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Commentary: This quaint valley town has an ugly underbelly

By Roy Mullins

When I first moved to Front Royal back in 2005, I was intrigued by the quaint and seemingly friendly community nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.

My wife and I had been visiting her mother ho had moved out here from Alexandria and it was where my wife and I had decided would be a great place to raise our child.

We should have looked a little closer. If you take a walk down Main Street with its antique shops and hipster restaurants and that was all you saw of Front Royal you would most likely be drawn in by its fake charms. But go one street over into the heart of town and you are immediately confronted with a truth that cannot be hidden.

Poverty has a grip on Front Royal, and no one seems to care. It wasn't until I had been here and managed a business that employed a good portion of the citizens of Front Royal that I soon came to realize that this little town had quite an underbelly.

Drugs run rampant on the streets and are readily available to those who would wish to use them, and young thugs constantly prowl the town day and night looking for anyone they feel they can take advantage of. It had become painfully apparent to me that the majority of those living in this small town did so off government funds, a practice that was seemingly handed down from generation to generation.

Everywhere I turned, I found drug addicts, criminals and drains on society who had no concept of how to be a productive member of the community. What makes matters worse is that Front Royal is in the perfect position to be a thriving suburb, feeding both Winchester as well as the Manassas area, but due to the wealthy owners of the small businesses in town who constantly block and oppose any new business that wishes to offer fresh opportunities, the town as well as its residents are kept in a constant stranglehold.

There is nowhere else to shop except the more expensive and lesser quality businesses which seem to sprout up and disappear overnight. With no competition available that could offer different options, the quality of product offered as well as good customer service which used to be a staple of ethical business practices are no longer a concern, and the residents here have no choice but to accept this shoddy standard.

Due to the lack of jobs in the area, the poor keep falling further behind and when you are fortunate enough to find work you would be lucky to make more than minimum wage.

I do love this town, but I love it not for what it is but for what I see that it could be. Since I have been a resident here I have been witness to so many businesses that have attempted to move into the area offering higher paying jobs and better opportunities only to be forced out for one reason or another.

There really is an opportunity here if someone would just step up to end the corruption and abuse that is rampant here. The fact that this town has embraced the wealthy few at the expense of the disadvantaged many is what is keeping this little hamlet in slavery. What's even worse is looking into the eyes of the people who live here, who realize that this broken life is all they can ever hope to be and who also realize that the opportunity for something better is nothing more than a distant dream that will never be fully realized.

Roy Mullins is a Front Royal resident.


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