Sperryville column for April 3

The return of the country store

Richie Burke’s soon-to-be-open Woodville store intends to bring something vital back to the county: A true country store. Photo by Chris Doxzen.
Richie Burke’s soon-to-be-open Woodville store intends to bring something vital back to the county: A true country store. Photo by Chris Doxzen.

While driving through Woodville the other day, almost as if by fate, my pickup truck and I stopped outside the town’s new general store; a yard sale sign had caught our attention. Yes, I’m a yard sale aficionado.

As I scanned the items, I noticed the store entrance was open and wandered inside. There, I found Richie Burke, a 30-year fire department volunteer — and Sperryville fire chief for the last 18 — holding court with a young couple, animatedly talking shop and all things gun-related.

The yard sale, Richie told me, was a tease to invite people to stop and peruse the shelves of his Burke Family General Store, soon to formally open in the coming month. His mom Mabel, recently retired, was busy in the back, stocking shelves filled with memorabilia from bygone days — a festival for a collector’s eye.

Life magazines from the 1920s were stacked neatly on a table beside antique toy fire trucks (still in pristine condition), World War II uniforms, assorted antiques, Coca Cola and Santa Claus life-size cardboard posters and all manner of gift items — jewelry, silverware, pewter products, old guns and so much more.

The store’s ambiance is reminiscent of old time general stores like those on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a whimsically carved, life-sized wooden shoe — straight out of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales — and happily snagged it up.

Richie talked of his grandparents, W.R. and Lizzie Burke, who purchased the general store in 1945 from George Johnson and sold gasoline, general foods, hardware, clothes and more. It was the quintessential country store for many years, but closed in 2002 and was leased out to Blue Ridge Mac.

A self-described collector, Richie would like to recreate that store, and has thus far kept his rather extensive collection in his home. When I asked if Robin, his wife, knew what she was getting into when she married him, he laughed and quoted her: “Richie, I didn’t know I was going to be moving into a museum.”

He intends to make room for consignments as well, and will rent out small spaces to accommodate. He’s clearly passionate about the endeavor. It’s not a profit-making enterprise, but one to celebrate what he believes is important: To have a true country general store back in the county and stemming from his family’s history.

We wish you the best and much success.

Chris Green
About Chris Green 163 Articles
Chris Green (formerly Chris Doxzen) is an an executive recruiter by profession who enjoys exploring and writing about all things Rappahannock. Friends and neighbors with potential stories for her Sperryville column should email her at chrisdoxzen@gmail.com.