Great Brands of the Northern Neck of Virginia

Morgan Oysters, Wye River AntiquesEach little region of the United States has its own brand names. These brand names are the most fragile of brands, as even a great (and successful) 75-year-old local retail company can shut down because of real estate, family issues, changing demographics or a myriad of other things.

These brands are often associated with families, either bearing the family name (Crowther Ford, Whay’s TV, Self Chrysler-Plymouth), or so associated with families that the two are synonymous. Pictured here, Morgan Oysters from Weems, one of many seafood brands associated with the Northern Neck. This can is an antique from Wye River Antiques.

Like so many places, the Northern Neck (and its towns Warsaw, Colonial Beach, Irvington, Reedville, Kilmarnock, White Stone, Callao and Lively) has lost many old companies and brands. For instance, local canneries and oyster houses had their own brands; there was even a cat food brand, Huff & Puff, made from the menhaden in Reedville by T.C. Slaughter Co. In the editor’s family, his grandfather operated Piney Island Seafood, an oyster brand, which had headquarters in Morattico.Huff and Puff of Reedville

The below list has a bias toward Lancaster County, which the author knows quite well. So so if you have additions to the list, please add them at the end of this post! We are sure there are some we have missed.

  1. The Tides Inn. This resort hotel, operated by the Stephens family for decades before its sale, marketed an iconic image of the Northern Neck of Virginia through its regular advertisements in The New Yorker. Their slogan, Quiet Quality, was reflected in their resort, which had no televisions, a salt-water pool and the Chesapeake Club, a “bottle” club that guests would join to drink. Sadly, the Miss Ann has been sold, but you can still eat at the Chesapeake Club. Info at www.tidesinn.com
  2. Northern Neck Ginger Ale. A cult favorite, and made locally. Started by the Carver family in Montross in 1926, it has gained fame in the mid-Atlantic as a cocktail party “status” symbol.
  3. Stratford Hall. Can a plantation be a brand? Yes, if it is as gorgeous and historic as Stratford Hall, home of the Lee family. Not only do they offer tours, but they have a restaurant and a small inn where you can stay. The Plantation Dining Room dates from 1951. If you go, you must stay at the Astor Guest House, named for Lady Astor, a Virginia native who represented Stratford Hall in Great Britain as a director. There is also the Cheek cottage, named for Stratford’s longtime advocate, museum director Leslie Cheek. Cheek, whose father founded Maxwell House, designed, with architect Robert Welton Stewart, a modernistic visitor center given by Mrs. Eugene Stetson.
  4. The Rappahannock Record. From its founding in 1916, The Record is an iconic piece of the identity of Lancaster, Northumberland and the other Northern Neck Counties. The Northern Neck News is also a longstanding newspaper in the western part of the Northern Neck in Warsaw. Info at www.rrecord.com
  5. Lee’s. The favorite downtown restaurant in Kilmarnock. How about a hamburger at a seated restaurant, for less than two bucks! Yippee!
  6. Tri-Star Supermarket. During the 1960s and 1970s, there were three popular grocery stores in Kilmarnock. There was Cockrell’s, which was downtown on Main Street, and then an A&P and a Safeway. When the A&P closed, three men bought it, and thus was born the Tri-Star. When the Safeway closed just across the street, they moved there. Known for great meats; somehow they have managed to compete with a new Wal-Mart. At last visit they were affiliated with Great Valu.
  7. Chesapeake National Bank, now Chesapeake Bank. This bank was founded in 1900 as Lancaster National Bank, merging with a Lively bank called Chesapeake in 1968. They have been innovative through the years, even operating a Boat ‘n Bank houseboat that was a floating bank branch. www.chesbank.com
  8. George Noblett. If you want an appliance, you really have to contact the Noblett’s. They sell natural gas, and are the preferred local appliance dealer. As the Northern Neck has gentrified and become all fancy, they have added brands like Wolf and Sub-Zero. Their slogan is “Be Warm, Keep Cool.” See www.noblett.com
  9. The Dandelion. We had to put this dress shop on the list, and not just because two of my aunts started it! It started in a little Butler building in the town of White Stone, and then moved to Irvington where the three women founders, Bonnie Rumsey, Mary Louisa Pollard and Mary Lloyd Lay, took the bold risk and moved into an old church parsonage. It’s really a fashion boutique but “dress shop” sounds kinda archiac and fun.
  10. Eubank’s. The downtown hardware of choice in Kilmarnock. Get a crab net there and you’ll have a non-cutesy “life is good” vacation experience.
  11. Jim & Pat Carter Real Estate. When you drive into the Northern Neck across the Norris Bridge, you encounter a very white building with a very large sign that says THIS IS CARTER COUNTRY. This is the real estate office of Jim & Pat Northern Neck Ginger AleCarter, who put Northern Neck Real Estate on the map. Years of advertising in select publications have given them a leg up on newer agencies, but they have managed to survive, particularly with their niche in selling 18th century plantations, something the Northern Neck has plenty of.
  12. Bank of Lancaster. They have been around since 1930, and still operate under the name.
  13. Northern Neck State Bank. Founded in 1919, the bank’s board is a kind of Who’s Who of Richmond County and surrounds.
  14. Bevans Oysters. And other assorted Oyster Brands. There are too many to mention, and many are worthy of preservation. Some are still around, like Bevans, which is near Kinsale.
  15. While there are many in the region, the vineyard Ingleside, founded in 1980, pretty much led the way.

Do readers know of any other Northern Neck brands? Or can readers propose a list of brands for their own towns? Post a comment after this article.

2 Comments

  1. Other Northern Neck seafood businesses –
    W. Ellery Kellum Seafood (Weems VA) still in business today!!
    W. R. Pittman & Son (Deep Creek – Lancaster County, VA) in business from the 1920’s to the
    end of the century!!
    Two very well-known families in this area.

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