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Last weekend, Keith and I had lunch at Wild Wolf’s newly opened restaurant, part of  “the Brew Ridge Trail”. The service was attentive in mid-afternoon and atmosphere comfortable on the enclosed porch of a renovated old school house. I sampled a flight of five beers and particularly enjoyed the American Lager and ‘Howling Pumpkin’ “Made with a significant quantity of local pumpkins.” More than the pithy taste of their beers and both reliable (ah, the fries!) and sometimes unusual pub food, we were impressed with yet another example of local entrepreneurs benefiting the community.

A restaurant means jobs and opportunity for young people to learn important skills: hygiene, safe food handling, social interaction and personal responsibility. The benefits to employees and owners are real but so are the risks. Failure rates for restaurants are high, apparently not the often-quoted 90% but about a quarter in the first year and half within three years. The reasons vary from managerial, financial to personal. It’s a hard, demanding business and many times family-owned and operated. Supporting local businesses therefore means supporting young people and families, and perhaps that’s why local merchants sometimes sponsor one another.

In Nellysford this past summer and fall, we met many individual vendors at the Farmers’ Market then saw their products displayed in the local stores. Our favorite restaurant Basic Necessities uses homegrown ingredients and features local products such as breads, books, art and a variety of condiments including vinegars from Jay and Stephanie Rostow’s Virginia Vinegar Works. The Merlot completely spoiled us for any other red wine vinegar! Although it’s worth the trip to Saunders Brothers in Piney River, Wintergreen Grocery sometimes carries their fruit and other local goods. And when we asked our contractor Brad Vergin of Gaia Homes for recommendations, such as where to purchase meat in bulk, we got an honest answer: Davis Creek Farm and some of the best hamburger we’ve ever tasted.

Keith and I have much to learn about our new home, but know that, because of a long-standing tradition of community, the people of Nelson County didn’t have to discover the now-popular “locally grown” movement. It was always there.

What local businesses do you frequent, and why?

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