In the center of Chuckatuck you will find numerous green houses loaded with flowers and vegetable plants ready for the avid or novice gardener and a great place to pick up that Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day flower. Ronnie Kelly has been at this nursery business since he was seven when he built a 3 X 5 foot hot bed between two chimneys at the old Spady home place. He was selling tomato plants for 1 cent each to his neighbors. During the next four years the size of his hot bed grew and he ultimately built a much larger bed in the field behind the Spady house. Business was booming and as graduation from high school loomed Ronnie knew what would be his calling. Having worked with his dad, John Kelly, in the fields plus his booming tomato business solidified his decision. In 1970 he built his first gothic-style greenhouse which was 21 feet long and 12 feet wide. That was the real beginning of a business that has prospered through the years and keeps Chuckatuck colorful and on the map. Ronnie has been a member of the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department for many years following in his dad’s footsteps. His mother, Emma Mae, was a prolific writer and very instrumental in keeping the history of Chuckatuck and the Volunteer Fire Department up to date. A stop at this nursery is well worth the time. (SHOW PICTURE OF RONNIE AND THE GREENHOUSE)
From a purely social aspect Village Drug’s, in the heart of Chuckatuck, was an ICON in its own right. It is certainly not the oldest commercial venture in the village, but one that is remembered by virtually everyone who lived in the GCH area. It was and always will be remembered as “The Village Drug Store”. The Foundation believes that virtually everyone in the community visited the drug store for some reason daily, weekly or monthly and can remember the type of service you received either at the pharmacy counter served by Bobby Jones, the pharmacist, looking at the great gifts and baskets or having their renowned chili dogs and hamburgers under the watchful eye of Dot Moyers. In 1961 “The Village Drug store” occupied a part of the cinderblock building built by W.G. Saunders, Jr. in the late 1940s as a stowage building. Dr. Thomas already had his office in one end and had been there continually having moved from Everets in 1952. Village Drugs stayed in operation until 1997. It had bar stools at a counter with the traditional soda jerk faucets for dispensing drinks of all kinds. The first two employees were Miss Peggy Ashley and Mrs. Catherine Carr. Sandwiches and light snacks were a treat in 1961 and enjoyed by members of the community. Bobby Jones as the pharmacist also allowed Dr. Thomas to stop mixing his own prescriptions and pass them to Bobby to be filled. In time the store expanded to the remaining portion of the building and had shelves of special cards, small gift items and wonderful baskets. Now that most of the general stores had closed their doors Village Drugs was the “in place” in Chuckatuck. In an interview with Bobby Jones he relayed some of his personal reflections about the locals. Raye V. Knight thought 25 cents for a cup of coffee was outrageous. Bobby filled prescriptions for Governor Godwin even while he was in Richmond. A gentleman by the name of Riddick would stop by quite frequently having been a little heavy on the sauce. One day a policeman found Riddick in the ditch and decided to charge him with being drunk in public. Mr. Riddick informed him that he was not drunk in public but “drunk in the ditch”. Not sure this would hold up in court but then why not? Walter Daniels always rode his bicycle from the Packet Wharf where he lived for a time on a boat. This was one of many places he lived. Because of his body odor Bobby gave him a bar of soap one day as a nice gesture. However, that did not appear to solve the problem and Bobby said he though maybe Walter just ate the soap instead. Even children who strayed away from home knew about the drug store. One day Katherine Godwin called Drex Bradshaw who was living across the road and wanted to know if he knew the where abouts of Rachel, his daughter. He responded “out in the yard” and at 2 years old in the country this was OK. “Not so fast” Katherine said as she had seen Rachel headed up the street in her bright yellow sun suit outfit with a bonnet. Drex made a quick run to the drug store and found Rachel sitting at the counter on a bar stool drinking a lemonade provided by Betty Snow. Obviously upset by her running off she was removed from the drug store and received several bottom hand pats as they proceeded back to the old Gilliam home with those little legs trying to keep up with dad. Rachel nor Drex or Betty will ever forget this experience. (pic of Bobby & Barbara)
In addition to his first employee, Peggy Ashley, he had a number of people who served the community very well over the years. There were the people behind the lunch counter and at the pharmacy counter like Dorothy Moyers, Shirley Spivey, Alice Boyce, Carol Wolfensberger, Betty Snow, Polly Byrd, Sara Oliver, Alicia Chapman, Sheila Chapman, Alan, Steve and Mark Garner, Jan Howell, Daphne Howell, Shirley Bolton, Ruth Stephenson and Barbara Foster. In addition he was always assured of help from his wife, Barbara, and their children, Vickie, Chris and Brian. Peggy would later marry Barbara’s brother, Ben Chapman. We are sure there were more but just cannot remember them now. There were pharmacists like Stan Leicester and Bobby’s son Chris who helped out allowing Bobby and his wife to go on trips to buy items for the store. Every holiday the drug store was decorated to the nines and always had those last minute gifts that you needed. Bobby and his wife Barbara traveled quite a bit and the array of gifts and trinkets showed it. The Beanie Babies’ craze had people lined up at the door waiting for the new shipment to be put on the racks, baskets of all sorts were a charm and one patron who always had her hair done on Friday could be found in the Drug Store buying the latest baskets that were on sale. Dorothy Bradshaw, like many others, were faithful customers and after their hair appointments at Miss Kitty’s next door their next stop was the drug store. This was a great social gathering place and really substituted for the loss of the many stores that once graced the landscape around the center of Chuckatuck.
In 1979 Bobby sold the drug store to Steve Cohen who ran it for 18 months. Seems there were several break ins and loss of drugs which resulted in incarceration for some individuals. In April of 1981 Bobby repurchased the drug store knowing very well that he would be working harder than before to bring the store back up to its full potential and as he said “Plus it feels good to get back home and be around home town people”. Bobby would lose his wife Barbara to cancer in 1983 but continued to operate the drug store until 1997 when he officially retired. David Goodrich having moved to Smithfield made the following comment in a newspaper article “We’ve missed the convenience of having the drugstore and post office within walking distance. But what we have missed the most is the friendliness and tight-knit feeling of the community in Chuckatuck. I think the drugstore is a very important part of life in Chuckatuck. It’s a place where the community can come together, to talk and see one another”. (Suffolk New Herald 2-11-2001 staff writer Allison T. Williams) There was a “Breakfast Club” consisting of at least three people, Scott Saunders, “Spunk” Gwaltney, and Richard Gayle who could always be found at the counter every morning. They wore black arm bands the day the drug store closed.
After closing as a drug store it was reopened in 1997 by Warren Spivey as the Village Café. Warren had stated that he thought that it was important to keep the Village ICON alive as long as possible. Three years passed and in 2000 an article written in the Suffolk News Herald by Staff Writer Allison T. Williams on 12-19-2000 had the following quotes: “Every since opening the café Spivey, a Chuckatuck resident and president of Spivey Rentals, in Newport News, has said it didn’t matter whether the business turned a profit. If it makes money, that’s great, Spivey said, but it doesn’t have to”. After a discussion with the building owner, a reduction in rent would help save the ICON for another year or two. Mrs. Shirley Bolton (fondly known as Mrs. B) from Hobson cooked specials every day for the many lunch patrons who came in just for her cooking. The parking lot would be full of VEPCO (Dominion Resources) trucks and pickups from local contractors all trying to beat the rush for that limited lunch special. In the mornings many of the retired members of the community came to get their coffee and breakfast and to just talk about local happenings like they had always done. The “Breakfast Club” remained alive and well and appreciative of a place to gather, have coffee and talk about politics and just about everything else you could think of.
Ultimately “Spivey decided he was losing too much money to justify keeping the fountain and gift shop open” so it was subsequently closed and employees like Peggy Chapman, Beverly Higgins, Betty Snow and many others who had worked for both Bobby and Warren were very sad that it was going to close. Robert Pocklington’s commentary on December 24, 2000 said concerning the closing “If you want to go back in time a few years, and maybe buy a gift for someone, stop at the Village Café for an egg sandwich and meet the folks. Watch out for the guy with white hair wearing a red cap, the unofficial greeter who loves to talk.” One can speculate on just who this person might be but our money is on Scott Saunders who was a permanent fixture in the drug store and the Village Café. “Spunk” Gwaltney would be at the counter every morning having his first cup of coffee, reading the newspaper and working on the crossword puzzle before walking across the road to his store.
Having closed the doors it was soon to become “Fat Boys” run by Jim and Karen Hiles for several years and then in 2008 Glenn Seay added a touch of British Isles and opened as The “Chuckatuck Village Tavern”. This new tavern would not last long and in November of 2009 Jimmy’s Pizza and Subs was opened by Jimmy and Nikki Tsipliareles. It seems that they are there to stay with good food and excellent service.