NEW CASTLE – From the big front window of Charlton & Associates Real Estate office in downtown New Castle, Don Charlton has kept a watchful eye on Main Street for the past 38-½ years. Charlton has watched businesses come and go and has enjoyed the camaraderie of the town folks dropping by for a chat.
He will probably still be a familiar figure on Main Street, but it will be sitting on a bench, not in his office.
He plans to retire the last day of September. His younger brother and partner since early 1980s, Pat Charlton, will keep the business going at 203 Main St.
Sheila DeHart and Jimmy DeHart Jr. will continue to work under Pat, who is the broker for the firm. “I don’t think the firm will miss a step,” said Charlton.
The firm specializes in property in Craig County and adjacent areas.
“There will be no changes as far as the company is concerned,” he reassured. “It’s just I will be somewhere else.”
Charlton says he will keep his license until the end of the year.
He has seen a lot of changes in the real estate market and business transactions. “I remember when I first started selling real estate a contract was one page,” Charlton recalled. “Now it has grown to seven pages, and a property listing has gone from five pages to 10-11. It’s a different world now.”
However he does admit that he has enjoyed all of the modern means of communication that have made his job a lot more simple over the years.
When he started out in the business, there were no electronic listings, he recalled. “That has taken a little of the personal dealings out of the business,” he said. “You miss the old part of going to talk to people. It was more fun the old way.”
“I’ve been an auctioneer and real estate agent for a long time. It’s been a good ride,” he summed up.
In addition to being in the real estate business, Charlton has been a top-notch auctioneer and collector for 32 years. There are several pieces of antique furniture in his office he has acquired over the years, and the big front window was once home to roughly 15,000 marbles, a part of his revered collection which he sold several years ago. However, the window still contains old toys and other items he has collected in the past.
When asked why he decided to hang up his real estate doings now, with characteristic humor Charlton explained, “I’m 77 years old. I’m going to step out before I step off the train.”
Charlton intends to stay involved in Craig County and “help the boys keep the fairgrounds going,” he said, referring to the Craig County Fairgrounds in New Castle. He is a member of the Craig County Fairgrounds Association, “and I just do whatever they need done.”
The real estate business has “provided a decent living for me for all these years. Craig has been very good to us. I certainly hope it will continue to be.”
“I don’t really have anything planned. I’m just leaving the business.”
Although many people who retire plan to travel, Charlton doesn’t intend to. “I don’t travel except in my books.”
He has a Kindle but prefers to read books, which he shares with his brother, Pat. “We just keep stacks of books in the office and give them to whoever wants them,” he added.
Among his favorite possessions there in his office is a black wooden humidor that holds his cigars. “Cigar smoking is like a mini vacation,” Charlton says. “I know exactly how long each cigar is and how long it takes to smoke it,” he said with a smile. “It’s no good if you have to keep stopping and putting it down.” He is often seen sitting on a bench in front of the office smoking one of his favorites, the Padron, which is hand rolled and capped.
“There are too many cigars left to smoke, too many good books left to read and too much whisky left if you have time to drink it. I’m looking forward to not having this responsibility,” he said of the real estate business. “If I wake up in the morning and decide I don’t feel like coming off the hill, I’ll go back and take a nap.”
He served 22 years in the United States Navy and Air Force before going into real estate. “It’s just been a long time.”
Charlton had a marble collection of close-to 15,000, which he sold a number of years ago.
“I have couple of marbles on my desk which I think are spectacular, which I’ll take home with me.”
He added, “And there’s probably some fish I haven’t caught, too. I’ll just shake them off the hook.”
Charlton lives in the Town of New Castle with his wife, Betty. They have been married 57 years. Their two daughters are Susan Wirt, a nurse who has her own business and who lives in Catawba with her husband Allen, and Angela Charlton Reczkowski, who is a nutritionist at the Carilion Cancer Center and lives in Roanoke.
The Charltons have four grandchildren: Matt, Ryan, Victor and Elizabeth. Victor is in college at St. John’s College; Matthew lives in Roanoke, Ryan lives in Catawba and Elizabeth is a sophomore at Patrick Henry High School.
Matt and Ryan have a band called “Woolums.” “Isn’t that a neat name?” Charlton asked.
– Editor Meg Hibbert also contributed to this article.