Young entrepreneur shares the tastes of the Virginias in Dayton
When Megan Heatwole, age 23, opened her specialty retail shop, Taste of Virginia, in The Dayton Market last year, she had a good set of steps to follow.
Her mother Eva Heatwole also opened her store, The Cheese Place, when she was 23, and Grandmother Mandell Shank, age 83, still works with both women in the shops. Today, it is a common sight to see three generations working side by side.
“Megan grew up at the market. When she was a child, I would pay her $1 for every box she unpacked. When she turned 11, I put her on my payroll, and it was all downhill (or uphill) from there. She loved ringing up customers. Megan and her sister Brooke would fight over who got to run the register; many customers didn’t think they were old enough! Megan came and worked after school regularly and really showed her devotion to my business. I was so happy for her when she got the opportunity to open her own store” says Eva.
In December 2013, when an opening for a new shop in the Market came available, Megan was quick to step forward. Within a month, she had plans underway for Taste of Virginia and, with lots of help from mom, dad, and brother, Megan began preparing the space: new flooring, shelves, and walls were put up; antique stoves, an antique refrigerator, and multiple antique tables completed the look, and Taste of Virginia opened in April of 2014.
The store sells only foods and kitchen products from Virginia and West Virginia – local honey, spice blends, and coffee, pickles, popcorn, Virginia peanuts and fresh ground peanut butter; country ham slices, potato chips, jams, jellies, and preserves, and a selection of hand-sewn items line the shelves.
“I really enjoy building relationships with all the ‘mom and pop’ business owners whose products I carry in Taste of Virginia. I love the idea of supporting other small businesses, and I hope that my customers feel the same.”
“I have always had an eye for marketing and promotion, so opening my own shop has allowed me to do a lot with both of those aspects of running a business. In my senior year at Turner Ashby High School, I was the president of DECA, an association of marketing students. Being a part of that really opened my eyes to the passion I had for business.
“When I was a kid, I never dreamed I would be a store owner,” says Megan. “Working alongside my mom and grandma has been such a blessing. I hope to do the same with my future children and grandchildren.”