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Large retail development could fuel tourism in Appomattox

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 30 2013 04:44:47 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 30 2013 06:05:18 PM EST

Town leaders are considering whether to hire a marketing firm to attract a shopping development, such as an outlet mall

APPOMATTOX, Va. -

When it comes to shopping, Dawn Rhudy doesn't mind traveling.

She drives more than 70 miles one way from her home in Grayson County, Virginia to spend her money at the Tanger Outlets in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

"It's a pretty drive," Rhudy said.  "They have all the shops that you have in the bigger towns."

Blowing Rock is mainly known for its namesake attraction, but the outlet mall brings in a different kind of visitor.

"Whether it's Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, or South Carolina, we're pulling from all of those geographical areas," said Cathy Williamson, who owns a Kilwin's Fudge Store at the Tanger Outlet.

Blowing Rock's success is something leaders in our region would like to replicate.

A consulting firm recently completed an economic study of Appomattox, which shows the town could support a large retail development like an outlet center.

Blowing Rock and Appomattox already have a lot in common.  The two towns have a similar population of around 2,000 people.

Both are close to colleges and attract visitors from across the world, but Mayor Paul Harvey believes any shopping center in Appomattox will have to be different than what's available in Blowing Rock.

"We think this has to be a little more unique than just an outlet mall," Harvey said.  "We feel that the retail will have to be different than what we already have in this area."

Tourists already come to Appomattox for the National park and the Museum of the Confederacy.

Harvey believes a large shopping center would bring more people to the other attractions, and provide jobs in a community that was hit hard a few years ago by the closing of a furniture plant.   

"We are excited about it and we are looking forward to seeing what might happen," Harvey said.

To make the shopping center a reality, Appomattox will have to launch a marketing campaign.

The town will have to sell itself to developers with the help of a marketing firm.

That will cost thousands of dollars and town council still has to decide whether it wants to go that route.

Harvey says it will be at least two or three more years before anything is built.