Craig County was in need of a hometown general store. Phil Spence heard the cry, and on September 2, 2012, he opened The Emporium General Country Store because he “wanted to do something that was meaningful in his life.”
This week, he will be celebrating his six-year anniversary, as well as celebrating the new book room that is now completed. “After six years of working and remodeling the store, it is finally finished,” Spence said. “Therefore, we will be offering ten percent off all books all week long.”
“I have loved books and been in the book business for years,” Spence added before saying, “we have lots of new books and new authors.”
Phil’s books are easily found as he divided them into subjects. From left to right, they start from the colonial days and the revolutionary war, continuing around the room, to include; the founding fathers, war between the states, Korea, WWI and WWII, How-To books from tool making to raising animals, informational reading including cookbooks from crock pots and cast iron to everyday menus and home butchering, canning, tractors and farm engines, preparedness, gardening, biographies, 9-11 story, children’s books, vintage and even cowboy and western fictions and the apocalypse, just to name a few.
Spence has hopes to build a large section on Appalachia living. “There aren’t many books about Appalachia and the people, they are very difficult to find,” he said. Phil does carry books by local authors of Craig and the surrounding counties.
As he and his wife Deborah were putting the finishing touches on the book room, a customer who had purchased a puzzle and put it together, asked Spence if he could use it. “I told them absolutely,” he said. “I had just put my little bistro table in, and I was looking for something to hang up there and it was perfect.”
The picture seems to bring a sense of warmth as one looks at it. It is of an old country store with a little girl standing near an old wood stove in the middle of the store. The hanging lamp above the table provides a wonderful place for one to check out the books they desire to purchase while enjoying a complimentary cup of hot tea or coffee.
“We have made lots of new friends and learned new things,” Spence said.
Anyone who walks into his establishment can see just how passionate Spence is about his craft. “I wanted to have a different philosophy of business and to provide something that the community didn’t have,” Spence said.
Spence and his wife have arranged the store to accommodate the new book room and expanded their many ‘Made in Virginia’ items which now consist of wines, Hubs peanuts and Virginia’s finest Family Fruit Basket of jams, jellies and pickles and even puzzles.
“We have also added greeting cards from Pumpernickel Press in Berryville, Virginia,” Spence noted. Every part of the beautiful card is made in the USA and is a high quality, embossed card with a story on the back about the card itself. We anticipate a great selection of Christmas cards also.”
A favorite seems to be the Homestead Creamery cheeses and butter as well as the Amish cheeses from Ohio. They carry whole grain and organic crackers to add to one’s grocery list.
Not only has Spence remodeled his book room but has doubled his entire store inventory, offering something for almost everyone including Watkins products of every kind, spices, herbal teas and coffees, heirloom seeds, Virginia wines and beers, survival foods, flags, canning supplies, fishing and hunting gear, oil lamps, many lines of personal care items, essential oils, vitamins, supplements, pain rubs, old-fashioned candies and even holistic veterinarian supplies.
Still, a favorite of many continues to be the original glass bottled Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew and ginger beers in addition to the lemonades and teas. One can grab a classic candy bar to go with it.
Spence has expanded the items he carries in his General Store to satisfy the desires of the residents of Craig. “If there is something I do not have and someone asks me, my wife Deborah is really good at researching for it,” Spence said. “No business can be successful unless the customer leaves with things that make them happy.” The Emporium General Country Store repeat customers continue to testify to that statement.
Spence is also known for bringing authors for book signings, especially local ones. “I plan to have authors here as much as possible because a lot of people are interested in meeting them,” he shared. “That is important to the author and to the people.”
Upon entering the store, guests quickly discover whether by him, his wife Deborah or his workers, that Phil is a very positive person.
“Every day is exciting,” he said. “It is really interesting dealing with people and having them come in and see if they like what we have done and if they like the shop.”
The Emporium is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon until 5 p.m. on Sundays.
He admits that he is in Craig County by choice. “I chose to move here because I like it here,” he said with a big smile.
It seems that the citizens of Craig feel the same way towards he and the business, because they are keeping him in business, enjoying the variety of goods he is bringing to the town as well as the smile everyone receives when entering The Emporium General Country Store.