Batchelors commit to the Corner

The Sperryville Corner Store complex — which has found success over the last decade and a half in the hands of the Thompson family — has also found some new hands.

Passing the baton: From left, Corner Store former owners Ken Thompson, and Mary Thompson, and new owners Craig and Caitlin Batchelor and Clay Batchelor, pose in the wine section after last Friday's settlement.Courtesy photo
Passing the baton: From left, Corner Store former owners Ken Thompson, and Mary Thompson, and new owners Craig and Caitlin Batchelor and Clay Batchelor, pose in the wine section after last Friday’s settlement.

Owners Ken and Mary Thompson said they signed a deal last Friday to sell the updated grocery Corner Store, the full-service Thornton River Grille restaurant and Rudy’s Pizza, all owned and operated since 2000 by them, son Andy and daughter-in-law Dana Thompson.

The buyers are 36-year-old attorney Craig Batchelor, his wife Caitlin and brother Clay, all of whom have been “long-term regulars” at the store and the restaurants for about 10 years. The sales price was $1.05 million.

Ken Thompson bought the place 16 years ago (when the sales price was $275,000) from longtime owner-operator Randolph Clater, who continued to be a fixture behind the Corner Store counter until his death last year.

Ken Thompson said that during the last two months’ due-diligence and study periods with the Batchelors, “everything went very well. We went from being acquaintances to being close friends.”

Craig Batchelor, who practices law in Harrisonburg, where he and his wife live (when they’re not at a family farm near Hume), said he’ll be the managing partner and on the premises most days of the facility’s seven-day-a-week operations. “My brother Clay and my wife Caitlin will be involved, but this is my show.”

And that show, Batchelor says, will definitely go on much as it has for the last 16 years.

“When I heard that it was for sale,” he said, “like a lot of people, I worried that someone would come along and buy it and change everything. I thought that would be a shame — not that change is a bad thing, but I felt like I wanted to preserve the integrity of what the Grille and the Corner Store and Rudy’s have become.”

“I will be there full time,” Batchelor said. “And I’m not supplanting anyone who already was there — as you know, we have a great long-term staff, invested in the store, the catering, the Grille and Rudy’s, and my plan is not to replace any of them, but to be myself an addition.”

Clay Batchelor has a house in Sperryville, and Craig Batchelor and his wife, in addition to the farm in Hume, own a small vineyard in Linden. Craig Batchelor actually worked for several years at Linden Vineyards with Jim Law, and has made wine in Sonoma County, California, and said that “wine has always been a huge passion. It was one of the reasons for making this purchase. I can talk about wine with people all day long. I’ve been on the production and the service end, and this is an opportunity to continue to be on the retail side of the industry.”

He added: “The Thompsons, all of them — Ken and Mary and, of course, Dana and Andy [who have since moved back to Texas], couldn’t have been more wonderful to work with. It was a very long process, but Ken is a masterfully organized person, which I came to appreciate. There’s more than just running the business, there’s all of the relationships and connections to the community, and they’ve been wonderful, as have the staff, in introducing me to members of the community who I hope to be seeing on a daily basis.”

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