(Above) John’s Family Restaurant at 847 Berryville Pike near Rippon, Jefferson County WV. Owned and operated by Sue Smith since the late 1970s, the restaurant was started by her parents John and Catherine Smith in 1963. The planned Route 340 widening project has been casting a shadow over the restaurant for many years. The highway project has yet to break ground, but the pandemic has closed this roadside institution for good this year, leaving just fond memories.
Many of us can remember being told by our parents to carry some change in our pockets to call home when we were ready for a pick up — at least until we were old enough to get a driver’s license (and a job to pay for gas). Whether we grew up here or elsewhere, the payphone (at left, still hanging on the front porch of John’s Family Restaurant, but soon to be just a memory) was once a common feature of the landscape across America.
But change has always been part of this landscape and what we call home evolves just as much as we ourselves do. In Jefferson County, we’re fortunate to have many pockets where these kinds of memories can live on and find meaning for a new generation. Case in point: the enormous Winchester Cold Storage facility just outside of Charles Town. Once built to store the apples grown in Jefferson County by the millions, this facility has now found new life housing the Shenandoah Planing Mill, an innovative startup business.
We can see that others will soon be calling Jefferson County home too. Looking at the regional trends and counting the permits for new housing, it’s evident that the pace of home building will soon be picking up, perhaps to a level we haven’t seen locally since the 1980s and 1990s. The challenge ahead will be how to balance the character and vitality of the county with welcoming new neighbors. Although change is inevitable, hopefully we can find a way to maintain that essence, that specialness, that calls us to make this place our home.By Steve Pearson