Briana Heaney Published

‘Ol Mountain Trader’ Closes Doors After 50 Years

A photo of a paper publication front page. On the front page there is a cartoon of a man sitting on his couch reading a paper. The front page reads "After 50 Years the Owner of The Ol' Mountain Trader is Retiring and closing the paper. Our last issue will be next week Sept. 27th." On the left side there is a bright yellow column saying "WV's OLDEST Free-Classified Paper.
After the paper took off, her husband quit his job and helped her run the paper until he passed in 2018.
Courtesy Ben Salango

The Ol Mountain Trader free classified ads publication that serviced southern West Virginia has closed after a 50-year run. 

Debbie Salango started the paper from the living room of her two-bedroom trailer on Sullivan Road in Glen Morgan. Her husband had been working long hours and she had been selling hand-knitted afghans and babysitting to make it by. 

“I was there with two babies, and we didn’t have enough money to do anything. And I wanted a new vacuum cleaner – and couldn’t afford a new vacuum cleaner, or even a payment for one,” Salango said. 

The money that she was spending to advertise in the classified section of the newspaper was eating into her profit and making it hard to make money.

“So my first publication was four, letter size, typewritten pages, front and back, stapled together, and it was 25 cents,” she said. “I went into the stores. Not knowing what I was doing.”

The paper was a success. At one point there were over 72 pages of ads. It is West Virginia’s oldest, free classified advertising paper. Salango said she has had many readers reach out and express their sadness as well as share stories about how the publication affected their lives. 

“One fella said that he had a family with four kids, and when the mines would strike and they would be short on money, he would sell things. And that kept his family going. Stories like that just warm your heart,” Salango said. 

As online personal ad websites grew in popularity, the paper dwindled down to the 32 pages it has today. The paper is closing because Debbie Salango is retiring. 

“I had one guy say he wants me to reconsider. And I said ‘You mean to reconsider getting old? I really don’t have any control,’” Salango laughed. 

Salango will be picking back up where she left off 50 years ago – babysitting, except this time it will be her grandchildren. 

“I have six little curtain climbers,” Salango said. “Yea its full circle.”