State recognizes Boykins

Published 11:21 am Saturday, November 19, 2011

The former Powell’s Department Store was rebuilt and opened as Boykins Beans & Ice Cream. -- SUBMITTED

BOYKINS—The Virginia Downtown Development Association has recognized Mike McManus, owner of Boykins Beans & Ice Cream in Boykins, and Boykins Mayor Spier Edwards for the town’s revitalization.

McManus and Edwards received the John Marlles Commitment Award, which is named after the founder of the VDDA and recognizes individuals who have dedicated their time, efforts and resources to redevelopment and revitalization of historic downtown business districts.

The awards were presented on Oct. 17 during a lunch at VDDA’s Annual Conference at the Historic Hippodrome Theater in Richmond.

McManus moved to Boykins in February 2003. In 2006, after spending two years restoring the Queen Ann Victorian he lives in, he started researching the fallen-in Powell’s Department Store building and found if something was not done with it soon, it could condemn the whole block. After a failed auction of the property by the Town, McManus made the town an offer on the property to preserve the other buildings on the block, including the Post Office.

In 2007, McManus purchased the property and began to rebuild. In 2008, he started the Boykins Main Street Initiative Inc., a non-profit, and the Town of Boykins became a Virginia Main Street affiliate. McManus was the director for the first two years.

In February 2009, he and his wife, Debbie, opened Boykins Beans & Ice Cream. A gourmet coffee house and ice cream shop, it became a restaurant in 2010.

It started the chain reaction that brought Boykins back to life. The town went from no businesses on Main Street to just two empty storefronts in three years.

In 2010, the Boykins Main Street Initiative received a grant for up to $35,000 for business district revitalization planning and hired a planning grant administrator.

In 2011, under McManus’ guidance, the town rezoned the business district’s upper floor levels to allow for upper floor residential living. He is currently in the planning stages of turning the upper floors of his building into three loft apartments.

Edwards, 75, worked uncounted hours toward the goal of a revitalized downtown Boykins. After unsuccessful attempt to get Southampton County to adopt and enforce building maintenance codes, he built a consensus in the town and had the town adopt and enforce the statewide building maintenance code.

He built a dialog with absentee owners of the empty blighted buildings and got them to list the buildings for sale or rent at fair market prices. Edwards implemented a plan to have more than $100,000 in liens and back taxes forgiven, so the building could be sold.