid-’80s, Jim and his first wife built a house where Pet Works is today, and children Elizabeth, Jimmy, and Yvonne grew up there.
Jimmy’s earliest memories of the business are from the early ’90s. “My grandfather was there every day, my dad was there, my mom worked, and Aunt Lisa and Uncle Mottie Pavone worked for us, so it was small and family-run with just a few non-family employees.” One of those was Ralph Cook, who started when he was 19 and, 45 years later, works there still. Jim and his second wife, Christy Hill, bought the business from Chuck and Beatrice in 2006.
So Chuck’s was central to life in the Prutilpac household. “When both your parents and, later, your dad and stepmom are working together every day, you talk about the business at the dinner table and on vacations,” Jimmy says. “We were surrounded by it.” The kids weren’t required to help out, but Jimmy liked being there. “Weekends and summers, I’d walk over and hang out with the people who were working.” At about 12, he started filing and sweeping warehouse floors; later, he went along on deliveries. Through high school and then in college at WVU in the aughts, he worked in the warehouse. Yvonne and stepsister Mackenzie helped out with paperwork, too.
All along, Chuck’s was growing. When the showroom burned down in 1979, it was rebuilt bigger, at 8,500 square feet. Connecting the warehouse and main store took the showroom to 16,500 square feet, and, in the early ’90s, the construction of a second story doubled that. A 1998 addition created another 35,000 square feet, and, in 2002, a big new warehouse took the total over 100,000 square feet.
But still not enough: In 2014, the family opened Pac 5. “Chuck’s is more of a custom and medium- to high-end store, but Morgantown also has a transient population that just wants to furnish an apartment for a year or two,” Jimmy says. “Pac 5 is less custom, more focused on price points for that market.”
Today, Chuck, in his 80s, still stops by every day. Jim and Christy are semi-retired—Christy designs showroom floor placements—and also managing other commercial properties they’ve acquired. Jimmy mainly manages the warehouse, logistics, and advertising. His sister Elizabeth takes care of supplier orders and tracks inventory, and stepsister Mackenzie oversees sales staff. In total, the business employs 22.
The Prutilpac family loves its dogs—the immediate family has 17 or 18—and Jimmy’s sister Yvonne launched Y B Dirty Mobile Grooming in 2019 and now operates two vans. Chuck’s has been the launch point for other businesses, too. Elizabeth’s husband, James Maloney, who worked at Chuck’s out of high school, now operates landscaper Maloney Lawn Service. Aunt Lisa and Uncle Mottie worked at Chuck’s for several years before venturing on their own to open Mutt’s, Lola’s, Levels, the original Bartini, and other businesses.
WVU sports is Chuck Prutilpac’s passion, and Chuck’s Furniture takes part in the annual Coach Bob Huggins Fish Fry fundraiser for cancer research and scholarships. Other family causes include Habitat for Humanity and Pet Helpers.
Jimmy is happy that Chuck’s continues to thrive. “I hear stories all the time from people who bought their first dining room table from my grandfather when they got married 40 or 50 years ago, and they’re still shopping,” he says. “The community has been and will continue to be important to any success that we have.”