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Bette Persinger, Cleve’s grandmother, was part of the inspiration for Buck & Bette, a new shop in downtown Charleston.

Three generations of Grover Cleveland Persingers: Buck, born in 1916; Bucky, born in 1939; and Cleve, born in 1977.

Bette Persinger, Cleve’s grandmother, was part of the inspiration for Buck & Bette, a new shop in downtown Charleston.

Three generations of Grover Cleveland Persingers: Buck, born in 1916; Bucky, born in 1939; and Cleve, born in 1977.



Cleve Persinger is pretty sure his grandparents would think he was crazy for naming a retail store after them.

Yet, Buck and Bette were two people who shaped how he thought about life and love, and pretty much everything in between.

Opening a little store in the couple’s home state — more specifically, at 123 Summers St., in Charleston — seemed like the perfect way to tell their story and pay tribute to the hardworking Appalachians they were.

“They were good folks who loved each other,” Cleve said. “They not only taught me to love West Virginia and West Virginians, but they also taught me to love Jesus. They were really good, hard-working folks with pride in Appalachia.”

Cleve opened Buck & Bette in August with his wife, Katie, and brother- and sister-in-law, Cass and Laura Jewell. And while the family feels such a strong bond with the Mountain state, none of them were born or raised in West Virginia.

Cleve was born and raised in North Carolina. Katie and Laura, sisters, grew up in northern Georgia, and Cass grew up in Cleveland.

To understand how they made it to the heart of the state, truly, “you have to go way back to Buck and Bette.”

He’d spend days on Spruce Knob Lake fishing with Buck, and evenings posted next to his grandmother’s oven.

“I remember Bette baking in her kitchen late at night, baking pies,” Cleve said. “It seemed like everyone gathered in the kitchen late, at like 11 at night.”

When the couple’s children were small, Buck and Bette couldn’t afford Christmas, so they gave the children coal rather than nothing at all.

His motto, Cleve said: “As long as you’ve got a sack of potatoes and some side meat — meaning bacon — then you’ll be alright.”

During the Great Depression, Buck worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federally funded program that put Americans to work.

To make more money, the couple moved to Richmond, Virginia, where Bette worked at a cosmetic counter in a department store and Buck worked for the Atlantic Coast Line Railway.

When they retired, the two moved back to their home near Seneca Rocks, where Cleve and his siblings spent summer days and Christmas Eves.

Cleve’s last memory with his grandfather was at 6-years-old during Thanksgiving. Buck passed away in December of that year.

Over the years, Cleve has continued to make regular trips to his grandparents’ home, which is still owned by the family.

He shared memories of his childhood there with his wife and three young children, and continued to make new ones.

“We’ll still meet older people there and when they find out who Cleve is, they have their own stories,” Katie said.

Cleve’s love for his West Virginia family instilled his dream at a young age of one day moving to the state.

When he and Katie met near the end of college, he shared this sentiment with her. The two have lived several places in the last 12 years, including Nashville and Raleigh, all with the idea that “one day” they would end up in the Mountain State.

Laura, a freelance graphic designer, followed the couple as they moved from place to place. For her, “it seemed like an adventure every time.”

Having grown up in Georgia, the sisters didn’t protest the thought of living in Appalachia again, and the three moved to West Virginia more than two years ago. Cass, who married Laura in April, moved from Cleveland to be with his wife, but he also has deep family ties to the state — his grandparents grew up here.

Combining Laura’s design skills with Cleve’s interest in creating a brand in his grandparents’ honor has been a dream held by the two for the past several years.

In October 2017 — before the family had plans to open a shop — Laura designed and brought to life a planner stamped with a drawing of a rhododendron under the Buck & Bette name. Even without a location, it sold much faster than expected.

Since then, Laura has also designed a 2019 planner, desk calendar, a sticker and a couple of t-shirts, which are all for sale at the shop, along with a curated collection of stationary, home products and apparel and accessories.

Every item sold at the store runs through a Buck and Bette “filter.” Cleve has likened the couple’s personalities to “fancy” and “staple.”

“Bette was a mountain girl but she had a lot of sass and a lot of class, so her personality brought in the fancy because she worked really hard to have nice things,” Katie said.

Though Buck could “class it up, too,” he was more practical, and accounts for the “staple” side of the goods.

“Everything, including the furniture and the decor, is inspired by Buck and Bette,” Cleve said, sitting on a mid-century-inspired couch near the entrance to the shop. “Buck’s easy chair looks similar to these chairs.”

Among posters for sale and floral-printed totes hanging in the shop, photos of Buck, Bette and the rest of Cleve’s family are framed on the walls.

Since Cleve has more photos of his grandparents than he can fit in the store, the family is sharing many old photographs and stories on social media at facebook.com/buck andbette and instagram.com/buckandbette.

“A lot of it is things that we have fallen in love with over the past five or 10 years and wanted Charleston to have access to,” Laura said.

Some of the products were made by friends and artisans whom they’ve followed over the years. Custom cutting boards, for example, were made by Nate Williams from Cass’ hometown.

Shirts and prints with phrases like “Wild + Wonderful” are made by Old Try, a company out of Boston with a similar story to Buck & Bette’s — expat southerners who moved north but continued to cling to their southern roots.

“We want to stay true to what we’ve started here,” Laura said. “We want it to be classic and Appalachian. We want it to be kind of organic, too.”

A portion of the sales for a print which reads “In West Virginia as it is in Heaven,” made by Old Try, will go to a new community center on the West Side of Charleston.

3d Nameplate

“I think we all have this sense of call to bringing good to the city, doing well for West Virginia and the city,” Cleve said. “It’s kind of grabbed us all a little differently but we’re all here.”

For the first time, Buck & Bette will be joining other local shops in participating in Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 23 and 24.

Reach Jennifer Gardner at jennifer.gardner@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5102 or follow @jenncgardner on Twitter.

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