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Memories Old and New:
Old Gap Mills Country Store Blends Past and Present While Looking to the Future

Gap Mills, West Virginia, is rich in history and not-so-hidden treasures that are well known to the locals. One of those treasures is the Old Gap Mills Country Store, a variety store that has a rich history of its own.

On October 29, 2022, Eric and Lisa Heavener, along with their son, Matthew, opened the doors to their shop, and realized the fulfillment of a long held goal: To offer a one-of-a-kind experience and unique products to the community, and to help secure Matthew’s future. All three Heaveners are equal partners in this venture. It truly is a family endeavor.

The store exists in a building that was known as Patton’s Mercantile in the 1930s. For a time, it was also a furniture store. The Heaveners still keep a room in the shop dedicated to the exquisite hand crafted
furniture created by former owner Bob Joyce. The Joyce family and the Heaveners host joint barbecues
from time to time at the store, where customers can purchase freshly grilled chicken with lots of delicious
homemade fixings.

The building itself is rich in history. Many black and white photos of the area, the store, and citizens from decades long ago adorn the walls. Eric pulled up a rug to show me the area where a pot-bellied stove once sat. He told me of the local men who sat around that stove in times gone by, shooting the breeze and swapping stories. He showed me some old store ledgers that were dated in the late 30s, when the place was still Patton’s Mercantile.

Eric has tried to re-purpose as much material as he can in the restoration of the store. For example, he cut and used miscellaneous tin pieces for the roof and used old signs. Some of the lights in the store are brooder lights that Heavener painted and hung along the entrance. Their counter and tobacco case are original to Patton’s from the 1930s, and their glass knife case is an antique, as well. An old cash register sits on a corner of the counter, a reminder of bygone times. A line of desks from the long-closed Gap Mills School, complete with some former students’ graffiti (names, etc.), sits lined up along one section of the wrap-around porch, so customers can sit and reminisce about their school days.

Today, the store boasts all kinds of offerings for people of many tastes. Lisa’s love of country and primitive decor has resulted in a large selection of house and garden flags, yard and home decor, and a cozy, welcoming atmosphere throughout the store. The Heaveners offer a wide selection of pipes and pipe tobacco, loose leaf tea, knives, lotions, candles, locally made goat milk soap, Virginia peanuts, pistachios from a ranch in New Mexico, and a variety of gourmet foods for many palates and dietary preferences/needs (they have several gluten free products on their shelves.) They try to partner with local businesses and buy locally as much as possible, and order from other small businesses when ordering is necessary.

If you like to sip delicious drinks or eat a sweet treat while shopping, the Heaveners also recently installed an ice cream and coffee bar in the shop. They source their coffee from a local roaster in nearby Newcastle, Virginia, who has many years of experience in producing coffee. In addition to their coffee and tea bar, the coffee is also sold by the bag in the shop, and can be freshly ground at time of purchase. In addition to their regular coffee, lattes, and teas, they have a variety of personalized creations, including the “Baby Moo,” a delectable ice cream/espresso dessert named after their pet cow, and the “O’Malley,” a coffee and ice cream combo named after a beloved goat.

I had the chance to ask customers in the store just what makes The Old Gap Mills Country Store so
special. One gentleman said, “It reminds me of the old soda shops that I used to visit when I was a kid in
the 50s. Coming in here is like going back in time, and they’re really good, down-home people.” Another shopper said, “It’s a very friendly, relaxed atmosphere, and being here is like visiting with an old friend.”
A common theme among all asked is that the store evokes a warm, welcoming, nostalgic experience.
When I asked Eric and Lisa what they love most about their store, they said, “The people. We’ve met so
many wonderful people, had the opportunity to network with so many great local businesses, and this is
such a great community.”

The Old Gap Mills Country Store is open year-around, Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Hours are Monday through Thursday, and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It is located on 8869 Sweet Springs Valley Road in Gap Mills.

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Lisa Coburn
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