Town set to buy Holdren’s Country Store

VINTON–It turns out that the Town of Vinton is the mystery “local investor” purchasing the historic Holdren’s Country Store which was not sold at auction on September 18. Town Council has scheduled a public meeting for September 24 at 6:30 p.m. to “consider adoption of a resolution authorizing the Mayor and/or Town Manager to execute an Assignment of Auction Sales Contract for the purchase of property located at 350 Gus Nicks Boulevard.”

Holdren’s is described by historians as the site of the former Gish’s Mill “where Vinton started.”

The Town of Vinton plans to purchase the Holdren's Country Store property which has been up for sale for months.
The Town of Vinton plans to purchase the Holdren’s Country Store property which has been up for sale for months.

A handful of individuals registered to bid on the property at the auction, but only one bid of $50,000 was made and that did not meet the undisclosed reserve required for a sale to take place.

Broughman Commercial Services, Inc., a local real estate and auction firm was in charge of the auction. Brian Broughman was the auctioneer. The 1.25 acres of property with a structure occupying 13,796 square feet was assessed at $152,000. The property is zoned limited industrial and lies in the floodplain.

Later in the day it was revealed that a “local investor” purchased the property privately after the auction with no further details revealed.

Vinton Town Council went into a closed session at the end of their regular council meeting on Tuesday, September 15, to confer about the sale of the Vinton landmark at auction. Vice Mayor Matt Hare had initiated a discussion about the property during the course of their meeting, with citizen Doug Forbes noting that the mill is so significant to the town that a drawing of Gish’s Mill is part of the town seal.

Holdren's Country Store (the site of Gish's Mill) is so entwined with the Town's history that it appears on the town seal.
Holdren’s Country Store (the site of Gish’s Mill) is so entwined with the Town’s history that it appears on the town seal.

Michael Pulice of the Western Regional Office of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources completed a cursory examination of the site in recent months to determine if the mill property has historic value and might qualify for federal or state historic tax credits.

Pulice concluded that, “the old brick mill at the center of the existing building appears to date to the mid to late 19th century and might be potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under” Criterion A for Industry/Processing” if some of its added appendages are removed, and the modern materials associated with the recent retail business are removed from the first-floor interior.”

Pulice told the society that the property might “make a nice historical park, preserving the structure as an artifact–not restoring or rehabilitating, just preserving.”

According to the town, “the original mill structure is substantially intact on the inside. There have been numerous additions and repairs after two fires changed the outside appearance to what we see today.”

Town Manager Chris Lawrence said that the town has no immediate plans for the property other than preserving it from being demolished. He said that the property itself is critical to linking the Glade Creek Greenway to the Tinker Creek Greenway and Vinyard Park—and beyond into Roanoke and Botetourt Counties.

Holdren’s Country Store was included on the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation (RVPF) list of Endangered Sites for 2015.

The RVPF said that while the former Holdren’s Store property lies within the flood plain and some parts of the building are in poor condition, the remaining part of the old brick mill may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places if some of the modern elements are removed.

“The site reflects important elements of Vinton’s history,” is the conclusion of the RVPF.

According to the published  agenda for September 24, “The subject property has been on the market since the winter of 2015, with the closing of Holdren’s Country Store in December 2014. The property was home to the retail store for over 30 years. Town staff met with the real estate agent several times and worked to locate a new owner to redevelop the property through private investors. With no buyers located through normal channels, the property was put up for auction.”

The property dates back to the 1770’s as the original establishment of the community. Originally named Gish’s Mill after the founder, the mill operated for well over a century as a locally operated mill and later as a commercial mill.

Lawrence said that the town intends to “secure ownership of the property through the approval of an Assignment of Auction Sales Contract. Ownership by the town will allow the property to be held into the future so that a more permanent decision can be reached for the property. The town envisions an open public process to discuss and establish a vision for the property whereby it can be improved through preservation or renovation.”

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