Store’s return still on track

By Katie Demeria

Fort Valley Properties LLC, the group devoted to returning the Fort Valley Country Store to the community, had an event last Saturday in order to update local residents and attract more members.

The investment group’s president, Stephen Hunter, said the event was “very successful” and several new members signed up.

Hunter added that the group would not be releasing specific information regarding the number of members or financial goals until those goals are met.

He also said there is as of yet no definite date by which residents can expect the store to reopen. For now, Fort Valley Properties LLC is hoping to raise the funds necessary to make renovations to the 7091 Fort Valley Road property.

“We’re going to get to a point when we start renovating, and as soon as we renovate, we’ll have a schedule,” he said.

The country store closed at the beginning of this year after operating since the 1960s, according to Hunter. Fort Valley Properties LLC was created specifically for this project.

“In order for an operator to run the store, the poor operator had to essentially mortgage his home to get the capital,” Hunter said. “And we realized that, well, if we separated the expense of buying the property from the expense of running the property, it could run more like stores in other places do.”

Most businesses, he pointed out, do not own the property on which they operate. Rather, they rent it, and Fort Valley Properties LLC is planning to create the same sort of relationship.

Renovations to the building, though, could take a while. The group is taking things slow to make sure they are done correctly, according to Hunter.

“The store had suffered from some neglect over the years,” he said.

The floor, though safe, needed some improvements, Hunter said. The grocery section required more lights, and a few code violations had to be addressed.

Another project is the installation of new chillers, which Hunter described as walk-in refrigerated sections that are typically found in convenience stores. The pizza oven also needs to be repaired.

The outside of the store requires scraping and painting, too, and new signs installed.

“We don’t want to sacrifice the country store atmosphere and look,” he said. “And that’s a matter of externalities and decorating.”

Ultimately, he added, the goal is to modernize the store, making it more energy efficient without losing its community, country feel.

Hunter said it is unclear if the group will have another community event to encourage people to join. Anyone interested can contact him at 540-933-6210.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com