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Byline: Jim Balow
Oct. 16--Alvin Preiser prints catalogs in Chinese -- all the better to reach one of the biggest markets for his line of coal-testing equipment.
But other than the international flavor, Preiser Scientific hasn't changed all that much since Preiser's dad, Ben, began peddling laboratory equipment in the Kanawha Valley 77 years ago.
"My father started the business in 1924," said Preiser, seated at the conference table at the company headquarters on Oliver Street in St. Albans. "He had graduated from the first chemical engineering class at West Virginia University."
As Preiser tells the story, his father had been hired by Esso, now Exxon-Mobil, and was in Chicago, ready to board a train to New Orleans, where he would catch a ship to a new oil refinery in Costa Rica. "My mother was very unhappy. She was afraid she wouldn't see him. She decided she was going to have a heart attack and he would come back to Charleston. Well, he missed the train to New Orleans and he missed the ship, and Esso fired him.
"He joined Belle Alkali, which was right next to the DuPont plant. A man there convinced him to sell laboratory equipment and supplies to the chemical plants in the area. That was around 1924. It was after the war and only a handful of people were …