Laurel Mills store: sold, and staying

When the Laurel Mills Store went up for auction earlier this month, its future was uncertain. After just a few minutes with Marion Sharp – who, along with her husband, Bill, purchased the store at auction Aug. 11 – it quickly becomes obvious that the future is bright.

“I grew up going there,” said Sharp over the phone. “I’ve been going there ever since the Settle family ran it.”

She and her husband, who live in Amissville, had been looking for an investment opportunity for a while, so when the store went on the market, they jumped at the chance. “I just hated to see it shut down,” said Sharp.

After purchasing the store (for about $212,000), Sharp said she and her husband have some plans for it – including the possible addition of a grill so they can serve hot lunches – but plan to keep it essentially the same. This comes as good news to the store’s many regular customers, as well as its longtime employees, including Betsy Pullen.

“I’m very glad they’re keeping it as a store,” Pullen said. “It’s something the community needs.”

Laurel Mills has long been a fixture in the county. It was once a thriving wool mill, with a cornerstone dating all the way back to 1877. It’s also one of the oldest stores still in use in Rappahannock County.

The Sharps are, however, excited about the recently increased popularity of the Castleton Festival. Formed in 2009, the annual music and opera festival focuses on the cultivation and celebration of the arts, and, Sharp points out, has helped boost the local economy tremendously.

“We think it’s going to be a huge support to the store,” Sharp said.

Another reason the Sharps purchased the store is because of its hospitable atmosphere. In particular, Sharp pointed out how welcoming the store always was to to her autistic son, whom she said she plans to employ in the store in some capacity.

Ultimately, Sharp and her husband are just looking forward to their new entrepreneurial adventure, potential changes and all. “We’re just eager to try and make a go of it.”

The Sharps take over from Mary Frances Fannon and her husband Bill, who owned and ran the store for almost a quarter century.