On Monday February 12th, the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce was pleased to host another successful luncheon at The Woodland for its loyal members and their guests. Opening the lunch with a blessing was Ilsa Loeser of the College Ministry at Johns Memorial Church in Farmville, who also serves on the Chamber’s Board. Those in attendance then dined on a delicious array of food, including personal-sized peanut butter chocolate pies. Chris Brochon, Vice Chair of the Chamber and Station Manager at WFLO Radio, served as the afternoon’s emcee and skillfully guided those present from one speaker to the next while keeping things lighthearted and fun.
First to speak was Den Cralle of Green Front Furniture, who was full of great ideas on how to entice more customers to come to Farmville from booming places like Richmond. He noted how Green Front has served as a staple of Downtown Farmville for years, so it has become their mission to revitalize their storefronts in an effort to engage the community. Cralle and the rest of Green Front have been hard at work improving the customer experience, doing major renovations like removing old drop ceilings, recruiting a company out of Richmond to add bluestone to the courtyard between buildings 8 and 9, and exposing brick on the interior. They’ve also added music inside the stores, and they are in the process of adding a pergola. Cralle, with the help of Loeser, has also completely revamped Green Front’s website in order to encourage customer engagement, and the website aims to also serve as a sort of tourist help center, as it lists local places to eat and to stay for the weekend. This help for tourists extends to their new Green Front Field Guides, which are pamphlets that contain plenty of information of the area. Cralle ended his informative speech by inviting anyone to stop by Green Front for a tour, so make sure to go see Cralle and he can show you what makes Green Front and Farmville so special.
The featured speaker of the event was Candice Smith of Sandy River Outdoor Adventures, who wowed attendees with photos and information of her family’s growing business and their plans for the future. Hailing from South Africa, Smith sailed around the world before settling down in Farmville with her equally adventurous husband, Mark. They started with cabin rentals that catered mostly to Hampden-Sydney students, but they quickly expanded and added a farm that allowed them to raise livestock such as sheep and chickens, and they also added a vegetable garden to encourage a self-sustaining lifestyle to both their guests and to their four children, who are actively involved in Sandy River’s success. A few years later, they added weekend getaway options for families and tourists, and they also added an outdoor adventure park that includes fun things like a high ropes course and ziplining. The growth of the park soon meant an increase in demand, so Candice and Mark quickly realized that they had to expand even further, and they ended up acquiring more farmland that brought their total property to 24 acres. Their newest additions to their property are three custom-made “glamping” tipis that put a luxurious spin on the typical camping experience. They feature amenities such as air conditioning and ceiling fans, and they are a whopping 30-feet tall with vaulted ceilings, with the frame of the tipis being made from pine trees from a farm in Prospect. They have plans to add 3 more glamping tipis due to such high demand, but their plans don’t just stop there. Similar to Cralle and Green Front, Smith and her husband want to make Farmville a real destination for visitors. They own an adventure store right on Main Street in Farmville that sells outdoor clothing brands like Patagonia and North Face, and they also offer bike rentals for High Bridge Trail State Park to attract more people. Their store serves as a sort of visitors center for those visiting Farmville, as they frequently will recommend local businesses when people ask for places to eat or places to stay. Sandy River also does commercials to help bring people to the area, which benefits not only them, but the whole community. They have plans to expand their property further, adding an events pavilion and a pool in the near future. They also hope to one day provide guided boat tours on the Appomattox River to give people a chance to see things they would otherwise be unable to. Smith ended her speech noting that she and her family are excited for the opportunity to expand, and they are hopeful that tourism and engagement in Farmville is improving every day. Buy your tickets for this place soon, because they are sure to be popular for a long time to come.
Brochon closed the event by updating everyone on upcoming events for the Chamber, which include Island Glow’s grand opening on February 22nd at 4 PM, Farmville’s Got Talent at Longwood University’s Willet Hall on February 24th at 3 PM, the annual LCVA Gala in Longwood’s Blackwell Auditorium on March 3rd, and the Moton Community Banquet at 6 PM on March 10th. The Chamber would also like to invite everyone to their next lunch, which will be on March 12th at The Woodland at 11:45 AM. We hope to see you there!