Exploring Counties Series: Staunton

Exploring Counties Series: Staunton

The independent city of Staunton (pronounced stan-ton) in Augusta County, Virginia was called “A seat of culture in the Shenandoah Valley” by Southern Living magazine in 2020. Nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains, Staunton is your last significant sized community heading westbound before you enter the Virginia Highlands. Because Staunton is located at the junction of I-64 and I-81, the city of Charlottesville is just 45 minutes away, Harrisonburg 30 minutes, and Lexington 40 minutes. The proximity to each of these makes Staunton an ideal place to reside if you’re looking for a mix of outdoor rural life with a yearning for refined city tastes. We’re glad you found us and are reading our Exploring Counties Series: City of Staunton.

With roughly 25,000 people, a cost of living almost 20% below the national average, dozens of large employers, several post-secondary education institutions nearby, a historic downtown district with art galleries and independently owned restaurants, sprawling outdoor spaces including public parks and golf courses, and national forests, Staunton is a great city for young families, professionals, and retirees alike. Whether finances allow for the purchase of a home under $150K or nearing the $1M threshold, you will be able to find something that meets your criteria. With a median age of 40 years-old, Staunton has a fairly even spread young, working age, and retired citizens. Along those lines, there are several high and low skill jobs available from the top employers including Western State Hospital, Staunton City Schools, Mary Baldwin University, Walmart, Fisher Auto Parts, and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

Staunton has three primary elementary schools, and one middle and high school. Several private preschools and primary schools are also located within the city’s limits. Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School, which offers more advanced curriculums in arts and humanities or sciences for gifted students, is just a few miles away in nearby Fishersville. While Mary Baldwin University and the highly specialized Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind are just a few blocks away from downtown Staunton, Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, James Madison University, University of Virginia, Virginia Military Institute, and Washington and Lee University are all within a 45 minute drive.

What’s there to do in and around Staunton? If you want to stay local or go for a drive, prefer to be outside or need to stay inside, or want to be active or lazy, you’re in luck! Residents of Staunton have lived there for decades and have not yet experienced everything the area has to offer. Architect Thomas Jasper Collins designed nearly 200 buildings downtown during the Victorian era, thus simply walking down the sidewalk on a warm spring day and admiring the various complicated, asymmetrical shapes, decorative trim, steep roofs, and towers is a pleasure. Other popular outdoor activities in Staunton include a day at the Frontier Culture Museum where you can tour farms from three different continents as they were in the 17th through 19th centuries, spending an afternoon in Gypsy Hill Park where you can catch a concert at the pavilion, feed the ducks, swing with your children, swim in the pool, and walk or ride the 1.3 mile circular paved road, and on your way home, make a stop at the Staunton Farmers’ Market to purchase hand-picked local valley produce.

If you’re looking for a change of scenery, go underground at Grand Caverns in Grottoes (pro tip: it’s a great way to beat summer heat) or take a drive on farm-lined backcountry roads to Natural Chimneys Park where you can listen to a concert or attend Natural Chimneys Jousting Tournament, what’s lauded as the “oldest continuously held sporting event in North America.” Sherando Lake Recreation Area is tucked away in a hollow, below the infamous Blue Ridge Parkway. Several trails, two lakes, and bathroom, camping and picnic facilities make the ideal mountain setting for a day trip or long weekend. The popular Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian Trail are a mere 20 minute drive. If you’re looking for a sweet treat and don’t mind a scenic drive with hairpin turns, sweeping curves, and switchbacks, each spring the small mountain town of Monterey hosts the Highland County Maple Festival where you can sample and purchase anything maple related.

If the weather is not cooperating, Staunton has breweries, galleries, museums, restaurants, shops, and theaters for entertainment and relaxation. If history is your forte and the local Civil War battlefields are soggy, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum details the life of the United State’s 28th president and more. Blackfriars American Shakespeare Center is a historical re-creation of Shakespeare’s playhouse offering performances of Shakespeare’s and other playwrights’ masterpieces. If you’re looking for a unique piece of local art to highlight a newly decorated room, check out the Potter’s Daughter studios. Landscape and portrait oil paintings and earthy colored clay pottery from a wood-fired kiln are the owner’s specialty. Bonus: before you go, make an appointment for a deep tissue, hot stone, or relaxation massage. The Virginia Made Shop has apparel, consumables and decor from around the state including peanuts from the Tidewater, stone ground corn, flour, and grits from nearby Wade’s Mill (which you can also visit and watch the process), and pancake syrups from the orchards in the Shenandoah Valley.

When it’s time to grab a bite to eat, why settle for run of the mill mass-produced chow when there are fresh, locally-sourced, made to order independent eateries and watering holes? For a full farm to table meal, Zynodoa Restaurant serves brunch and dinner. Executive Chef Luke Dodwy and General Manager Jessica Goode gather their ingredients and menu items from sources across the state. Just a few of the purveyors are Apocalypse Brewery in Forest, Critzer Farm in Crozet, Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, and Planet Earth Diversified in Ruckersville. Newtown Baking and Kitchen uses only organic flour, and locally-sourced dairy and free-range eggs in their products which include artisan breads, pastries, and homemade pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven. Shenandoah Valley Brewing serves up nothing but beer. Catch a game on television or play one of their stocked board games with friends while you drink a fresh-poured cold brew. Some of their flagship beers are Glenhaven Scottish Ale, First Brigade IPA, and St. Mary’s Porter. If you’re more into wine, Ox-Eye Vineyards has a tasting room in Staunton’s historic Wharf district. There, you can try more than a dozen white, red, and seasonal wines.

Staunton truly is a sophisticated small city that happens to be Western central Virginia. It offers activities and education for the young, job opportunities for families, and an enriching environment for the retired. We want to find exactly what’s right for you, so be sure to read some of our other Exploring Counties Series!

Exploring and Living in Williamsburg

Williamsburg Living

Whether you’re looking into single family homes on the green, country club estate parcels, an entire farm, or potential business and investment properties, you will almost certainly be interested in what the immediate and surrounding areas have to offer yourself and what may also entice clients and employees. Work isn’t as much fun if you don’t add some play into the mix. What a perfect opportunity and reason to schedule a visit to Williamsburg, Virginia. Welcome to another edition of our Exploring Counties Series: City of Williamsburg.

America’s Historic Triangle in Virginia encompasses all three colonial communities of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Named after King William III, Williamsburg still holds an air of nobility. Beyond the cobblestone streets with horse-drawn carriages, original buildings containing period businesses, and rough cut rail fences keeping the small herd of sheep at bay, the living museum of Colonial Williamsburg, and one time capital of Virginia, is surrounded by a number of enviable commercial and residential properties. The Peninsula Region, as it is referred to by locals, of Hampton Roads is bordered by the York River on its Eastern side and the “mighty” James River on it’s Western reaches. Between the two rivers, the lush hard and soft wooded forests and saltwater tidal creeks, bays, and marshlands have been touched by man, even before the landing of the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery, in 1607. But, between the business and college districts , golf courses, historical colonial areas, suburban residential areas, and theme parks, the beauty of an almost primeval environment still captures and holds your attention.

The economy and culture of Williamsburg is alluring, and also quite unique, for those wishing to start-up or invest in local businesses. Various quantitative and qualitative statistics provide the basis for a broad range of small and large scale opportunities. The region brings in approximately four million visitors each year. Located halfway between Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia, Williamsburg is poised adjacent to the heavily traveled I-64 corridor. In fact, the continual increase in traffic volume has necessitated the state to widen I-64 from Newport News, twenty miles east, all the way to Williamsburg, a project which began over two years ago.

Tourist attractions such as the Historic Triangle colonies themselves, premier golf resorts, Busch Gardens theme park and Water Country USA water park, local beaches and those of nearby Hampton and Virginia Beach, The College of William and Mary, and numerous military bases including Fort Eustis, Langley Air Force Base, Norfolk Naval Station (the largest in the entire world), Oceana Naval Air Station, and Yorktown Naval Weapons Station provide an unprecedented amount of transient traffic. Due to these factors, there is a constant revolving door of potential customers to spend on accommodations, entertainment, dining, and shopping. Data collected showed that in 2010, tourism expenditures were nearly $1 billion for the Historic Triangle, and almost $4 billion for the Hampton Roads region.

 The rapidly growing permanent resident population also opens up possibilities for new or expanding businesses. The U.S. Census revealed a 14% population increase from 2000 to 2010. The prevalence of young adults, 46% aged 18-24, is an excellent marketable target group. In 2010, the median household income in Williamsburg was $71,000, 20% above the national average. The top 20% of households earned $150,000 or more. Also worth noting, is the almost 12% aged 65 years or older category. Surveys have shown that a significant number of people from this age group in Williamsburg, who were drawn to the area for retirement, receive a considerable amount of income from investment sources, which would indicate they are financially well off and would be inclined to more discretionary spending. Again, using data from 2010, retail sales were $339 million and $5.5 billion in the city of Williamsburg and the Peninsula, respectively. To put this into perspective, Williamsburg’s population ranked the 100th largest locality in the state, while their per capita sales were 7th.

If you are looking to relocate with children, good schools are a must. Magnet school James River Elementary, which incorporates the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, is one of only five schools in the state to offer the advanced structured regimen. Lafayette and Jamestown High schools, also operated by the Willamsburg-James City School System, are rated above average. The summer school only in-residence program for the Governor’s Mentorship in Engineering is held at the College of William and Mary, and the standard academic year New Horizons Governor’s School for Science and Technology is located in nearby Hampton. The area also has many private day and year round schools.

Permanent residents and visitors alike may have varying financial capabilities, but several businesses have established and positioned themselves to attract and cater to more affluent demographics. Several top rated golf courses and resorts are located in the immediate vicinity and within fifteen miles of Williamsburg. Exclusive activities such as private sailing and fishing charters, pampering spas, or simply sampling fine beers, ciders, meads, or wines, and indulging your craving to shop for antiques or goods at eclectic galleries and chic stores are just a few other pursuits to make a perfect weekend. When it’s time to eat, independently owned and operated fine dining and gourmet restaurants, as well as those associated with clubs and resorts, are not difficult to find.

If you consider yourself a pro, or you need to dust off the clubs in the basement, Golden Horseshoe Golf Club. Winner of Golfweek’s 2019 Best Resort Courses, Golden Horseshoe offers three distinct courses for varying levels. The Gold Course, reopened in 2017 after a massive renovation “presents a visually exciting challenge, and is uniquely memorable in its own right.” The Green Course was designed and engineered for golfers of any skill level. If you’re trying to squeeze in a quick round before a meeting, only a par-31 course, The Spotswood Course was named “best short nine-hole course in the country” by Golf Magazine. If you have the time in the evening, the Rockefeller Room serves decadent main dishes such as Lamb Shoulder Roast and Loch Duart Salmon.

Ford’s Colony Country Club offers more exciting courses to play. With three courses and 54 holes to play, this semi-private club will never bore you no matter how many times you come back. For twelve years in a row, Ford Colony’s Marsh Hawk course was the Monday Qualifier for the PGA Tour’s Michelob Championship. If you worked up an appetite, the members-only Colony Room offers succulent plates such as Grilled Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon or Roasted Portobello Wellington. Other notable courses around Williamsburg include Kiln Creek Golf Club and Resort, Kiskiack Golf Club, Newport News Golf Club at Deer Run, and Williamsburg Golf Club.

The large open water of the Chesapeake Bay, and even the tidal areas of the James River and York River, are meant for water sports. You can always, of course, drop a bottom rig and fish for croakers and spot or set a crab trap. But if you really want to up your saltwater game and amusement, hire a fishing charter or reserve a private sailboat tour. Rated five stars with over fifty reviews and multiple locations, including Gloucester Point and Yorktown, convenience and expertise are just a few miles away. With one 25’ and one 31’ vessel, York River Charters limit the number of guests to four and six, respectively, to ensure you will have the best experience possible. Half and full day charters are available to fish for cobia, flounder, mackerel, red drum, sharks, striped bass, and more. While some species are catch and release only, you also have the option to target fish to fill the cooler and throw on the grill or pack in the freezer for later, once you get home.

Over 100 reviews rate Williamsburg Charter Sails five stars. Three hour long sailings include reservations for couples, families, or groups. Six unique types of charters are available. Whether you choose an Adventure Cruise where you are a crew member who takes the wheel, an Event Cruise to celebrate someone or something special, an Appreciation Cruise as a team building staff outing, a History Cruise, a Lessons Cruise to get your feet wet in the art of sailing, or a Boat Buyer Cruise to ensure you are prepared for what to look for when making a purchase, you will undoubtedly enjoy the experience.

What wardrobe is complete without the best brands of clothing, and what house is considered decorated without antique or unique pieces? Depending on taste, while shopping for clothing you can make your trip a one stop shop at the Williamsburg Premium Outlets or for a personal experience, consider stopping by one of the many independent fine clothing boutiques. Men, if you want your clothing to make a statement, head downtown to R Bryant Ltd on Duke of Gloucester Street in the colonial district for quality domestic and foreign clothing lines or accessories where you’ll find businesses, casual, and outerwear. After on-site custom tailoring, you’ll leave dressed to the nines. Women, you can try on the newest arrivals of the most modern fashions for all seasons and occasions at Three Sisters Boutique, located downtown near the College of William and Mary. Don’t forget the little ones! The Carousel children’s clothier, also downtown, features selections of timeless brands and contemporary styles for infants to teens. If you choose to go to the Williamsburg Premier Outlets you’ll find over 100 stores featuring Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Coach, Kate Spade New York, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfigir, and more.

What was once old is new again, right? You’ll find an ample supply of antique shops and stores in Williamsburg. If you’re looking for a single piece to accentuate a piece of furniture or to redesign an entire room, you will find something that fits the bill. Charlie’s Antiques, The Goodman Home, Williamsburg Antique Mall, or Williamsburg Craft House will be the places to go find what you’re looking for, and you may even come home with something you’re not!

Williamsburg has the ability to boast about offering a wide array of eating establishments that include bakeries, buffets, breweries, cafes, delicatessens, fine dining, taverns, and wineries, which offer an assortment of culinary experiences. Whatever your mood may be, you can consume everything from colonial-era fare to cuisine made from more modern methods. Opus 9 Steakhouse is the perfect setting for a fancy night out or business dinner. For starters, order an appetizer of locally harvested Chesapeake Bay oysters. It wouldn’t be frowned upon if you ordered another plate and didn’t share. A more delicate main course of Pan-Roasted Chilean Sea Bass or their signature Oscar 9 (Steak Oscar, Filet Mignon, Grilled Portabella Mushroom, Lump Crabmeat, and Asparagus with Béarnaise Sauce) are favorites. Breaking away from surf and turf, if you’re looking for a different kind of bird, give Fat Canary a try. The tender Seared Quail with Carolina Gold Rice, Chorizo, and Giardiniere or Free-Range Guinea Fowl with Parmesan Gnocchi, Garlic Rapini, and Charred Tomato will melt in your mouth. If you are looking for international provisions, French cuisine Le Yaca or La Tiena Spanish Tapas Bar will expand your palate and have you coming back for more. For a taste of colonial fare and to experience dishes of the new world, Chowning’s Tavern, Christina Campbell’s Tavern, King’s Arms Tavern, and Shield’s Tavern are all located in the colonial historic district. Other local favorites of various victuals are Amber Ox Public House, Berret’s Seafood Restaurant and Taphouse Grill, Cochon On 2nd, The Hound’s Tale, and Riverwalk Restaurant. Looking for a place to unwind or have an after dinner drink? 8 Shires Coloniale Distillery, Alewerks Brewing Company, Brass Cannon Brewing, Copper Fox Distillery, Silver Hand Meadery, The Virginia Beer Company, and Williamsburg Winery produce small and large batches of the best brews, liquors, meads, and wines in the region.

By now, you are well aware there is no shortage of reasons why Williamsburg wouldn’t make a great destination to simply visit, or place roots for personal and business purposes. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about everything Williamsburg presents!

Public Service Announcement From Virginia Estates

From Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Firefly Fiber Broadband:

We are making very good progress with our broadband expansion in Nelson County and across our service area that touches 14 counties.

First let me give a quick background to our project.  CVEC is a not-for-profit electric cooperative that serves over 37,000 accounts in parts of 14 counties.  We have been in business since 1937.  The cooperative has made the decision to build out a fiber optic communications network to every point on the electric distribution system to aide with the operation of the system.  Due to the lack of access to broadband in the electric service territory, every member will have the option of using the fiber network for high speed broadband access.  State regulations do not allow CVEC to sell internet service, but they do allow CVEC to own a subsidiary which may engage in any legal business in Virginia.  Therefore CVEC leases its fiber network to Firefly Fiber Broadband, its wholly owned subsidiary, and Firefly offers retail internet service as well as voice over IP telephone service.

Firefly now offers retail service from over 450 miles of fiber in Nelson County.  The fiber build and associated make ready work to the electric distribution system represents an investment of more than $20 million in the county. The system provides broadband internet service options to more than 6200 homes and businesses in the northern and eastern portions of the county.  Firefly is presently completing connections to those who have signed up in the Martins Store substation area.  More than 50% of homes have taken the broadband internet service.  Splicing of the fiber is underway at Wintergreen presently; final connections there will begin within the next month and continue through spring.  We anticipate a similar take rate within the resort.

Firefly also now owns and operates the middle mile fiber system that was transferred from Nelson County on 1 January.  That middle mile system offers availability through other internet service providers to more than 1000 additional homes and businesses, with about 500 who have connected.  Firefly does not offer retail service on that middle mile system at this time, but does plan to by midyear.

In summer 2020, fiber will be built out in the CVEC Colleen substation footprint which will add another 130 miles of fiber to the network and pass 1000 more homes and businesses in the county. In future years, service will be extended to the other substation serving portions of the county from Gladstone, Piney River and Schuyler.  Firefly also plans some fiber building of its own outside of the CVEC electric system boundaries in portions of the APCo service area adjacent to the CVEC territory.  The specific final areas to be built outside of the CVEC system have not been determined.

In addition to Nelson County, Firefly presently has service available in the Appomattox substation area and has begun making final connections in the Zion substation area which touches Albemarle, Fluvanna and Louisa counties.  In 2020, Firefly plans to begin offering service in other areas of Appomattox, Fluvanna and Nelson plus portions of additional counties including Buckingham and Cumberland and Prince Edward. Firefly plans to have an additional 5000 homes connected to the internet during 2020 with plans to reach that many more again in 2021.  Interested rural residents can follow the progress of the service expansion at www.fireflyva.com where announcement tables and maps are kept up to date.

Firefly offers two levels of residential internet service: 100 mbps upload and download for $49.99 and 1 gigabit service for $79.99.  There are no data caps.  It also offers voice over IP telephone service for $34.99; the phone service is discounted $5 if combined with internet service.  Firefly has proven to be very reliable with no slowdowns at any time, and only a single small outage affecting a few customers from last June through January of this year.  The combination of low price, high speed, high reliability and local service has been a hit with the customers resulting in only one customer leaving Firefly other than those who have moved from their homes.

Firefly is not in business to make a large profit, but instead its mission is to overcome the lack of affordable, reliable, high speed true broadband service in rural central Virginia.  After the first year, it has gained traction in Nelson County and across the region.  The goal is to make rural central Virginia a feasible location to live for young families and professionals, as well as to make it a favored place to locate any business that requires a dependable broadband connection.

Gary Wood
President and CEO
Central Virginia Electric Cooperative
Firefly Fiber Broadband

For information about Nelson County, Virginia and real estate opporunities please contact Natt A. Hall, Jr., Principal Broker/President at Virginia Estates, Inc. 434-242-9893

The Story of 151

We all know that Nelson county is rightly famous for its mountain views, trout fishing, Wintergreen Resort and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  However, like most things in life, there is more to the story. It all starts with the Economic Development Authority.  This appointed board was given the task by the Board of Supervisors of how to bring more revenue into the county.  The one requirement was that the rise in revenue was not to produce population growth and the resulting growth in dollars for new schools, roads and the like. The EDA went to work in 2006 and came up with a plan called agri-tourism.  Make Nelson a day trip destination.  Tourists, not residents was the objective. Now after almost fourteen years we see it paying dividends.  Wineries, breweries, and cider operations plus food service have grown and continue to grow.

What has all this done to the real estate market in Nelson?

For starters, there is very little commercial property left along 151.  What little is left is commanding ever higher prices as businesses try to gain a foothold on access to the growing traffic on the road, sometimes referred to as ” Alcohol Alley”.  We at Virginia Estates prefer to call it ” Spirit Trail”.   The residential market is robust, but higher prices discourage first time buyers.  Inventory is low by historic standards and the fact that investors have cleaned out the lower priced homes and converted them to long term rentals or air b and b’s.  Banks still are cautious about funding spec homes by builders taking a one at a time approach.  This has served as a brake on the residential supply.  There are still opportunities and we at Virginia Estates can help you reach your goals be they residential or commercial.
Click here to Browse Real Estate in Nelson, Virginia
Please call us for further information: (434) 242-9893