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.