EWING, VA – July 8, 2022 – Sisters Jan Brown and Melissa Hubbard returned to their native Lee County, Va., to do what they could to help revitalize the community which nurtured them in their growing up years. Both had left the area for work, but after retiring from their day jobs and after Melissa’s husband passed away, they said they both felt a calling to return home and jointly, they made the decision to invest in their community and began to work to develop Whistle Pig Country Store, LLC in Ewing.
The new business’ first farmers market is now planned for Saturday, July 16 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the pair readily admit they are excited to watch their new business take shape and grow.
“VCEDA’s seed capital grant program is designed to help local entrepreneurs create jobs and often has an additional side benefit of adding to the quality of life in our communities, supporting other existing jobs as well,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. “Whistle Pig Country Store LLC does that and in the process projects three full-time and 12 part-time employees within five years.”
While the July 16 farmers market event at Whistle Pig Country Store marks its first official event as Whistle Pig, Brown and Hubbard are also working to tear down another building on the property and working on finalizing plans for the deli and country store they plan to open there by fall 2023 as a phase two of the overall project. In the meantime, the market plans are progressing and they are looking forward to hosting a number of local farmers who will be on site to sell produces, but also arts and crafts vendors, who will sell their arts and crafts.
“The VCEDA seed capital funding will assist with the construction, inventory and marketing of the Farmers Market at Whistle Pig Country Store,” they noted. “It will provide Whistle Pig the ability to help revive Ewing and the surrounding area through access to fresh foods at the farmers market, a venue for community gathering for both young and old and a place for local artists and crafters to both sell their products and teach their craft.”
Receiving the VCEDA seed capital grant, they said, served as a real affirmation of their plans.
“As much as anything, it showed VCEDA believed in us and it gave us encouragement to continue to move forward,” Brown said. “$10,000 is a lot of money and it will help us.”
Hubbard agreed, noting, “we hope to provide people with a place to showcase the efforts of their labor through the farmers market. Our whole effort is more about community and providing employment. We really feel a calling to do this.”
They bought the old Wheeler Store on US 58 near Ewing and ultimately plan to add on to it to develop a general store featuring quality fresh foods and coffee in phase two of the project. Core offerings will include made-to-order sandwiches, wraps, salads and made-to-order brick oven pizzas with a rotating menu of both local dishes and new dishes to discover.
Brown and Hubbard worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) in developing their application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Lee County Economic Development Authority. They were quick to credit Becki O’Quinn-Purdie with the SBDC, for her help.
“Without her, we could not have done this,” Brown and Hubbard said. “The SBDC played a huge part in helping us continue to do this.”
“Mountain Empire’s Small Business Development Center has enjoyed working with Jan and Melissa on their dream for the community,” said Becki O’Quinn-Purdie, SBDC director at MECC. “The Whistle Pig Country Store will answer the need for good food, a community hub and a place for anyone traveling or coming through to find a seat at the table and feel at home. We are fortunate to be a part of this project in Lee County.”
“Jan and I are both very community-driven,” Hubbard said. “We hope to be a catalyst for other community members.”
The business may be found on Facebook.
About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.
About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.