In 1916. Lovin & Withers purchased property on both sides of the 1911 Powers Building that housed the Citizens Bank, offices, and the post office. the building dates to 1911. After acquiring the property, the buildings on both sides of the bank were razed. With excavation of a cellar construction commenced on what was to be Central Commercial, the largest and most modern store in northern Arizona.
The store opened on August 20, 1917, with a gala celebration. A nearly full-page advertisement in the Mohave Miner read, quote, “Central Commercial Company successor to Lovin & Withers cordially invite you to the opening of their new store. Music by Los Angeles Colored Orchestra. Dance by above at open air pavilion 9:00 P.M.”
The cornerstone for the store that was promoted as the finest in northern Arizona with a full inventory for home, ranch, or mine was Lovin & Withers Mercantile. By the dawn of the 20th century Henry Lovin and John Withers had amassed a fortune. They had formed profitable partnerships and invested in mining, real estate, and ranching. In 1901 they established Lovin & Withers Mercantile in Kingman.
Withers also served on the board of directors at Citizens Bank, was a major partner in several mining companies, and with Lovin established a construction company that built numerous homes in Kingman as rental properties.
Lovin was also actively involved in local and state politics. He served two terms as Mohave County Sheriff, served on the committee that drafted the state of Arizona constitution, and was Mohave County’s first state senator.
Within ten years Lovin & Withers Mercantile was one of the largest retailers in northwestern Arizona. To supply their far-flung mercantile empire, including the distribution of beer from major breweries, in the teens the company pioneered the use of trucking in Mohave County.
By 1916, Jay Gates had become the front man for the company. Quote, “W.L. Peters who has made this territory for the past fourteen years for the Swift Packing Company and F.C. Flicklinger of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company were guests of Jay Gates of Lovin & Withers Company on a trip to Chloride.”
In 1911, Gates left his home in Elkins, West Virginia in search of opportunity in California. A fortuitous stop in Kingman led to employment at Lovin & Withers, and an empire built on Central Commercial.
The opening of the Central Commercial store in Kingman garnered national media attention. An article published on July 14, 1917, noted that, quote, “The interior of the building of Lovin & Withers, now known as the Central Commercial Company, is fast filling with hardwood furniture of all kinds. The wall shelf cases are all of hardwood and are enclosed to keep the dust and dirt from the interior with glass doors. Refrigerating and glass of all kinds have been provided and once in operation will make this the best-appointed store in this southwest country.”
Gates and Central Commercial were to play pivotal roles in Kingman and Mohave County development. Stores were opened in Flagstaff, Ash Fork, Seligman, Oatman, Chloride, and Goldroad. The company grew to include regional trucking and warehouses, and by 1950 the company had expanded operations to include communities along the Colorado River as far south as Yuma.
In 1923, Gates purchased controlling interest in Central Commercial. His family would manage the store until 1978 when it was acquired by Babbitts, an Arizona based department store.
The family owned Romer Beverage Company was established in 1982. Headquartered in Kingman, Arizona, the company is the Anheuser Busch distributor in Mohave, La Paz, and Yuma counties. It is also a tangible link to more than a century to more than a century of Mohave County history.