Need groceries? Don't forget the Mall's country store
In our excitement over the opening of the Market Street Market, the new full-service grocery store on the Downtown Mall, we neglected to mention that a little store on the Mall’s East end has been selling produce, meats, and other grocery items with old-fashioned “country store” hospitality for the last 12 years.
“We opened at the same time the comet Hale-Bopp was flying over the Blue Ridge,” says Dan Pribus, who opened the Blue Ridge Country Store with his wife, Patty, in 1997.
Dan shows us a framed image of the night sky on April 7, 1997, nestled among countless other artifacts and memorabilia attached to the walls, including one of two stuffed deer heads donated by Neighborhood Development chief Jim Tolbert, and sections of an old newspaper found embedded in the store’s front counter, featuring angry editorials criticizing Abraham Lincoln. Indeed, there’s the comet’s bright tail streaking low across the mountains. Hale-Bopp, we can’t help but remember, was the reason members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide, after their leader told them it was the only way to board an alien spaceship following the comet.
For the Pribus’, however, the comet's arrival marked a more joyous kind of escape–the day they stopped working for the Man.
“We just hated working for other people,” says Dan.
Clearly, though, Dan and Patty enjoy serving them. Sitting in one of the rocking chairs on either side of a faux wood stove, Dan greets almost everyone who walks in the store like an old friend.
“Very rarely do we not recognize a face that comes through the door,” he says.
“This is my third time in here today,” says a woman buying a salad for lunch.
“It’s my fourth time today,” says a guy grabbing a cup of coffee. In a world of $4 lattes and skinny mochas, you can get a cup of Greenberry’s or Shenandoah Joe’s coffee at the BRCS for just a dollar.
“Forty-three times today,” jokes another customer on his way to the large and abundant salad bar, which Dan says he salvaged from the old Woolworths restaurant that used to be where Caspari is now.
Clearly, Dan has noticed the absence of a mention in the coverage of his competition, but he’s not holding a grudge. As he admits, his store isn’t the place to do the bulk of your grocery shopping, but if you want a healthy bite to eat or just need to pick up a few items, it’s ideal.
Indeed, there’s almost nothing you can’t pick up at the store–locally produced meats, cheeses, fruits, homemade soups and baked goods, yogurts, canned goods, candies, ice cream, frozen foods, assorted beverages, condiments, crackers, coffee, etc. As Dan points out, there’s even a selection of DVD rentals and several bins of nails.
“If someone needs a few nails to hang a picture or secure something,” he says, smiling. “And we also have a hammer people can borrow.“
Clearly, the Pribus’ regular customers feel as friendly and generous toward them. Customer donations in a tin pale near the cash register paid for Patty to go on a 10-day church mission trip to Hati in August, and another tin pail on the counter is half-full with donations to build a new school there.
“You can get yourself something healthy and good to eat here, and it doesn’t cost that much, maybe $6 or $7 bucks for a soup and a salad,” he says. “That’s pretty good on the Downtown Mall.”
Indeed, Dish orders a bowl of spicy catfish stew and a fresh roll before we leave, a tasty lunch on a cool day that leaves us feeling pretty good.