Ownership and activity was sporadic for the next few years, but the 1982 purchase by Arvella Sadie Brown opened an antiques store that was assumed by Lee and Katherine LaFleur in 1990 and then bought by Walter and Robin Widelo. In 2008, the Gardners stepped forward, and with three years of intense renovation work, Bill and Debbie Gardner reopened the Draper Mercantile. The “Merc” as it is affectionately called today has returned to its role as an important place for the community. The most important and enduring function has been that of a gathering place. This old building has always found a way to bring people together.
Now that tradition continues in new ways… ways that speak to the needs of our community today.
Draper Mercantile is a place where people can gather around good food in a warm and inviting atmosphere, a place where friends meet for a slice of pie and a game of bridge. It’s a place to go out and dance to live music or watch a local artist at work.
The Merc creates positive ways of coming together through simple experiences that enrich everyday life – whether that’s through food, art, music or the outdoors.
There’s something about the energy here that evokes a sense of belonging, it has a way of speaking to what inspires us. After all, everyone who walks through those big blue doors becomes part of a story that’s over 125 years in the making.
Soirées, Celebrations and Any Occasion…
Let Draper Mercantile catering services elevate your next event with exquisite food, beautiful presentation and personalized service. The Draper Mercantile has been a favorite gathering place for over 125 years, and that tradition is more alive today than ever. A local landmark, the Draper Mercantile has all the ambiance and intrigue of a historic building as well as all the modern amenities needed to host a successful event. Since exceptional food is vital in making any event an experience to remember, our in-house experts at the Blue Door Café have brought together their professional experience and imaginations to provide you with first-class catering services.
Ourcatering guide outlines the various options for serving styles as well as our current menu offerings. We have developed our catering menu emphasizing versatility, creativity and most importantly… flavor!
The Draper Mercantile is also home to the Draper Valley Marketplace, an eclectic little market dedicated to bringing you vibrant, healthful food diversity. The Marketplace features local foods as well as unique kitchen related retail items. Don’t forget to check out the wonderful array of local Virginia wines and craft beers located in the back of the Marketplace in “The Cellar."
Looking for adventure? The Junction at the Draper Mercantile is your destination for outdoor recreation in the New River Valley. The Junction features bike rentals for the New River Trail. The Junction also offers a wide variety of outdoor gear and apparel.
DraperBlooms sits right beside the Merc. Enjoy shopping for fresh flower arrangements, unique gifts and unusual
finds. You may be greeted by “The General." He’s our adopted elderly yellow cat who runs the place. And of course you’ll meet James too, the General’s assistant who has all the creative talent that has added the enchantment you’ll see and feel while visiting Blooms. Need a place to stay? New River Retreat offers vacation getaways on the New River, Claytor Lake, New River Trail, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. We have an array of unique cabins and cottages, each with its own personality and charm designed to appeal to a variety of interests. Our offices are located upstairs of the Draper Mercantile and we’re all part of the same Merc Family. In fact, New River Retreat started in 2002 and, through its growth, brought this whole village about.
The Draper Mercantile Today: “Great Food, Friendly Folks, Inspiring Atmosphere”
The Draper Mercantile serves as a showplace for regional arts, crafts, and music. Shop for unique artwork, traditional Appalachian crafts or catch some live music onstage. Visitors can meet local artists and musicians throughout the year at concerts, artisan demonstrations, and special events. As the heart of the Draper Mercantile, the Blue Door Café provides a dining experience in a relaxed and neighborly setting. Our food is made from scratch and we use local and organically-grown ingredients whenever possible. We’re open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday along with dinner Friday. While you’re here, you can’t forget our signature house-made desserts too!
As a historic site and long-standing local tradition, the Draper Mercantile has been at the heart of the community for over 125 years.
Like many Virginia institutions, the history of the Draper Mercantile must be patched together through non-traditional sources, like stories or anecdotes, a yellowed newspaper clipping, someone’s memory. With that said, the best existing research has tagged three disparate years of construction: 1812, 1865, and 1885. While her origins may be elusive, her role was not. The Mercantile provided material goods and services for Pulaski County and surrounding communities for over 100 years. A receipt found in a desk by the current owners summarizes an eclectic purchase: sugar, burial clothes, salmon, lemons, and a coffin.
The place housed a barber shop, ablacksmith, the post office, and a dress shop at various times. In the spring the farmers brought in their lambs to sell and in the fall their hogs, turkey, potatoes etc., which went towards settling their accounts. A soda fountain occupied the front corner of the store, and local residents still smile as they
recall their childhood memories of visiting the candy counter at the Draper Mercantile. E. G. Gannaway, in partnership with G. H. Gilmer, E. T. Pratt, and J. H. Pratt, established the Mercantile and ran it together until 1944 when Gannaway’s sons, G. G. and Lawrence Craig, bought out the Pratt and Gilmer interests and took over, operating the business until 1979. At that time, it was thought to be the oldest continuously running business in the county.