Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Rural Virginia town trying to convince residents to drop a 'Walmart mentality' and shop locally

Officials in a small town in southwest Virginia are trying to come up with ways to steer residents away from a "Walmart mentality" and convince people to support local businesses, Laurence Hammock reports for The Roanoke Times. While the town of Buchanan (Best Places map) is home to only about 1,200 residents, most of them work outside the city limits and do their shopping on the way home from their jobs in urban center Roanoke or Lexington, home to 7,200.

"So the trick will be to find ways to lure new visitors to Buchanan, while also securing more basic services—a grocery store, for example—for the people who live here," Hammock writes. "As the town looks to develop niche markets, one that already exists received national exposure in late January, when Fodor’s Travel named Buchanan one of the 10 best antiquing towns in the United States." The problem is that one of the town's six antique stores has already closed and the others keep sporadic hours.

The area is big on adventure tourism—one local business drew 12,000 visitors last year—90 percent from outside the area—for rafting, canoeing, kayaking, tubing and camping, Hammock writes. That's how officials hope to draw tourists then keep them around with other attractions. John Mays, co-owner of the adventure tourism business, told Hammock, "These are trying economic times for any town. But we’re trying to make Buchanan a happening place, versus a place that’s starting to wither."

Once visitors arrive, "they discover a town that includes a historic theater, a drug store with an old-time soda fountain and grill, a smattering of quaint shops and a swinging footbridge that spans the James River," Hammock writes. Local business owner Kim Conrad told Hammock, “It’s very Mayberryish." (Read more)

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