Mind you, this wasn't just any bookstore. It was a charmer, housed in an historic church with soaring wooded ceilings and windows that reached so high you'd think they were runways to heaven. Among the stacks of books, browsers found old pews where they could relax and thumb through their purchases, and the elevated pulpit had been converted to the coolest kid's corner ever, complete with beanbag chairs and a four-foot high piggy bank.
Can you tell I was smitten?
My enchantment didn't end at the bookstore's door (albeit giant, gothic, and utterly enchanting). It extended clear across this Blue Ridge hamlet, from its glass-blowing shop on the west side to its local distillery on the east.
[caption id="attachment_9222" align="alignright" width="241"] Hopkins Ordinary.[/caption]
Unfortunately, my bank account didn't match my adoration. To sell me the bookstore, the owner would have had to self-finance, and she was prepared to do it, right up until a last minute offer materialized. A couple with real, green cash said they'd pay for the building and restore it top to bottom. There's no way I could compete or even feel bitter. That little church deserved the kind of care I could never give it.
While I didn't own the Old Sperryville Bookshop, my crush on the town continues to this day. Just one and a half hours from Washington DC and pressed snug against Shenandoah National Park, it remains one of the most charming places I know, and it's past time for me to share the love with you.
Below are a few of my favorite spots in Sperryville. Have you ever been? If so, what would you add to the list?
Hopkins Ordinary: To call Hopkins Ordinary a B&B would be a gross understatement. It is a two hundred year old refuge. Built as an inn and tavern, it was affectionately called an "ordinary," because it met travelers' ordinary needs as they made their way across the Blue Ridge Mountains. From its days as a stagecoach stop to a period as an apartment building to its careful restoration in the early 2000's, this unique building has brought comfort to countless people. Today, owners Sherry Fickel and Kevin Kraditor provide guests with a delicious breakfast and the inside scoop on local happenings. Each room has a working fireplace and the building's two story porch lends the perfect vantage point for watching locals, sipping a cocktail, or enjoying a slice of take-out from Rudy's Pizza across the street.
[caption id="attachment_9200" align="alignleft" width="245"] The former Old Sperryville Bookshop as it appears today.[/caption]
Copper Fox Distillery: Rick Wasmund doesn't make whiskey the usual way. After studying in some of Scotland's most notable distilleries, he has adapted age old processes to produce a signature liquor that you can't find anywhere else. It starts with barley grown specifically for Copper Fox. This exclusive grain is malted using a floor technique that is both centuries old and beautiful, creating lovely swirl patterns that, for me, are the highlight of the Copper Fox tour. Instead of drying the malt with peat, smoke from apple, cherry, and oak wood chips infuse a unique flavor. Rick rounds things out using the same woods in a secret aging process. The end result is Wasmund's Single Malt Whisky, a deep, rich drink that tastes like none other.
Thornton River Grille: The Grille, as this Sperryville stalwart is affectionately known, is as local as they come. Relying on ingredients from nearby farms, it is the go-to stop for dinner or brunch, attracting area residents and tourists alike with delicious, thoughtfully crafted dishes, including a chorizo stuffed breakfast burrito that I love; hearty, handmade homefries; and thick, juicy cuts of meat.
Copper Fox Antiques: Between hiking trips and dinners out, be sure to save a couple of hours to browse Copper Fox Antiques. Situated next door to the distillery sharing its name, this 30,000 square foot antique mall has it all. I've seen rustic hand hewn tables sitting one room away from modern classics like Marcel Breuer's Wassily Chair. Whether you're drawn to furniture, books, dishes, or peculiar knick-knacks, something in this former cold-storage building is bound to catch your eye.
[caption id="attachment_9201" align="alignright" width="265"] Sperryville's main street.[/caption]
Haley Fine Art: Before I write a word about this gallery, let me say that I am not an artist or a critic or even someone who has taken an art class since high school, just a guy who knows what he likes. And what I like about Haley Fine Arts is that it shows artists who innovate without becoming inaccessible. When you walk into this cozy two-story house come gallery, you'll see the kinds of paintings you expect to find in the country—landscapes, still lifes, lots of realism—but there's something fresh about each one. A painting of a hooded man sitting beside a pile of tires and a motorcycle. A bronze sculpture of lean, long dogs chasing a rabbit. A vintage travel trailer in miniture. Every time I go, I find a piece I adore and wish I had in my home.
Glassworks Gallery: When you cross the tiny suspension bridge between this bright building and its parking area, you know you're stepping into a place apart. Nestled among a grove of trees, the gallery glistens. Inside, light refracts from handcrafted bowls and balls, vases and platters, many made right on site. Oldway Art Center shares the building, providing local glassmakers with studio space and visitors with unforgettable, one-day classes, where they actually make their own blown glass.