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The school has bought a building near its campus to sell food and crafts and to host performances.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Ferrum College plans to launch a small business off Virginia 40 near campus, and earlier this summer the private school bought the former Happy Pappy’s convenience store to house what will be called Ferrum Mercantile.
Renovations are under way, and the business is expected to open later this year, said the college, which is in Franklin County.
As envisioned, Ferrum Mercantile will include a deli, a seasonal farmers market, a Papa John’s Pizza franchise and Blue Ridge arts and crafts. In addition, a small performance stage will host local talent in recognition of Ferrum’s connection to Virginia’s Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail.
The college paid $300,000 for the building, which is about 6,000 square feet.
In a news release, College President Jennifer Braaten said colleges and universities across the country “are taking advantage of similar purchases to expand their campuses and gain better control over their ‘front doors.’ ”
Brad Dalton owns the 77 Restaurant in Ferrum. He said the business has been in his family since 1963. Dalton, who graduated from Ferrum College in 2003, said that although the mercantile’s fare might compete with his restaurant, he fully backs the college’s plan.
“I’m all for new businesses,” Dalton said. “I support the college any way I can. I wish them well.”
But Thomas Angell, who owns A & A Market Crossroads a few miles west of Ferrum and A & A Market in Callaway, expressed a different view of the college’s entrepreneurial venture.
“There ain’t no way I can compete with them,” Angell said. “They get their money from donations, and we have to earn ours. A little guy like me, how can I fight something like that?”
Ferrum College is a four-year, private liberal arts college with ties to the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1913, the college is celebrating its centennial year. During the most recent spring semester student enrollment totaled 1,485.
Angell said he can support the college teaching business classes but not running a mercantile along Virginia 40.
“That road is filled with competition,” he said.
Kim Blair, a spokeswoman for Ferrum College, said most, if not all of the businesses in the village of Ferrum “appreciate the efforts of the college to grow and improve the community — especially since the economic impact of the college on these local businesses is substantial.”
Dalton said the college’s expansion in recent years has benefitted the community.
Braaten became Ferrum College’s president in 2002, when enrollment was about 900 students.
She said Ferrum Mercantile will produce revenue for the college and provide another option for visitors to stop and spend time in the community.
Bobby Thompson, special assistant to Braaten for project development and a member of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors, said Ferrum College has long supported community development and enhancements of the Virginia 40 corridor.
The college’s Franklin Hall already houses a Subway restaurant franchise and a Papa John’s Pizza franchise, and both will remain open.
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