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Community bids farewell to longtime Virgilina staples

More than 50 members of the Virgilina community came out Saturday morning to thank two businesses, Virgilina Grocery and Chandler’s One Stop, for their years of service as they prepare to lock their doors for the last time.

Everyone met at the Virgilina Fire Department to enjoy breakfast together as they shared their appreciation for the two stores.  

Tony and Linda Tuck of Virgilina have owned and operated Virgilina Grocery for the past 20 years.

“The opportunity came about so we went ahead and took it. I can just say that’s it been a pleasant journey that’s about to come to an end,” said Tony. 

Unfortunately, the Tuck family will not be able to renew their lease with the owner of the building, Jack Slagle. 

 “The owner decided that he wanted the building back to open the business for his son which is understandable. There are no hard feelings, and I hope that he’ll be as successful as I was,” he added.

Seeing the shelves slowly empty is a “bittersweet” moment for the Tuck family. Even though it’s “sad to see their store close, they consider their many years of service as a blessing.” 

“Certainly I’m not bitter in any way for it coming to an end because I’ve been so blessed by running a store in the greatest community that anybody could ever operate a store in,” Tony said. 

“People in this community are a very caring people, and I’ve been blessed by them. Certainly, you cannot measure wealth by money because I don’t have any money, but I feel like the wealthiest person in the world. I just thank everybody in this community and every costumer who’s ever come in my store for what they mean to me, and they will not be forgotten.”  

His wealth comes from meeting all the different personalities he had the opportunity to meet over the years and the various ways the community has helped him. 

For example, Tony said, “If we had a power failure, they were up there with generators and things to help keep us from losing merchandise. If there were some mishaps such as a robbery at another store, people came by to make sure we were OK. Every customer who came in the door blessed us in one way or another. They all meant to help us.” 

The last day of business for Virgilina Grocery will be Oct. 31. 

Instead of focusing on the sadness, the Tuck family has decided to look at the new opportunities they will have available. 

“For the past 20 years, my wife and I been running the store on holidays,” Tony said, “and now we’ll be able to spend that time with family. My wife and I have been confined to a certain degree, so now we’ll be able to go somewhere and not be in a hurry to come home.” 

Linda added, “I don’t think it’s really sunk in that we’re leaving yet. We’re definitely going to miss the people, but we hope to do some traveling and spend more time with the grandchildren. We’ll be alright.” 

Also attending the community goodbye breakfast Saturday morning were Mr. and Mrs. Edward Chandler who originally owned Chandler’s One Stop Service Inc. for 50 years before turning it over to their sons, Roger and Donald Chandler.  

Chandler’s One Stop Service has provided automotive services for the past 66 years. 

The elder Chandler said, “We originally opened it up as a gas station when there used to be more traffic coming through here. It gradually changed over the years.” 

Chandler said they were “forced” into closing the store due to “sickness and age.” 

“In a way, I was kind of glad to give it away. After so many years, age catches up with you,” he added.

Chandler’s One Stop Service was sold 18 months ago to a group of men headed by David Pulliam. 

 “They are running the business a lot differently. They now have farm equipment and boat equipment,” Chandler said.

Many community members said they are “sad” to see the store close. 

Pastor Norman Talley of the Union Christian Church said, “I usually stop by the store everyday to get a cup coffee and talk to Tony and Linda. Also, I usually catch a lot of people going in and out and get to talk to them as well. I’m going to miss going by and just seeing everyone.” 

Talley also spoke on what has made Virgilina Grocery “special to the community.” 

“I’m sure a lot of people are going to miss the family store that they’re running. Tony and Linda are good to a lot of people. They let them have credit and different things that in today’s world we don’t see a lot of. Plus they were good to children. If the parents couldn’t give them something, they usually would,” said Talley. 

Francis Winkler worked at Virgilina Grocery for 15 years before retiring. 

“Over the years, you learn that people really depend on you. It’s just sad to see the store close,” said Winkler. 

The closing of the stores made Anne Pool reminisce of past days when Virgilina was “bigger.” 

 “From what I remember and from things my mother told me, Virgilina used to be quite big. There used to be a bank and a movie theatre here. It’s sad to see two more businesses go,” Pool said. 

Despite the rain on Saturday, many in the community turned out at the fire station to offer a hug and just say thank you to the Tucks and Chandlers for jobs well done.