Business booms in Boykins

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Participating in a ribbon cutting for Boykins Antiques at 32134 S. Main St. were Mitzi Lusk, left, Ronny Griffin, Spier Edwards, Sam Drewry, Annie Griffin, Gary Baugham, Carolyn Modlin, Melissa Rose, Linda Beatty and Clyde Parker. Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the ceremony. The store's winter hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

BOYKINS—Within a year’s time, empty storefronts on Boykins’ Main Street have gone from nine to three.

Boykins Antiques now occupies the storefront at 32134 S. Main St. Village Peddler antiques recently opened at 32090 N. Main St.

A commercial printer from Suffolk has purchased the former Buck Blow and H.O. Carlton buildings on Main Street, while a Chesapeake woodworker plans to rent the former White Way Foods building for his business. Come spring, a store that offers things for the home, garden and farm will open.

Mayor Spier Edwards gives a lot of the credit for Boykins’ retail revitalization to Mike McManus, who with his wife, Debbie, opened Boykins Beans & Ice Cream at 32124 Elizabeth St. just about two years ago.

“Mike is a leader,” Edwards said. “He has been a tremendous asset to this town. If it hadn’t been for Mike, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Edwards also credits Virginia Municipal League attorney Mark Flynn, who informed the town about a new law that allowed the McManuses to buy the 4,800-square-foot former supermarket without paying delinquent property taxes. Boykins Town Council and Southampton County Board of Supervisors agreed to the plan.

“That released the opportunity for someone to buy the property,” Edwards said. “The Board of Supervisors stepped up to the plate. That was something that needed to be done to get it back as tax-based revenue.”

The McManuses spent two years renovating the building, which had sat vacant for years, its roof and rear wall having collapsed.

When Boykins Beans & Ice Cream opened, Edwards believed the business “would be a drawing card for Boykins.”

Seems he was right, which is something Mike McManus appreciates as well as the town’s retail growth.

“It’s been a hot spot, and property owners are getting on board,” he said. “They were just sitting on them, maybe for investment purposes. We’re pretty pleased. It’s really coming along nicely.”

Mike McManus, also the director of the Boykins Main Street Initiative, is retired from the military. He and his wife owned a print shop in Virginia Beach for 13 years before resettling in Boykins nine years ago.

While the McManuses invested in Boykins for a slower-paced lifestyle, lifelong resident Ronny Griffin had his own reasons. He plans to retire as a paramedic next year and recently opened Boykins Antiques. In March, Griffin will open Boykins Supply on South Main Street in the abandoned Sykes Hatchery building.

“If you need a screwdriver, I’ll have that,” Griffin said. “Horse food, goat food, chicken food — we will have that too.”

He’s investing in Boykins because he likes antiques and it’s his hometown.

Thomas Barnes, owner of Cumberland Millwork in Chesapeake, will relocate his business to the former White Way Foods building. Barnes for 32 years has been a woodworker, making kitchen cabinets, staircases, window casings, doors, furniture and moldings, and refurbishing antiques.

The building he runs his business from in Chesapeake was sold and “my wife and I are tired of the bridges,” Barnes said when asked why he chose Boykins.

“Country (in Chesapeake) is getting a little harder to find,” he said. “If I can come to terms with the people on the house, I will move as quickly as I can. We like small towns.”

As for Edwards’ active interest in the community’s growth, the 74-year-old mayor felt there were a lot of things that needed upgraded.

“And I felt like I had the time to give back to the town,” he said.