An Interview with Fenner Hart Sr., 1977

Fenner Hart Sr. founder American Billiards

An Interview with our founder Fenner G. Hart Jr from 1977

Fenner G Hart Jr., proprietor of a small but busy billiards equipment business, ran down the steps to the basement showroom in this West Side home.
“You won’t believe it, “he said excitedly.  “I just sold a Gandee BIG G 5-by-10 carom table.”

Asked if that was an unusual sale, Hart said, “It’s only the second I’ve ever sold in my life.”
That’s an important sale for Hart, who first helped cover a pool table when he was 10 years old,  Both his father, Freeman, and his grandfather, who was also named Fenner, were involved in billiards sales and repairs.

Hart started his Somerset drive business, called American Billiards Co., at the birth of his first child eight and a half years ago.

“The only idea was to make a better living,” Hart claimed.  But his family’s long history in the business suggest otherwise.

His grandfather owned the Original Billiards Supply Co. of Clarksburg in the early 1900’s.  His father operated Charleston’s Anchor Billiard and Bowling Co.  It later evolved into the Anchor Fixture Co., which closed down 20 years ago, Hart said. Sales of everything from tables to cue sticks, balls, triangles, chalk, and even poolroom light are a substantial part of Hart’s business,  But recovering work accounts for more of his time.–about 80 hours a week, he estimated.

Last year he and employee Kenny Milhoan recovered 800 tables in three states.

They paid about $100 for each job, which takes them two hours. If is sounds like easy cash, it isn’t.  Not only does the job require skill and knowledge of the game, but the necessary materials are expensive.  And Hart uses only the best.
He said the tables he sells and services are of higher quality than those found in local department stores,  Slate used for the table’s base is imported from Italy and must be one inch thick.  Felt for the surface must be the proper blend of wool an nylon.

“We go to the factory where they’re made and make them dissemble each table we buy to make sure the slate isn’t cracked,”  Hart said.  “If the slate’s cracked, you don’t have a pool table.”
Hart sells equipment for several types of billiards games, including carom, snooker and pool, or pocket billiards,  In West Virginia the most popular game by far is pool.
Carom, the traditional form of billiards, is played on a table with no pockets.  Three balls are used as opposed to pool, which requires 16.  According to Hart, carom tables are located in only two places in the state- the Strand on Hale Street and the student union at Marshall University.

Tables like these and in other poolrooms provide Hart with his recovering business. Claiming that he recovers between 80 and 90 percent  of tall poolroom tables in the state, Hart said,
“Some places have it done every 30 days,  It’s just according to how particular a place is.”

He has recovered tables for some professional players as well, including Jimmy Carreras and Willie Mosconi.

Signs of wear include ball tracks on the felt and worn spots on the cushioned sides.
“A good coin-operated table will take in between $150 and $200 a week.” he said.  “The public doesn’t realize that.”

Many homeowners with tables in their recreation rooms never have them recovered and probably never need to, he added. Hart sells tables made by three well-known manufactures.  Prices range from $650 to more than $1500 and include delivery, installation and accessories.  The table he sold yesterday cast about $1600.

Though several are on display in the showroom, Hart usually orders tables as they are sold.  He insures delivery between three days and two weeks in most cases.

Although not a pool shark himself, Hart admitts he has “shot a little”  “To be good, you’d have to not work so much, ” he said. Hart’s six-year old son, Fenner III, likes to help out in the business.  He is already proficient with a tack hammer, his father said.

But will he carry on a family tradition?  “I don’t know whether I’m gonna put this on him or not,”  Hart said.