Friday, June 1, 2012

Finding the Unexpected in Floyd (VA)

At first blush, Floyd (VA) seems to be an isolated rural town, one hour southwest of Roanoke on U.S. 221. But it is an isolation based on its placement on the map. The county’s winding, curved two-lane highways would seem to appeal only to travel by locals familiar with the terrain.

For years, this apparent isolation may have helped to preserve the heritage and natural beauty of this mountain plateau, but it was also the two characteristics that brought visitors to the area. The jams and music festivals brought regional residents, and the beauty of the region brought tourists who traveled a bit off the 31-mile portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through the county.

Many of these visitors were “back-to-the-landers seeking rural refuge. Many of the new residents were artists or artisans. In Floyd County, they found a land of natural beauty, a unique geography, rich hand-craft and music traditions, and open opportunities for creative living” (

To get to the next level of understanding the Floyd Phenomenon, we stopped into some of the businesses. On the edge of town is the Bread Basket. Expecting to find bread and pastries, we were surprised to find an array of specialty products more likely to be on the shelves of a store in a larger city.

We found spelt pasta and cholesterol-free noodles,

a variety of snack mixes—Hawaiian Snack and Wasabi Trail Mix—

packages of dried vegetable snacks,

and these types of low cal, fat-free eggs from Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Our experience of finding the unexpected continued when we entered the Harvest Moon Market.

Here we were greeted with shelves filled with a variety of organic foods and products.

We found a large section of herbs and spices. Among the containers, we found Vervain, Violet Leaf, Kelp, granulated Dulse, Mugwort, Mullein, and Blue Cohosh and Burdock Root.

We passed shelves of organic soda, a variety of teas, a number of local products—eggs, meats, breads, cheese, honey, wine, locally-ground coffee--and Hooper’s sauces.

Then we came upon an unusual product. We were not aware of a gluten-free beer. These were from Belgium.

In the town of Floyd, we found these bins in the hardware store. Anytime I can find screws and nails for sale by the pound, I know I’ve found a genuine hardware store.

A sign of the town’s sense of humor showed up in this sign in the window of the local book store. Under the words “Dirty Book Sale” was the following: “Been on the shelf too long and they are all dusty!”

And then there was the Republic of Floyd Emporium.

“Tired of being fiscally responsible…. dumping good money into little Timmy’s college fund…. squandering cash on groceries or foolishly investing money for retirement?

“Or, perhaps you’re searching for a unique gift for that special someone you don’t really care for….. an ex-wife or your slacker nephew.

“Visit our trendy ultra modern store in the heart of down town Floyd next to the historic New Mt. Mercantile. We’ve got oodles of neat stuff that has no intrinsic value or is just plain bad for you! Unique gifts, a truly fabulous wine and beer selection, gourmet snacks and more…” (

From the Emporium's welcoming message to the Hillbilly Crystal (two photos above) to the sauces below, the invitation from the proprietor is appealing: “Searching for that special gift to remind you of your unique Floyd Experience? Look no further!”

Another meal and the philosophy and products of one more merchant should round out the explanation for our love of the town of Floyd.

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