Tucked appropriately in the lower level of a small building in a quiet little out-of-the-way corner of a large shopping center in the city’s south side, you’ll find what might be the most unique shop in Parkersburg. It’s so unobtrusively located and quaint that you will almost certainly miss it unless you’re looking for it. I know I did. But you should definitely look for it, because once you go inside, especially if you’re a nerd like me, you’ll fall in love.
Josh Allen and his wife Morgan opened The Shire in November of 2016 to fill a need that they didn’t see being met in the area. “We wanted to offer people a place to find unique items with geeky intrigue. I’ts difficult to find an original gift in a small town like this without going online…” And geeky intrigue it has plenty of. My first time there, I bought an Avengers mouse pad and several chocolates molded in the shape of different DC superhero logos. I was going to give them away to members of my nerd herd, but, full disclosure: they were too delicious and I ate them all. There was all manner of kitschy items to please nearly every fandom, from Doctor Who to Star Wars to Star Trek to Lord of the Rings.
Speaking of LOTR, that’s obviously what inspired the shop’s name. “We chose the name because it feels inviting,” Allen told me. He also liked it because, “it ended up aligning with our hand-made approach.” Initially, though, it was something a family member said that gave him the idea. “My sister lived in California for a time, she always referred to WV as The Shire, I found it endearing. The Shire was also my favorite place in the Tolkien world.”
When they first opened, Allen said that they were mostly carrying things they could order, though their goal, one they’re working toward quickly, was to work more with locally sourced and handmade items when they could. To that end, you can now find items such as homemade bath bombs, soaps, and jewelry. They still fit the theme of the store, though. “Think an ‘Eye of Sauron’ bath bomb with The One Ring inside or ‘Han Solo in Carbonite’ Soap.” Or, if you’re into candy, you’ll soon be able to get homemade truffles that are inspired by video games and movies. In order to promote their emphasis on local handmade items, they have fostered relationships with several artisans, such as Spoilers Diffuser Jewelry, Tina Allen’s Wonky Pottery, Ferk’s Leather Crafts, Mindy Blosser’s art, and Sabrina Christ’s Magical Creatures.
The store still carries things that aren’t handmade that they find interesting, including equipment for one of their favorite activities, disc golf. Another item you may or may not find of interest is edible insects. Allen told me they have a wide variety, including crickets and scorpions. Unlike the chocolates, I decided to just trust him when he said they were tasty.
One area in which they are hoping to grow is the ability to have more events like the one they sponsored last spring, an MOV-wide pokéball hunt. They hid over a hundred pokéballs in known pokéstop locations all over the area. They would also like to eventually grow physically in order to host events in their shop or even just offer a place for nerds to hang out together.
So, next time you’re looking for a unique handmade gift—for yourself or someone else—that has a slightly nerdy bent, give The Shire a try. It’s not hard to find once you know where to look and you’ll find the shop and its owners quite charming.
Joe Stephens is a National Board Certified Teacher at Parkersburg High School. He was a 2005 recipient of the Milken National Educator Award. He has a bachelor’s degree from Glenville State College and a master’s from Walden University. His third novel, In the Shadow, is now available on Amazon.