Do drop in: Venerable taproom can be yours

ADDRESS: 440 Valley Street


ASKING: $350,000


YEAR BUILT: before 1900

SIZE: 2,400 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.062 acres

CURB APPEAL: 5 out of 10

LISTED BY: Mike Cohen, Central Virginia Realty , 286-2300

The Dew Drop Inn in Scottsville has been closed for a while awaiting renovations and a new buyer. On a recent Thursday afternoon in October– not exactly prime tourist time– three groups of hungry would-be patrons eagerly trooped up the street toward the Inn, only to gaze dejectedly at the sign announcing "closed for repairs." This little report is just a pep talk for anyone thinking of dropping inn to the small-town watering-hole business. The Dew Drop has an up-and-running clientele eager for the place to reopen.

Before that can happen, though, some serious work is required– to the tune of $75,000-$100,000, by the agent's estimate. The venerable old place popularized in TV's The Waltons, that '70s paragon of everything wholesome and true, has fallen on hard times, structure-wise. The Dew Drop needs a new roof, a complete plumbing overhaul, total renovation of the surprisingly large second-floor apartment, and other structural and cosmetic work.

But what will emerge from the makeover could very likely be, if not a gold mine, at least a comfy living for some energetic entrepreneur/barkeep. The Dew Drop enjoys a prime location smack in the middle of bustling Scottsville and an enviable reputation, not only historically but under the current owner, Jackie Lohr, who has enlivened the place with tasty food and cutting-edge entertainment for the last several years. Lohr has created the buzz and cultivated a loyal customer base that should encourage anyone daunted by the work required to get the place into shape.

In The Waltons, John-Boy's brother Jason got his first job playing piano at the Dew Drop. Today, the place is a small, dark tavern with seating capacity, according to the agent, for 50. There's no A/C, and heat is provided by an electric space heater hanging beside the front window and vented by a stovepipe jutting from the facade. Out back– access not clear, either through the microscopic kitchen (unlikely) or from the side alley– a tent covers four or five more tables in the small rear yard. No one said it wasn't quaint.

The upstairs apartment, currently rented for $500/month, seems bigger than the restaurant, but that's probably because the downstairs is chopped into dining room, tiny kitchen, two mini-bathrooms, and even tinier storage area, and the apartment is un-chopped. A fireplace in the living room provides an outlet for another electric space heater, and the kitchen, at least twice as big as the one downstairs, spans the back with views to the yard.

A large living room, full bath, and two bedrooms complete the apartment.

For a structure that dates to the early 1800s, the brick seems surprisingly sound. Not many reminders of the old days exist in a building that has seen so many different owners and uses, but perhaps an architectural historian could help if a new owner wanted to return the place to its original glory. It's probably not a good idea to obliterate the Dew Drop in favor of a single-family residence. Surrounded as it is by commercial property, keeping the building a restaurant– or some sort of commercial enterprise– is the way to go.

Since the 1989 completion of the A. Raymon Thacker Levee, Scottsville has been flood-free, and since the arrival of Canal Basin Square, the Batteau festival, the gala Fourth of July parade, rafting and fishing companies, and a host of hip new residents, the town has become a hotbed of happenings year round. New restaurants augment all those activities to lure tourists who have transformed the formerly sleepy little home of Skippy's Market and Lumpkin's. And so, like everywhere else in the county, real estate prices in Scottsville are soaring.

An energetic entrepreneur who wants to own a piece of history– while investing some serious elbow-grease and cold cash– should head down Route 20 and look into the possibility of taking up where Jason Walton and Jackie Lohr have left off. Lohr will entertain any reasonable offer, and all those disappointed, hungry patrons will be grateful.