Scuffletown Grocery returns

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, July 26, 2017

There may not be many old country stores left, but one with a long history in Charlotte County is back after being closed. Scuffletown Grocery in Randolph reopened earlier this summer, now under the operation of Earl Toombs.

The store, located at 5859 Scuffletown Road, is still owned by William Vincent Nichols Jr., but it will be a bit different than its previous version.

“There’s just a lot more products,” said Elizabeth Rodriguez, the store’s manager.

She estimated the store previously had two refrigerated drink display cases, and now it has six cases that serve as either a refrigerator or a freezer. One refrigerator holds meat and cheese.

Some of the cases have more than one clear door.

A three-door refrigerator will be for beer when the store gets its license, likely within a week. A stand-up freezer will be for ice cream.

Rodriguez said the store offers groceries, convenience items, automotive items, hardware, fish and tackle and snacks, and “and then we have the deli, which has just about any kind of fast food item you could think of.”

The deli helps carry on the tradition of Scuffletown Grocery being more than just a place to shop but a place to relax, fellowship and eat.

“You can call your order in and take it to go, or you can sit down here and eat,” Rodriguez said, later noting the store’s new phone number is (434) 454-6299. “A lot of times in the morning, the older people like to sit down here and drink their coffee and watch the news and eat their biscuits together. They really enjoy that.”

The store held its grand re-opening June 10, and Rodriguez said it was quite busy during its first day, but then the traffic died down after that.

She noted that it is likely people became used to the store not being open. It’s main sign is unchanged from the last iteration of Scuffletown Grocery, even including an out-of-date phone number, so there is no significant change to draw the eye — at least for now.

“I think things are really going to pick up here … once that gas pump gets put in, which is not going to be too long,” she said.

She said Toombs will have a gas pump installed in front of the store within 30 days.

“He’s going to have off-road diesel,” Rodriguez said. “He’s going to have gas …  That’s going to make a huge difference. People don’t want to drive all the way to Drakes Branch or Keysville or something to get two gallons of lawn mower gas and a loaf of bread.”

Toombs expects convenience to be a key draw for the store, and he pointed out that there are fewer businesses in the area meeting that demand.

“On this one road here from down yonder where the Old 26 (Store) is to Phenix, there used to be nine stores,” he said. “There’s only two left, and this is one of them.”

He noted that nobody wants to pull the long hours necessary to run a country store. The 81-year-old Toombs, however, has been pulling those hours for much of his life.

Rodriguez, a longtime associate of Toombs, shared some of his business history, pointing out that “he built the store at Crafton’s Gate on (U.S. Route) 360 where the blinking lights are.”

Toombs said he stayed there for 20 years, then sold it and came back to the farm in Saxe.

He ended up renting a building there and operating a store in it for 14 years.

Rodriguez, who managed that facility as well, said the owners of the building decided they wanted to do something different with it, ending Toombs’ tenure there in May.

“And I was going to go home and quit,” Toombs said while standing in front of Scuffletown Grocery on Saturday. “So, my son said if I go home and sit down, I was going to die, so he come here and fix this one up for me. So, that’s the story right there. … He was the one with the idea that he wanted me in another store and (to) give (Elizabeth) a job too. She had been with us for 10, 11, 12 years.”

Rodriguez said working in a small country store has enabled her to get to know a lot of people and make friends with longtime residents of the area.

“I’ve had good, high-paying jobs before in my life, and I wouldn’t take those over what I get out of this,” she said.

Charlotte County Historical & Genealogical Society founder Bea King was at the store Saturday, and shared her love for it.

“You find out about everything that’s going on in the community right here,” she said.

King shared some of the history of the store, noting it was originally located in front of a nearby house facing Scuffletown Road. Then it was moved approximately 30 yards to the edge of Mossing Ford Road before eventually relocating to its current spot.

One of King’s reasons for coming to the store Saturday was to make plans for Scuffletown Days with Rodriguez. Scuffletown Days was an event hosted in previous years by the store that brings community members together to enjoy live music, vendors, food and other features like face-painting and bounce houses for children.

“People will come all over Virginia and some out of state just to come back home right here to Scuffletown Days to visit with their family and to come to this event,” King said.

King and Rodriguez said the next such event could happen in spring 2018.

Presently, Scuffletown Grocery’s hours are 6 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week. When the store receives its license to sell alcohol, Toombs expects the closing time to move to 8 p.m.