The Floyd Country Store: Virginia’s Past is Still Alive
by Kara Martinez Bachman
The Floyd Country Store is a big deal in Floyd, Virginia. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes right through this one-stoplight town, and most visitors plan to pull off and spend a few minutes checking it all out.
According to owner Dylan Locke, however, some stay longer than anticipated when they find out how much happens at that special spot in Virginia. There’s top-notch live music. There’s local food. There are music lessons. There’s old-time shopping. It might be more than pass-through; for lovers of roots music and tradition, it’s perhaps a destination in itself.
“It’s an actual country store,” Locke explained. “The building is circa 1910, or 1909.” It’s stocked with some modern items, but many offerings are what you’d expect from an old general store. There’s a soda shop. Provisions. Kitchenware. Soaps. Salves. Musical instruments. And according to Locke, “things that are unique, artisan-made crafts.”
Visitors can savor some local flavors. “The food is the type you’d find in a small town in rural Virginia,” Locke said. He’s got things such as locally grown grits. Cornbread. Pinto beans. A specifically local item offered is the savory hand-pies.
“It’s a very Appalachian thing,” he said, explaining how workers such as coal miners would choose them because they were quick and portable, and were “an easy lunch item.”
The main highlight, however, is the bluegrass and old-time concerts, which have drawn legendary performers and world travelers for 35 years.
Locke bought the old store in 2014, and his reasons seem solid: To preserve something vital to the people of the area.
“For us, it’s an institution,” he explained. “It’s also a place where the community comes together. It’s a throwback in time, to when a community would come to play music after a hard workday…to me, it’s an age-old tradition that never went away. What’s beautiful about it [bluegrass and old-time music] is it’s very much alive,” he said. “You’ll see a two-year-old, and a 90-year-old, and a college student on the dance floor at the same time.”
“People connect with it because it’s so old, and really is the roots of American music,” he added.
The store is known for its Friday Night Jamboree.
“The Friday Night Jamboree is mostly old-time music, and dancers come to dance on the dance floor,” Locke said. “But we have both sit-down shows and shows for dancers.”
A dizzying array of performers have graced the stage over the years, including everyone from Bela Fleck to Larry Sparks.
There are also bluegrass lessons on-site, taught to students of all ages, hailing from around the world.
Some of this has been put on hiatus — or slightly altered — due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The store is doing what it can to keep providing the sense of community it always has, even if from more of a distance.
“We’re trying to be agile and adaptive, and meeting people where they are, instead of them coming to us,” Locke said. “We just started doing some music in our backyard, taking advantage of some outdoor space,” he said.
They’ve temporarily replaced some of the in-person music lessons with extremely low-cost workshop series, conducted via the CloudCast platform. Locke said that allows the store to continue to “support some of the musicians who are stuck at home. We’re doing our best to try to do some [Facebook] Livestreams,” he said.
The store has a whopping 32,000 followers on Facebook, and the Livestreams allow the concerts to continue, albeit in a socially distant way. As the store and its offerings just go-with-the-flow in our temporarily restricted world of today, no doubt they’ll continue to provide traditional experiences to fans for years to come.
“We own it, but my wife and I just consider ourselves stewards,” he explained. The musicians actually “own” it, he said. The community “owns it.”
Places such as the Floyd Country Store might seem as old as the hills, but they’re made forever new as life is breathed into them daily, by people who value the best parts of the past.