Another business expansion project kicked off in Purcellville on Friday with representatives of Southern States starting construction of a new store that will triple the size of its current operation.
Plans are to have the new store up and running by March 1, in time for the spring planting season.
Store Manager Dan Virts said the new building will be 12,000 square feet, including a 6,000-square-foot showroom. The current building, built in 1957, will be torn down as construction moves into full swing over the next several weeks. The new store also will have triple the amount of parking, with 60 spaces.
During construction, the store will operate in leased space at the Loudoun Truck Center, 631 W. Main St.
Virts noted it was the growing and increasingly diverse customer base that led the Southern States Cooperative board of directors to green light the project after several years of planning and fundraising. He also thanked the Bank of Clarke County for its financial support.
“We’re excited for the farmers, horse farms, homeowners and backyard gardeners,” he said.
Virts also thanked members of the Purcellville Town Council, past and present, for their support. Mayor Kwasi Fraser, Vice Mayor Karen Jimmerson, Council members Kelli Grim and Councilmen Nedim Ogelman, Doug McCollum and Ryan Cool attended Saturday’s event.
Eddie Potts, son of original board member Edwin Potts, kept the crowd enthralled with tales of the days when farming was king, ticking off various sites in Purcellville once associated with old-time farming.
Employee Steve Russell, who has worked at the store for 46 years, remembered the 1957 store as being new and shiny when he first went to work there at age 18. Then the staff numbered six, today it’s closer to 17, Russell said.
Virts, who has been with Southern States for 29 years in the county, and Russell emphasized that the biggest change they’ve seen is the type of customer at the store, with more homeowners, horse farms, and sheep and poultry breeders.
“It’s been a lot of change,” Russell said later, change that started in the late 1960s and has continued. In his early days, the store was selling large jugs of chemicals to farmers—now its smaller portions to backyard gardeners. In addition to the growth in the horse industry, the poultry business has been “really huge in the past five years,” Russell said, noting last spring the store sold 6,000 baby chicks.
As someone who’s known the existing building from almost the beginning, Russell said, “I’m looking forward to the new building. It’ll be more modern, and less labor intensive.” His regrets will be mostly sentimental. “I’ve been here so long,” he said.