YOUR HOMETOWN — FULKS RUN: Store ‘Like One Big Family’
‘Hardware Convenience Store’ A Throwback To Simpler Time
Jill Fulk (center) takes an lunch order Friday from Don and Linda Ritchie’s grandson, Caleb Mitchell, 5, at the Valley Land Hardware Convenience Store on Brocks Gap Road in Fulks Run. The nearly 65-year-old store, originally called Criders Brothers Store, sells everything from green beans and country ham pot pie, to hardware staples like nuts and bolts. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R.
Tom Cooper, co-owner of Valley Land Hardware Convenience Store in Fulks Run, makes change for a customer Friday. Cooper and his wife, Diana, have owned the store for about 20 years. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R
A list of local deer kills, accompanied by photos of hunters with their take, is posted proudly on the wall of the business. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R
David Carr of Fulks Run finishes off a pot of coffee at the Valley Land Hardware Convenience Store in Fulks Run on Friday. Like many of the store’s customers, Carr is a regular, coming in for coffee and conversation nearly every day. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R
Businessmen in Charlottesville talked co-owner Diana Cooper into buying one.
“They called back over and asked how it was doing,” Diana Cooper’s husband, co-owner Tom Cooper, recalled recently. “I said to come get it.”
After all, the blue-and-white country store, which sells 6-pound tubs of green beans and nuts and bolts alike, still has that small town security. In Fulks Run, everyone knows everyone.
Every so often, someone will steal an item, but “we know about who they was,” Tom Cooper says. “The sad part about it is, if they’d of asked me for the … bolt, I’d of given it to him.”
Hang around the store for an hour or so, and you’ll hear the familiar sound of the doorbell ringing every few minutes. The store along Brocks Gap Road is a trusty mainstay for locals.
Though the town does not have any official elected positions, “Tommy and Diane are the mayor and the vice-mayor of Fulks Run,” said David Carr, of Fulks Run, as he bought coffee from Tom Cooper in late last month.
Carr comes to the store nearly every day.
The store is likely best known in the area for its small deli in the back, which serves daily specials such as country ham pot pie.
“Yesterday, we had three gallons and we sold out,” said Jill Fulk, of Fulks Run, who’s been making homemade meals and sweet tea — with real sugar — for at least the past 18 years.
Most of Valley Land’s six workers aren’t sure exactly how long they’ve been at the store. The time just seems to fly by.
“We’re just like one big family,” Fulk said recently.
“This far away from a stoplight, you can’t be mad,” Tom Cooper piped in.
But despite its popularity, the store has seen better days.
“The last four, five years has been rough,” Tom Cooper explained, adding that Valley Land has survived because of the owners’ fiscal conservatism.
The nearly 65-year-old store — originally called Crider Brothers Store — has been in the Coopers’ hands for about 20 of those years.
Tom Cooper says tightened hunting restrictions and an influx of larger hardware stores in the area have caused a slump in business.
The store is one of Rockingham County’s big game checking stations, and local hunters have traditionally provided much of its business during hunting season.
But what hasn’t helped is the aging population of people in the town who have grown up with the store.
“Time’s change,” Tom Cooper says. “That crowd growed up and went on their way. I guess everything’s like that.”
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