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June 18, 2019

Upperville farm store opens to “supportive” community

Photos/Don Del Rosso
Manager Allen Taylor in the new Upperville store. He also manages the Front Royal Southern States, which recently opened the branch in the Northern Fauquier village.
After visiting the Upperville store for the first time last week, Loudoun County residents Julia and William say they plan to do more shopping there.
It’s been very good. People have been very supportive. We just need more people coming in the door.
— Manager Allen D. Taylor
Upperville Farm and Feed
• What: Farm center selling hardware, feed, fencing, equipment, supplies, plants, produce and propane tank refills. It also plans to conduct agricultural seminars and host a farmers market. The center operates as a branch of the Front Royal Southern States Cooperative.

• Where: 9183 John S. Mosby Highway (Route 50), Upperville.

• Opened: May 3

• Employees: 6

• Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

• Phone: 540-401-6999

• Facebook: Click here
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The phone calls last fall caught the Front Royal Southern States Cooperative manager off guard.

Allen D. Taylor never really thought of Upperville as a candidate for a farm supply store — until he heard from area cattleman Jerry Crenshaw and others who lived near the Northern Fauquier village along John S. Mosby Highway.

“They said, ‘Would you consider putting a store here’?” recalled Mr. Taylor, 56. “At first, I wasn’t sure.”

But the more he heard from folks who backed the idea, the more he liked it.

In January, a “meet and greet” on the topic at Shelby Bonnie’s Upperville Village Business Center drew about 60 people.

“They were all very, very positive about us coming,” said Mr. Taylor. “After that meeting, what impressed me was the emails and calls I got the next few days from people saying, ‘We would love to have you come to our community’.”

The Front Royal cooperative on May 3 opened Upperville Farm and Feed in four buildings — two showrooms totaling about 4,000 square feet and two warehouses — at Mr. Bonnie’s 8.7-acre property near the village’s western edge.

“It’s been very good,” Mr. Taylor said of the community’s response to the store, a branch of the Front Royal operation. “People have been very supportive.

“We just need more people coming in the door,” including the “bigger farmers doing their weekly feed business, shavings (horse bedding), hay straw, farm supplies and all of those type of things.”

The membership-owned Upperville store, which employs six people, has an outdoor garden center and offers the full range of Southern States’ services and products. But a few features, such as a “country store” section, distinguish it from all other outlets, according to Mr. Taylor. For example, the store includes:

• “Country”-themed furniture and other home décor items.

• Fresh produce from the Shenandoah Valley. Eventually, local produce will be added to the selection.

• Frozen organic and humanely produced dog and cat food that use beef, chicken, turkey and rabbit. MeatMe, a division of Marshall-based market and café Gentle Harvest, manufactures the items.

He also plans to install a freezer that will carry locally-produced meat for human consumption, Mr. Taylor said.

On a grassy area fronting John S. Mosby Highway, the store also plans to organize a farmers market.

“We’re still kicking around ideas, trying to find the right vendors to support that,” Mr. Taylor said. “Shelby (Bonnie) wanted something that would be part of the community. And we wanted to be able to give back to the community.”

Working with area farmers and foundations, the cooperative expects to host a series of programs on agricultural topics that would appeal to the “general public.”

It also plans next year to conduct seminars on beekeeping, raised-bed gardening and perhaps “bigger topics,” such as land conservation, Mr. Taylor said.

In some ways, Upperville seemed well situated to serve an area that partly relied on the Middleburg Southern States to meet its farm supply needs, Mr. Taylor suggested. That store shut in December and merged with the Purcellville Southern States.

“Everybody that we talked to said they didn’t like fighting the traffic in Marshall, Purcellville, Winchester or Front Royal,” he said. “There’s just not easy access to those communities.”

An Upperville store also represented a chance for the Front Royal cooperative to grow its market share in the area.

“We were doing deliveries up here twice a week,” said Mr. Taylor, who manages the Front Royal and Upperville stores. “This just gave us a footprint.”

The cooperative has added new customers to the delivery route since the Upperville store opened, he said.

William and Julia Tayloe, who live in Loudoun, last week visited the Upperville store for the first time.

The couple had shopped at the Middleburg Southern States store until it closed about seven months ago. After that, they took their business to the Purcellville store.

“I like it,” Mr. Tayloe, 70, said of the Upperville store. “It’s convenient, closer than the Southern States where I used to get this kind of thing.

“So, now we’re definitely going to come here . . . . Everybody seems very nice. It looks like it’s coming along.”

The Tayloes, who live on one acre, spent about $58 for a garden hose, bird feed for their eight chickens and fly paper strips.

The Upperville store must be financially self-sufficient, Mr. Taylor said.

That means it probably will need to generate “$3 million or $4 million, if not more” in revenue per year, he said.

Established in 1933, the Front Royal store produces about $7 million in revenue annually, he said.

Mr. Taylor and Mr. Bonnie, 54, declined to discuss the terms of the Upperville store lease agreement.

As he had hoped, the store has proven a good “fit” for Upperville and the area, said Mr. Bonnie, who lives on the nearby 1,000-acre-plus Oakley Farm.

“If anything’s going to work there, that’s the right type of tenant,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but positive” comments about the store. “People love the team that’s there . . . . I hope they’re in there for a long time.”

Mr. Bonnie paid $1.79 million for the property in the historic Northern Fauquier village more than eight years ago, in part “to keep it becoming something like a Sheetz” convenience store.

The property contains nine structures totaling 50,000 square feet.

Decades ago, the property housed Northern Counties Lumber Inc., which sold panelized buildings and truss systems. In recent years, other tenants have operated there, including landscaping businesses and a stone retailer.

A vehicle repair and restoration business, Downey’s Vintage Garage and a contractor will continue to operate in the business park.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300. 

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Mark House · June 19, 2019 at 12:25 pm
Inviting Master Gardeners and Jim Hankins from the Fauquier Education Farm would be a great educational aspect and wonderful idea about a Farmer's Market (Craft Fairs would be be well attended too).
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