The Corner Store at Old Tavern
Story and photos by Aimee O’Grady
Jay Bryant used to buy Yoo-hoo chocolate beverages from the cooler of the Corner Store at Old Tavern as a child, when it was at the corner of the original Route 17 and Route 245. So, when he was looking for investment opportunities, he was familiar with the business and knew it would be a good purchase when it came on the market in 2004. “I owned several properties and a computer business in Manassas at the time,” he explains. Having grown up in Middleburg, his desire for the countryside and trees drew him back to the area in 2000. Today, Bryant lives in The Plains.
Karen Andres is the Corner Store’s manager. “I have worked for Jay as an executive assistant in his investment firm for ten years and have been managing the store, in addition to those responsibilities, for the past five years.” The Corner Store carries convenience inventory, but its biggest appeal is the deli counter. When Andres became manager, she enhanced the space by adding deep fryers and a larger griddle. “We make all of the salads fresh daily, and are always adding new items to the menu to keep customers interested,” she says.
With neighboring Great Meadow’s events in the spring, summer, and fall, there is a steady flow of customers coming through the store. The store changes to winter hours during the colder months but still has road maintenance workers, landscapers, and construction workers who come through, as well as local farmers. “Our farmers have to eat too,” says Andres.
Corner Store employees also entertain questions from the lost tourist every now and then. “The Route 66 town sign marker mentions the name Old Tavern, so we often get people looking for the town,” Andres laughs. Old Tavern is an unincorporated community in Fauquier County and a spot on the map, but not much else, and has no designated downtown area.
“The name ‘tavern’ also throws people off,” Andres continues. The Corner Store used to be a tavern with a dance hall on the second floor, but our current ABC license is off-premises only. “We can sell alcohol, but they have to drink it someplace else,” explains Andres.
When Bryant purchased the building in 2004, his goal was to maintain its character and continue the charm of the small “mom and pop” convenience store. Except for the kitchen enhancements, there have been virtually no changes in the past 13 years. Gas pumps still provide service to both diesel and gasoline vehicles. “The pumps used to be on the Route 245 side of the building, but were moved off the old Route 17 side just before I purchased the building,” says Bryant of the only change to the property in several decades.
In addition to the Corner Store, Bryant owns the adjacent property to the West of the store and 23 acres of land beyond that. “Great Meadow used to use their polo fields for overflow parking, until the fields were badly damaged,” says Andres, “So Jay offered them the lot of land on the corner of Routes 17 and 245 to use for overflow. Great Meadow also uses the Corner Store as their Will Call stand for events.” The easy agreement between the Corner Store and Great Meadow is reminiscent of an era when such relationships were founded on being neighborly, rather than a business arrangement.
In the Corner Store’s refreshing atmosphere are friendly employees eager to help, or hold a baby for a customer. The chicken salad and turkey sandwiches will satisfy the hungriest of patrons. And the building itself welcomes customers to slow down, grab a sandwich and sit on the wide front porch, or a picnic table on the lawn, and enjoy the countryside that Old Tavern has to offer.