Foundation helps save store

Published 12:46 am Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Gwaltney Store at the corner of Godwin Boulevard and Kings Highway could be turned into a museum of Chuckatuck memorabilia, if all goes as planned. The Gwaltney family is working with the Greater Chuckatuck Historical Foundation.

The owners of a historic general store in Chuckatuck have partnered with the Greater Chuckatuck Historical Foundation to save the deteriorating building.

The building now known as the Gwaltney Store sits at 5996 Godwin Blvd. at its intersection with Kings Highway. The deteriorating building was up for demolition just months ago — and owner Kent Gwaltney was going to let it happen.

“I was probably one day away from making the call,” he said at an Economic Development Authority meeting earlier this month. “The historical society begged us not to.”


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Gwaltney’s grandfather took over the general store in the late 1920s, and then his father took on the responsibility. When his father died a few years ago, Gwaltney just closed the store.

It was cited for various code violations, including failure to make repairs and peeling paint.

Nobody wanted to see the building go, said Drex Bradshaw, a board member of the Greater Chuckatuck Historical Foundation. The foundation has been looking for a place to display the various items it has collected during the making of its book, “Chuckatuck: A Crossroads in Time.”

“We would like to make it a museum,” Bradshaw said. “That would be a good place to do that.”

This month, Gwaltney went to the Economic Development Authority meeting to request $10,000 from the façade grant program to make needed repairs to the building.

“We’re going to try to get it back to its old, historical way,” Gwaltney told the authority, which voted to approve the grant. He said he also hoped some sort of small retail use could accompany the museum.

As a boy, Bradshaw worked as a clerk at Gwaltney’s Store in his spare time.

“There were several stores all right there in the area,” Bradshaw said. “Back in the ‘40s, people didn’t run to Suffolk all the time. They did most of their shopping right there in Chuckatuck.”

While nobody knows exactly how old the building is, Bradshaw believes it is the oldest building in the village.

“[Route] 10 was the first road in Virginia,” Bradshaw said. “Because 10 runs right through Chuckatuck, there was probably a trading post or stagecoach or something there. There’s no reason to not believe there wasn’t something at that corner.”

The earliest known name of Gwaltney’s Store was Peck’s Cheap Goods, Bradshaw said. The historical foundation has a tintype photo of the store with a sign bearing that name.

“It’s part of our history,” Bradshaw said. “The people who visited those stores, who ran those stores, most of them are gone now. We’re all getting older. That’s one of the reasons Lynn Rose and I have been so doggedly getting the history done, because if we don’t, people will forget it.”

Bradshaw said he hopes work can begin on the building soon to put it back in shape.