By Ryan Cornell
FORT VALLEY -- The Fort Valley Country Store appears to be frozen in time.
A wall calendar displays the dates for January 2014, a green sign in front of the store advertises regular unleaded as $3.15 per gallon and a stack of newspapers on the counter recount the headlines from Jan. 31, the final day of the store's operation.
Since then, residents of the Fort Valley community have had no place to buy groceries, fill up on gas or purchase lottery tickets and cigarettes other than trekking more than 15 miles from the center of town to Edinburg, Front Royal or Strasburg.
One group of citizens, Re-Store Fort Valley, is determined to fix this problem and bring the store back into business. The group formed earlier this month and held its first meeting on April 17 to gauge community interest.
Sylvia Dorham, Fort Valley resident and meeting organizer, said she was "floored" by the amount of people who showed up to the meeting, which filled a room in the town's community library.
As someone who grew up in a small town, she said the general store served as a social hub.
"It's about having a community," she said. "It's an intentional way to form the community, and we need that."
Fort Valley Country Store closed for business at the end of January due to financial reasons, said owner Ken Zenger.
A Fort Valley resident for the past 30 years, Zenger said he purchased the store two years ago hoping it would be self-sufficient, and discovered he had neither the time nor the money to spend maintaining it.
"I never wanted the store to close," he said. "If you had asked me at the beginning of the year to name 100 things, closing the store wouldn't have been one of them."
He said the store is about 1,800 square feet and contains a storefront, storage area and kitchen, which was previously used to cook hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. Two gas pumps are located outside the store. Zenger said the asking price is "just under" $150,000.
He added he's had three or four potential buyers express interest in the store.
The Re-Store Fort Valley group formed a steering committee at its meeting, which will analyze the condition of the building, develop a business plan and explore options for getting the store back up and running.
Dorham said the date for the next meeting will be decided when the steering committee shares its findings.
"Right now, we're trying to take it out of the dream phase and put it into a reality," she said.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org