Empty shelf: Creamery gone for good

Last week, while dairy-lovin' Dish was reporting on local ice-cream and gelato happenings, such as the soon-to-come gelato-café Splendora's, the recently bankrupted Shenville Creamery came to mind. In addition to glass-bottled milk, yogurt and cheeses, this Timberville-based dairy farm owned by Ida and Leon Heatwole was also becoming famous in the DC area for its creamy ice cream.

On March 11, you may recall, Dish reported on the forced closure of the business and the unsure future of the creamery. Would the new owners hire the Heatwoles to keep the dairy going? Well, a mid-March settlement trial brings some sad news: Shenville Creamery will not be coming back.

Floyd and Mary Baker, the Forrestville-based farmers who bought the Heatwole's 202 acres and five buildings for the bargain price of $1,190,000 at auction, say they have no interest in dairy farming.

"Our son-in-law was a dairy farmer, and you just have your nose to the grindstone all the time," Mary says. "Floyd said since the beginning that we'd never, ever, have a dairy."

Since the cows and all of the creamery equipment were sold to other buyers, the Bakers would basically need to start from scratch– not an attractive idea to a couple in their late sixties. Instead they will focus on what they know best- growing soybeans and corn as well as other fruits and vegetables. Plans are to use some of the former Shenville buildings to create a farmers' market, which will likely feature dairy products bought from a distributor.

Mary Baker admits that Leon Heatwole has contacted them several times to seek employment, but his calls went unanswered.

"We want to learn to crawl before we walk," she said. "Leon started out running, and that's not the best way to run a business."

As for the hole the creamery's closure left in market coolers, it's apparently not an easy one to fill.

Kate Collier says she is still searching for a Shenville substitute for her West Main Street shop Feast! After the final bottle of Shenville milk disappeared, C'ville Market began offering similar, but slightly more expensive dairy products from Homestead Creamery in Burnt Chimney.

"Customer response has been lukewarm to the new line," says market co-owner Denise Yetzer. "People are still very sad about Shenville closing down. "

Full-service lunch at Fuel
We may prefer to self-serve at the gas-pump, but when it comes to lunch, Charlottesville diners are definitely interested in full-service options– experienced servers, a glass of wine, ceramic plates, flowers.

Part of an increasing European trend, perhaps? Or a growing appreciation for the tastes and pleasures of slow food? Whatever the explanation, recent proof of our taste for slower-paced lunches is evident at Fuel, the service station, café, and bistro at the corner of Market and Ninth streets.

Lunch (as well as breakfast and early dinner) has always been available at Fuel's casual café, but just a few weeks ago the elegant, fine-dining bistro next door started serving mid-day meals (Monday-Friday 11:30am-2pm) as well.

"We always intended to have lunch at the Bistro," says Kluge Estate's Director of Marketing Kristen Moses, "but we allowed time to figure out how to make it work within the kitchen without overloading it. We also wanted to see if there was an interest in seated lunch- and it turns out there is!!"

The bistro's lunch menu is basically the same as the café's– hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups– with the added luxury of table service, wine, and daily specials. Overseeing this evolving locale is a new management team with experience in eateries from local Metro to Napa Valley: Ken Wooten (GM of Fuel, Co., former manager of the Farm Shop), Tito Cortes (Fuel Co.'s café manager) and Charles Roumeliotes, (Fuel's bistro dining room manager).

The good times roll at Fuel.