Established 2018: Local artist starts general store in New Market

Jon Henry, owner of the eponymous Jon Henry General Store, stocks patterned socks on a wall display. Lewis Millholland/Daily

NEW MARKET – To help pay for his armload of $300-400 full-color art textbooks back in college, Jon Henry started a produce stand with crops from his family’s farm, Jumpin Run Farm in Mount Jackson.

For him, the stand was a side hustle to fund his art career, like how artisans in Germany take up welding or hairstyling to keep a roof over their heads.

But now, six years later, the tables have flipped: Henry occasionally travels across the country and around the world to provide private art consultations, but from 10 a.m.­ to 6 p.m., seven days a week, he can be found behind the counter of Jon Henry’s General Store at 9383 N. Congress Street in New Market.

“I’m pretty committed to this, art- and life-wise,” Henry said Thursday, a week after the store opened.

The shop sells an assortment of goods: woven baskets, farm fresh eggs, jerky, knives, flavored honey sticks, socks with coconut and cassette tape designs, spices, and a myriad of other items. Henry sources much of his inventory locally, and ensures overseas suppliers engage in fair trade practices, such as paying workers fair wages and prohibiting child labor.

This research into his stock is essential, Henry said.

“We really have a story with all of our products, and understand where they come from,” he said. “Like, not only do I know the people who owns Route 11 Potato Chips, but I know the Mennonites who grow the potatoes.”

The shop’s shelves are also lined with vinegars and ciders from Jumpin Run Farm, Henry’s family’s farm, along with bottles of spices from Spicer’s Mill, a plastics-free, Virginia-based company.

Down the road, Henry said he’d like to host gallery space for paintings and photographs by local artists. There are a few art stores in the valley, he said, but “there’s not really a dedicated gallery space in Shenandoah County.”

One of his first priorities is firmly stablishing the general store in the community. Henry’s been the only employee since the store opened on March 1, working 8-hour shifts seven days a week, and he’ll continue to do so for at least the first month of operations.

“That’s what is so appealing about small town businesses, is that you get to know the owner. I mean, that’s why I’m being really intentional about being here for the first month, is so that I get to meet everyone,” Henry said.

The building that houses the general store dates back to the early 1800s. The cover of the iconic book, “Images of America: Around New Market,” features a sepia-toned picture of several men leaning against the same building, which was then the Neff general store.

In the nearly two centuries between the Neff and the Jon Henry general stores, the building has served a variety of roles, Henry said, including operating as a bank.

Leveraging this motley history, Henry retrofitted the old drive-thru into an art display case, and he’s happy to show off the old vault room, although he doesn’t use it to store anything more valuable than applesauce.

In May, Henry will travel to Sydney, Australia, to speak with farmers and artists about  life, agriculture and tourism in the Shenandoah Valley — or “the breadbasket of Virginia,” as he put it. Because, even after traveling to major American metropolises and around the world, Henry is still enamored with rural Virginia.

“I get that a lot of times from folks, like, ‘Why don’t you move?'” Henry said. “I think the valley is a really unique place, and I think anybody who has ever been through a sunset in the valley knows that. I think our sunsets are just out of this world.”