Ralph S. Via, Founder
Ralph S. Via, a Roanoke native, founded Ralph Via Hardware Co. in 1959. He graduated from Jefferson High School in 1939.
He was then hired as a Special Apprentice in the Norfolk & Western locomotive shops.
In 1942, he enlisted in the Navy. For two years he served as a mechanic and tail gunner on a PBM Mariner seaplane based in Trinidad, and was then deployed to the South Pacific until the end of World War II.
After receiving an honorable discharge, Mr. Via enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (now Virginia Tech) and graduated in 1951 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.
Following graduation, Mr. Via worked as an engineer in the Naval and Marine division at the Salem, Virginia, General Electric plant. He was then transferred to the General Electric plant in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Preferring to remain in his hometown, Mr. Via partnered with his father-in-law, Cash J. Shoaf, who provided financing, and his older brother, Charles E. Via, who acted as the general contractor for the construction.
The building was completed and opened Ralph Via Hardware Co. opened in 1959.
Weathering the Recession in the Late 70’s
This article is from a November, 1979 Sunday edition of the Roanoke Times & World News. The hardware store weathered the economic trends of the time.
Click here to view a larger version on the article in PDF format.
Please note that this is a very large file.
Mr. Via managed the store for almost 40 years, until health problems caused him to scale back his involvement. His long-time employee, Ray Oyler, gradually assumed more responsibility until Mr. Via retired.
Ralph Spangler Via passed away in 2007. The ownership of the store was then assumed by his wife, also a native Roanoker.
Ray Oyler began working at the store in 1978. He assumed the position of store manager when Mr. Via retired and continued in that position until the store closed in late 2017.