If change and diversification are a sign of health in a rural economy, Sperryville has plenty of it happening. While we were away on an extended vacation, you read about the grand opening of Coterie at the Sperryville Schoolhouse, and the reopening Saturday (Aug. 1) of Cafe Indigo at Rappahannock Central for weekend business.
In addition to the famous Middle Street Gallery at Rappahannock Central, In Unison, a group of 20 D.C. artists, will open a month-long show in the Confluent Gallery Sept. 7. Music from the Grille deck fills Main Street on Sunday evenings; Cheri and Martin Woodard have smashing new signs at their Main Street office heralding their independent real estate brokerage; a Civil War Trails sign has been installed in front of Haley Fine Art; and Susan Meyers, who returned from several weeks of advanced training, has resumed a full schedule of classes at Sperryville Yoga.
The next exciting expansion is in the West End of Sperryville on U.S. 211. In addition to Triple Oak Bakery, Rainbow Market, Beech Spring Farms and several roadside stands, we are all delighted with the addition of the creative rustic goods at Sleepywood Furniture to the retail market. Now, there is even more to announce.
Exciting things are happening at the Sperryville Emporium. Current owners Martha L. O’Bannon-Hitt and Lee Hitt have contracted to sell the business to Rappahannock resident Darren McKinney. The McKinneys have exciting plans for the facility, which already houses several businesses. Darren’s company, McKinney Services, LLC, has relocated his office to the building and has begun extensive renovations.
The interior of the main building will be divided into retail shops and will include an open-air diner and fruit stand. The theme of the diner, which will open in a few months, will be all about Rappahannock, with décor that will be rustic and inspired by the county’s colorful history. Home-style sandwiches and meals will be prepared so that they can be taken home or eaten at one of the picnic areas on the premises.
Antique Tables Made Daily will continue to anchor the east end of the building. Owners Tom and Val Von Fange and have operated a successful business since 1983. Originally the company focused on custom kitchens and furniture, but in 1988 it became all about the tables. Tom has made more than 16,000 custom tables since then, and takes pride in providing families with “exactly the table that suits their needs.” To achieve his goal of creating unique quality products, he assigns one craftsman per table, making the focus “one family at a time.”
The Emporium, a community fixture for more than four decades, will remain in the center of the building, where Martha Lou will continue to sell honey, jam, jellies, country ham, pottery, Minnetonka Moccasins and souvenirs until her retirement. Founded in 1970 by J. Maurice O’Bannon and J. Clifford Miller III, the Emporium became O’Bannon’s property after he purchased Miller’s share in 1977, according to Martha. That same year, Martha joined her father’s business as bookkeeper and has been with the Emporium ever since.
The original location of the Emporium was the old Sperryville Schoolhouse; at the end of a 20-year lease, the Emporium moved to its current location, which O’Bannon had purchased in 1982. With the help of dedicated employees, the Emporium has enjoyed more than 42 years of success and has established a name that is recognized far and wide. Martha O’Bannon-Hitt’s goal for the future of the business is to “see the long standing legacy of Mr. O’Bannon and the 42 years of good will continue into the future of Sperryville.”
On the west side of the Emporium building, Blue Ridge Mountain Discoveries is a new family business run by Linda Dodson of Sperryville. A native of Rappahannock, Linda has a lifelong love of antiques and collecting inspired, she says, by her father, Luther Jenkins. She would say that “antiquing is in her blood.” A consignment store offering items from clothing to furniture, Blue Ridge Mountain Discoveries is now open and accepting consignments. They will be selling both in the store location at the Emporium building and online at BRMDiscoveries.com.
Included in their current inventory are several trunks handcrafted by Ed Johnson of Sperryville (who was featured July 26 in this column). Johnson will be adding wine racks and his famous corn hole games soon. You can also find local wildlife photography from Naaman Pratt of Sperryville.
Additional commercial space will be available for rent soon. (Thanks to Jan McKinney for gathering this information and history.)
This group of West End businesses is primarily owned and operated by families with deep roots in the history of Sperryville and will contribute strongly to what we have been calling, for the last six years, the renaissance of Sperryville.
A young buck and two spotted fawns have taken up residence in our yard. Never have you seen a more devoted caretaker than this buck. He diligently watches over them and when they wander too far, he herds them back. When we are in the yard or getting into cars he watches until it is clear we are no danger. Now, from all I have read, only the doe parents fawns, but this “single-parent family” seems to contradict this assumption. This little family is increasingly docile in our presence and comes right through the yard at will, giving us the opportunity to delight in their antics. Thank goodness for my John Dodson “elephant-proof” fence around the vegetable garden or we might not be so welcoming to these four-footed friends. In the meantime, they are a delight to watch.