Tazewell Co. Mercantile was awarded a Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) $10,000 seed capital matching grant. On hand for the ceremonial check presentation were, from left, Margie Douglass, director of the Small Business Assistance Center at Southwest Virginia Community College; Virginia Warner holding Willis Strong; Bond Strong, Tazewell County Mercantile owner; Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel; and Pam Warden, Tazewell County economic development manager.

TAZEWELL, VA – December 3, 2018 A recent Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) seed capital matching grant awarded to Tazewell Co. Mercantile LLC in Richlands has made a difference, according to Bond Strong, its owner, who says, “it’s meant growth and that I can keep dreaming and not just stay in one spot.”

The Tazewell Co. Mercantile offers locally sourced foods, gift items including candles, quilts and crafts, custom gift baskets and antiques. It opened in October when Strong and her mother, Virginia Warner, decided to combine their dreams with Warner’s antiques offered for sale in the store and also serving as the display pieces for the merchandise offered at the store which is located in the historic Dixie Hotel Building on 1225 Front Street in Richlands. Its location is across the river from one of the Clinch River kayak launching areas which Strong says means that in addition to local traffic, the mercantile hopes to draw tourist traffic as well. The fact that so many items are purchased locally is one thing Strong says she hopes will add to the uniqueness of the store and what it has to offer.

“We try to source as many things locally as we can,” Strong adds.

Fresh milk comes from Goshen Homestead Creamery in Elk Garden; beef, pork and lamb come from Appalachian Meats in Lebanon; cold press juices come from The Juice and Her Smoothie Bar in Tazewell and sauces come from No Holds Barred Sauces in Haysi (both of whom are also past seed capital recipients); honey comes from Tazewell and Russell County; soaps are from Beagle Ridge Herb Farm in Wytheville or from a supplier in Franklin, NC, specifically requested by some customers; candles come from Mountain Meadows Soy Candles in Fancy Gap; spice mixes come from a Wytheville supplier; and beef jerky comes from a Princeton, WV supplier.

“VCEDA was pleased to provide the $10,000 in seed capital matching funding for Tazewell Co. Mercantile,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “Their business is unique in that it seeks to provide locally sourced items and it is evident now that they have opened they are doing just that. In so doing, not only are they meeting their goals, but at the same time, they are assisting in the growth of numerous other small businesses from whom they purchase merchandise.”

Strong worked with Margie Douglass as the Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College to develop her business plan and application to VCEDA for the matching seed capital funding.

“I could not have done anything without her,” Strong says of Douglass. “The small business center was just wonderful. I felt like I had a personal cheerleader, not just someone advising me.”

“My passion is local foods,” Strong continues, noting it is important to her that the products provided at the Tazewell Co. Mercantile are fresh and local. “Figuring out how to blend that with Mom’s antiques made it possible for us to make two dreams happen at once.”

In addition to offering merchandise for sale in the mercantile, educational workshops are also offered. The next one up is December 4 when a Living Wreath Workshop is planned with Ellen Reynolds; and another on December 11 when a Christmas Gift Basket workshop is planned with Carolyn Neal. Interested persons may sign up for those by calling 276-202-5567 or by email at tazewellcomercantile@gmail.com.

The store also makes custom gift baskets. Strong had 110 basket orders for Christmas placed by early November.

The store is in the process of applying for its ABC license and plans to sell regional wines and hard ciders  from Westwind Winery in Wytheville; Plum Creek Winery in Abingdon; Abingdon Winery; and Mountain Rose Vineyards in Wise.

Strong says she also hopes to set up a café area within the mercantile to offer teas and coffees and free wifi. Initially, one job was created with the opening of the business and Strong projects adding additional support personnel by the third year.

The mercantile is open on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; on Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To learn more about the mercantile, interested persons may visit www.tazewellcomercantile.com or find them on Facebook or Instagram.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vaceda.org  or www.e-Region.org.

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.