Category: Southwest

Crooked Road General Store

Melodies and Memories

This year, Edwards will have resources to expand the Crooked Road’s location and services, including hiring additional people to help the 9 dedicated volunteers.

A long-empty, abandoned ruin of a convenience store across from her driveway was the first glimpse Marla Edwards had of the vision that would become the Crooked Road General Store. Once known as Collins Market, an establishment famed for its corned-beef sandwiches, it was now an eyesore, and years of disuse had left it filled with dust and debris. “Despite that dark, windowless, cinder-block interior,” Edwards recalls, “I felt warmth.”

Under Edwards’ care, it has become “a convenience store and a little more.” Today, instead of corned beef, the Crooked Road is known for its Monday Night Singing Suppers, featuring local as well as celebrity bluegrass and gospel musicians and a reasonably priced Blue Plate Supper. “My first love is music, and my second is my community,” Edwards says. “What I’m doing here with the store allows me to bring those things together.”

The Virginia Highlands SBDC was one of many team players who helped Edwards turn her vision into reality. With encouragement at the project’s beginning and continued support along the way, Edwards credits the SBDC’s Client Specialist Sue Wagner, as well as a host of loving friends and family members, for making her country store a success.

Wagner helped Edwards create a business plan and walked her through every step of execution. She also encouraged her to participate in local business-plan “challenges” that allow business owners to compete with each other for prize money. Edwards says these competitions were great learning opportunities.

Initially tentative about her bold decision to buy the property, Edwards credits the SBDC and her support system for putting her worries to rest. “The apprehension disappeared,” she says. “And only the good memories, uplifting attitudes, and the complete fun of cleaning up, clearing out, and rebuilding remained.”

Today the bustling Crooked Road Convenience Store is a far cry from the rundown building it once was. On Monday evenings the rooms swell with the sound of fiddles, banjos, and guitars. Regulars, who have attended nearly all of the 300+ supper events, line the weathered wood floors. In the end, like the last sweet note of an old melody hanging in the air, the thing that remains for Edwards is the love and the memories.

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The Well Coffee Shop

Hometown grind: couple brings coffee to Tazewell

With the help of the SBDC, The Well Coffee Shop won a grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and employs 5 part-time staff members.

Venus and Mike Laney knew their hometown of Tazewell needed a coffee shop. Rumors would come and go of potential venues opening, but as time ticked by nothing happened. The couple decided to take matters into their own hands.

With the perfect historic building in the center of downtown Tazewell already in mind for The Well Coffee Shop, the Laneys set out to bring fresh, hot coffee to their friends and neighbors, one cup at a time. “Things really fell into place for us to be in that space,” says Mike, referring to The Well’s location.

After signing the lease in February 2017, the Laneys opened the Well Coffee Shop for business in June. Mike and Venus both work full-time jobs outside of the coffee shop and lacked experience with entrepreneurship. They were delighted to find an ally with Margie Douglass, Program Manager at the Southwest Virginia Community College SBDC. Margie helped the Laneys identify, apply, and win a Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority grant to fund their business.

“Margie was awesome,” Mike says. “She helped us through every part of the process, including identifying which type of grant we should apply for based on our needs. Once we decided which one we were going for, she helped us through countless revisions of our proposal,” he adds.

Venus is grateful to Margie for pointing them in the right direction. “Without Margie’s guidance, we would not have known that this program was even a possibility for us,” she says.

As The Well Coffee Shop settles into its new home in the heart of Tazewell, the Laneys are optimistic about the future. “I don’t have a degree in anything,” Mike says jokingly, “But each day our doors are open is a huge accomplishment.”

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The Homestead on the Holston

Heart on the Holston: Event venue brings dreams to life

During its first year of operation, The Homestead on the Holston received a matching grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. It also hosted 5 weddings and served more than 780 guests.

Linda Burkett had always found herself drawn to the art of entertaining and hospitality. She put those skills to excellent use when she and her daughter, Kelsey Kilgore Taylor, opened The Homestead on the Holston in June 2017. Located on the family’s property, The Homestead features a log cabin structure and gorgeous views of the Holston River. It was originally part of a land grant to a Revolutionary War soldier. The history of The Homestead on the Holston is as rich as it is beautiful, and it has now found new life hosting weddings.

“It’s a truly one-of-a-kind place,” says Linda. “People are drawn to the log cabin, to the river, and to the beauty of the setting.” With seating for up to 125 guests, a full catering kitchen, and overnight accommodations for up to 10 people, Linda prides herself on offering her brides a wedding experience customized to fit their dreams and budgets.

Kelsey, a professional photographer, and Linda work closely with local caterer Jo Kilgore to provide a number of in-house event packages for their guests. “It’s ample and affordable,” says Linda. “I try to sit down with every client and help them find exactly the right combination of services to meet their needs.” During their first summer of operation, the venue hosted five weddings, with over 780 guests enjoying the wide, green lawns of The Homestead.

Renovations for The Homestead on the Holston were funded in part by a matching grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. Linda also received invaluable assistance from Tim Blankenbecler, Director of the Mt. Empire SBDC. A neighbor introduced Linda to Tim at the SBDC. “Tim took us under his wing,” says Linda. “We couldn’t have been treated any better. He went through the proposal with us word by word and number by number to make sure that we got it right,” she adds.

As their second wedding season approaches, Linda is excited to see The Homestead on the Holston continue to grow. She plans to expand the range of services available to brides, as well as make the facilities more handicap accessible.

Without the guidance of the SBDC, The Homestead on the Holston might have remained a hidden gem in the heart of southwest Virginia. Thanks to Linda’s vision and Tim’s dedication, it can now welcome hundreds for years to come.

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Barnes Monument

Building a monument to success

After working with Matthew and Megan to successfully jump start their newly purchased Barnes Monument, the BRC SBDC helped them obtain a microloan through JUMP! Galax, which enabled them to hire local contractors.

When Matthew and Megan Barnes purchased a monument business in 2015, they were building on a foundation that had been there for over 45 years. Barnes Monument LLC creates beautiful, timeless memorials, while carving out a place of their own in the Galax community.

The couple worked with Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC to jumpstart their dream. The BRC SBDC Director Mandy Archer helped them develop a marketing plan and financial analysis that included expansion opportunities. Business boomed.

But in early 2017, Barnes Monument found themselves without a truck of their own that could transport the monuments. Purchasing a used truck solved that problem, but it created cash-flow issues for the fledgling business.

Mandy helped Matthew and Megan obtain a low-interest loan from JUMP! Galax. Mandy explains, “JUMP! was developed by Galax’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to encourage investments which would create locally owned microbusinesses. By investing in small businesses, the IDA is helping to create a sustainable local economy.” The loan also allowed Matthew and Megan to hire local part- time contractors to transport, set, and clean monuments, further boosting the local economy.

Because of its partnership with the community and the BRC SBDC, Barnes Monument has established itself as a permanent fixture in the Twin Counties. Mandy applauds the commitment this couple made to their entrepreneurial dreams. “Opening a new business can be difficult, but Matthew and Megan keep their eyes on their goals and continue to move forward,” Mandy says. “The BRC SBDC looks forward to providing on-going support as Barnes Monument continues to grow.”

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