Confession: I’m one of those natives that moved away from Martinsville for college and vowed to never return. The fast life seemed more exciting. Better opportunities were elsewhere. People were different. Experiences were richer. There was a certain culture of people I’d never get to know if I stayed home or didn’t take the chance to see what else was out there.
So I left home in 1995 for college in Raleigh, NC. I met people I once feared because of how they were portrayed on television . I remember on my college application for my roommate request, I wrote “No one from New York or New Jersey.” The only vision of someone from NY or NJ from my rural mindset was scary and full of stereotypes. My entire view of society outside of my comfort zone was based on fear and lack of culture.
So I left. Decided not to come home unless I had to. Since 1995 I have traveled so far and met so many people of all cultures, I decided I didn’t want to return to the place that made me question others’ existence. The place where I learned pieces of history but not it’s truth. So what all their jobs were gone. So what they’re stuck. So what they’re struggling. I know when I come home, my parent’s house was comfortable and I had no reason to go outside of it. This wall I built was for my peace of mind, to tell myself I was better off gone.
But social media has its way of sucking you in and making you see things you try to dismiss. What I have not been able to dismiss for some time is the beauty that is truly my hometown.
So I decided to head home for a weekend and spend as much time as I could, visiting some places I had been following on social media and taking in the place I called home for all of my formative years.
The first place I had to visit was “Dippers Ice Cream”, a local ice cream spot that surely has to rank as one of the best ice cream makers in Virginia. I had planned to visit Dippers for days and knew exactly what I wanted until I got to the window and saw everything else I wanted. I settled on the amazing Peach Dumplings topped with ice cream while my dad got two scoops of strawberry ice cream in a cone. Y’all, peach dumplings? If we weren’t already on the bypass when I finished, I would have returned for more. Nothing about this visit disappointed. Despite some people’s warnings of costs, Dippers deserves every penny they charge. Take all my money, I’ll be back!
Another place I had been following for a while is “Hamlet Vineyards.” There is nothing better than spending a beautiful day at a wine tasting and what a beautiful day it was. From the moment we arrived, the friendliness and service we received was exceptional. We opted to do the tasting that consisted of seven wines, all of which was delightful. For food, they had options of dips served with breads from another gem in the city “Rising Sun Breads.” They also have a “Sunday Special” seasonal option. We knew we were going somewhere else so we didn’t order anymore food, only more wine. We ordered the sangria and shared a bottle of wine before we finished our visit purchasing wine and souvenir glasses. One thing I forgot to purchase was the signature dark chocolate truffle from Cocoa Trail (another hometown gem) mixed with Hamlet Petit Verdot wine. Guess I have to return to try that. And I will.
Since we were so close, mom recommended we visit Fairystone Park, a place we used to come to often when I was growing up. I don’t think I’ve been here since I was a camp counselor on my Summer breaks from college and I never thought I was missing anything. I was. Fairystone is our beach away from the beach. On a day like today, the park should have been filled with families and friends sharing snacks and smiles. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected but I was happy to see those there who are aware of it’s glory. Not to mention, the camping potential and Yurts available. Yurts! Fairystone has yurts! I read there will be trails soon and that should be a great addition. In the meantime, pack up the kids, phone your friends and meet the family at Fairystone for an inexpensive day in the sun.
Finally, I received a recommendation to visit “Shindig, An uptown Bistro.” Being the greedy person I am, I went to try something on the menu. Without having much time to spare, I only ordered the garlic wings and truffle fries to share. After ordering shots of tequila, our food arrived to perfection. If this was any indication to what the rest of the food on the menu would be, I don’t know how one could be disappointed. I can’t wait to return for the Chilli Glazed Salmon. FYI: get the rum soaked banana pudding. You won’t be disappointed 😉
The thing about coming back home is that no matter where you eat out, someone at home is always waiting to feed you more. That person was my dad who had been waiting for us to return to the dinner he had prepared. Ribs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, green beans, and corn on the cob. I had no idea where I would put anymore food but when you’re home, you have no choice but to make room.
Hometown, I see your beauty. Your strength, your character, your work ethic and your determination. You have taken some hits but you refuse to quit. Part of that is what actually made me who I am. As a small business owner myself, I see your potential. It is up to your community to see it as well in order for you to survive. I hope my story and experience can contribute to your success. Until then, I’ll plan my next trip home.
Other small businesses to support:
Books and Crannies, Uptown Pinball, Mountain Valley Brewing, the Daily Grind, Finish 1st Motorsport and Mini Golf, Tammy’s Grill and many others.
Art at Happy Hour at Piedmont Arts, June 19, 5pm
Weekly Farmer’s Market
Summer Concert Series, at the Farmer’s Market (check listings)