Batesville: The Best Kept Secret
Batesville is the best kept secret in Virginia. Well, perhaps not so much anymore due to the popularity of the Batesville Store and the hoopla surrounding its recent closing. It’s a long story and one that I won’t go into because it’s complicated. (I live here, and I don’t even know or understand all the details.) Apparently, not everyone agrees about what exactly went down or what will happen next. (Did the health department really close the doors of the popular music venue for functioning as a restaurant rather than a country store? Are the rumors true that proprietors, Cid and Liza, are planning to re-open and reinvent our favorite local haunt?)
What most people do seem to agree upon is that the store was and always has been an important mainstay of our community. Run and operated by the Page family for almost a century, the former general store consistently evolved with the times, offering a wide variety of staples from deli meats, local eggs and shoes to the first weedeater ever sold in Batesville. If you couldn’t afford your groceries, you could barter – a chicken for a week’s worth of flour and sugar. One community member ran up such a large list of credit, he had to trade a horse to settle his bill.
In more recent times, when the Page family retired and the store had been on the market for quite a while, Batesville resident Norm Jenkins bought the building. Jenkins had a close connection to the store. As the story goes, not only had he worked there in years past, he was the first employee ever outside of the Page family left alone to run the place on his own for a whole weekend.
A few years back, Cid and Liza Scallet leased the building from Norm, renamed the establishment “The Batesville Store,” and took up where the Page’s left off by offering modern essentials. Their goal was to entice you out of your dial-up access only home and into their establishment for an afternoon or evening of wireless Internet, local wines, chicken pot pie, homemade cookies, and the music of area favorites such as the Rick Olivarez Trio. It worked!
More important than the food or the entertainment, though, is the communal spirit provided by the venue all these years. It has been our meeting place; our gathering spot.
So now that the store is closed, how do we march on without our Friday and Saturday nights of local live music and all-you-can-eat home cooked buffets? Where do we catch up with our neighbors and meet folks traveling from the suburbs of Crozet or, having heard about the store’s charm and Liza’s famous brownies, roaming from as far as Richmond and D.C.? Who’s going to make sure the masses of bicyclists passing through the area get their homemade ice cream fix before heading back from whence they came?
Everywhere I go, people ask me, What’s going to happen to the Batesville Store?
I, for one, do not know. Nor, for that matter, am I worried. This is not because I don’t care. This is because as a Batesvillian, I know that the real magic of our little village -- the heart of our community -- lies in the beautiful melting pot of people who live here.
Our little hub holds families who have lived here for several generations nestled in beside a Sufi community who migrated from California in the 70’s. There are transplanted professionals from LA and New York; renowned architects who teach at the university; a Neuro-Interventional Radiologist who was recently voted one of the Best Doctors in America by her peers; real rock stars; and quite a diverse collection of artists. Don’t forget, of course, the Page family and the Ruitans who have helped to keep our little town alive and vibrant all these years by hosting Batesville Day, Apple Butter Day and our annual holiday caroling around the bonfire in Page’s field.
Every time I drive down Plank Road, I feel a lift in my heart, and I say to my son, “Aren’t we lucky to live in such a beautiful place?” No doubt, the landscape is breathtaking. And I especially love how, on my journey home, I pass small country shacks tucked in beside huge 100-year old brick Victorians. We’re all neighbors, and we live together well.
Do we miss the store? You bet! Have we holed up in our homes waiting for what happens next? Absolutely not. This is still and always will be a community. If we can’t gather at the store, we’ll meet in our yards and at our kitchen tables. We’ll catch up at the Post Office or visit in our gardens. If we want to dance and sing, we’ll do it in a field. We’ll send out flares and fireworks, set up lights and a sound system, BYOB, and rock out in the neighborhood. We’ll miss the walls that held us, Liza’s smile, and the homemade ice cream, but the party will go on.
I suppose that’s why I am not so worried about the store. I feel confident that somehow it will survive as it always has because Batesville is about nothing if not community. And we all play so well together -- in the sandbox, in the field and on our back porches.