“It’s kind of like living in Stars Hollow,” a friend of mine said when I mentioned my recent article about Altavista. Not being a fan, I hadn’t made that connection.
However, she was right. Altavista has a similar charm and cast of unique characters.
It was a rainy day when I found myself in AltaVista, walking from street to street. I wanted to see the hustle and bustle of Saturday traffic while keeping to a tight deadline. Even on a cloudy day, the atmosphere was delightfully warm. I snapped a few shots, interviewed shopkeepers and collected piles of notes that eventually became a guide to visiting this local gem.
Published in Lynchburg Living Magazine
Just Down the Road in AltaVista
If you’re hoping to get away for the day, look no further than Altavista, Virginia—located only a 30-minute drive from Lynchburg.
When incorporated in 1912, the town encompassed a little under two square miles. Since then, it has more than doubled in size—adding new shops, restaurants and attractions. But Altavista still has always retained that small town feel. “Most of our businesses are locally owned and have been here for over 50 years or longer,” notes Lori Johnson, president of Altavista on Track.
Explore the heritage and history in this antique-lover’s haven by visiting its shops, restaurants, and sites.
One of the first things to catch your eye after taking the Altavista exit off Route 29 is a beautiful American Queen Anne–style home. Built in 1901, the Avoca Museum is open to the public for tours Thursday through Saturday—and be prepared to learn about a range of local history.
“The site doesn’t mark one specific event or personality. Instead, Avoca interprets 12,000 years of human history from the local Native American civilization to present day,” explains Executive Director Michael Hudson.
Also on the grounds are a Victorian garden, an arboretum and a covered pavilion.
The Shoppes of Altavista
Offering a wide variety of farmhouse and primitive decor, The Shoppes of Altavista beckons you with wide windows featuring seasonal displays. As you walk in the door, you are immediately greeted by the smell of warm candles and a friendly “hello” from the counter.
Owner Barbara Gibson often finds herself directing visitors around the town and enjoys helping customers find what they need. “I love it when someone brings in a photo of a gallery wall in their home,” she says. “We look around the shop together to find something that would be the perfect fit.”
Main St. Cafe and Coffee & Main St. Shoppes
Conveniently located on the corner next to a free public parking lot, Main St. Cafe and Coffee smells of sweet treats. At the counter, you can order from a delicious menu full of sandwiches, wraps, soups, gluten-free options, and baked goods. Notable fare includes “The Italian Stallion” (a sandwich filled with Italian meats and spices), “The Fightin’ Colonel” (a Tex-Mex chicken dish), and “The Luigi” (a vegetarian panini).
Pass through the dining area after you eat and browse the Main St. Shoppes. Their eclectic selection includes Vera Bradley designs, luxury body products, and fine jewelry. The navy blue walls are contrasted with bright white displays and add a touch of elegance to your gift shopping experience.
The General Store and Inn
From the sidewalk, you can peek inside the windows of The General Store and Inn and see big barrels of old-fashioned candy. Candles, children’s toys, home decor, and locally-sourced groceries pack the floors. Talking to Manager Alison Patterson, you get a glimpse into the heart behind this unique store.
“The owner, Dale Moore, started the business because he grew up in a general store—his grandparents owned one,” explains Patterson. “His family wanted to bring some nostalgia back to Altavista. The General Store and Inn, along with their Main St. Shoppes and Main St. Cafe and Coffee, is one of the ways they celebrate local history.”
To feel truly transported back in time, you can enjoy ice cream at the counter or drink a glass bottle of soda at the gazebo out front. From that spot, you can see the beautiful winding staircase that leads to the boutique inn upstairs. It offers three private suites, each with a king-size bed, living area, work desk, treadmill and high-end bathroom with walk-in shower.
Already known as a great place for hiking, boating, and play, English Park is upgrading its amenities this summer. New additions include a splash pad, playground equipment, and additional shade structures.
Scoops Ice Cream Shop
Featuring 22 flavors of Hershey’s Hand-Dipped Ice Cream, Scoops Ice Cream Shop is one of the newer businesses to open in downtown Altavista. Choose a cake or waffle cone then fill it with your favorite flavor. They also sell Granny P’s cookies, cakes, and pies.
Elba Butcher Shoppe
As the main grocery store, Elba Butcher Shoppe is a locally-owned business offering fresh produce, meats and pantry items. In the back, you can view the “butcher” part of the name with a shining case of fresh pork, chicken, and beef.
Vital Edge Nutritional Center
As you enter Vital Edge Nutritional Center, you are welcomed by the smell of essential oils and pleasant greetings of the Rorer family, who decided to bring their knowledge about natural medicine, herbs, essential oils, and homeopathy to the local community. Rows of specialty items line the shelves—from delicious treats such as raw honey to natural air fresheners, this shop offers a variety of homeopathic solutions for your everyday life.
Vintage on Broad
As a shop that recently gained national attention through a feature on the History Channel’s “American Pickers” television show, Vintage on Broad doesn’t disappoint. From front to back, you can find primitive items, farmhouse-style decor, and classic antiques. As you walk along the long rows of interesting finds, you’ll quickly learn this shop is deceptively deep.
With adjoining doors that make friendly business neighbors, Pretty Please sits right next to Vintage on Broad. Inside, the fashion finds take you on a whimsical, and often glittery, journey around the glamourous, light-filled space. You’ll find chic shelves overflowing with rhinestone costume jewelry, beaded masks, embroidered dresses, and sparkling platform heels.
Just Outside of Town
Bittersweet Antiques (1666 Wards Road)
With large, rustic furniture that you can see from the roadside, Bittersweet Antiques is already a head-turner on U.S. 29. Inside, their shelves overflow with primitives, vintage wall art, lighting, plants, and nostalgic decor.
Virginia Found Goods (710 Pocket Road)
Although Virginia Found Goods has an address in Hurt, the giant warehouse is just outside the town of Altavista. Drive along Pocket Road until you see the Instagram-friendly vintage trucks marking the entrance. After you grab a complimentary cup from their coffee bar, you can browse the large factory which is full of painted furniture, barn wood, and chippy, rusty goods.