Rocky Mount celebrates year of business growth despite global pandemic

“We want to be a key to bringing as many people into this community as we possibly can.”

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. – The town of Rocky Mount is celebrating a year of growth despite the global pandemic. While many businesses are shutting their doors, the town is seeing new ones excited to open up, including a business that the town’s never seen before.

Mark Redden and his wife Nicole have transformed a historic department store into a place where happiness comes true. They moved back to the Roanoke Valley from Arkansas to launch their new business.

“We knew we wanted to be in Franklin County, but then once we really started exploring things we knew we wanted to be in Rocky Mount specifically just because of how welcoming the community was here,” Redden said.

The Grand at 290 is a wedding and event venue spread across two floors on Main Street in Rocky Mount directly across from the courthouse. The building was previously renovated by John Garland and was home to office space among others before the Reddens purchased it.

It’s just one example of about a dozen new businesses, from a car wash to a coffee shop, to open in the last year through the pandemic. Beth Simms is the town’s economic development director and said it’s a positive sign.

“You see all the statistics and the data of the pandemic and it’s hard not to worry when the bottom’s going to fall out, so it’s been reassuring to see that people still have faith in Rocky Mount and Franklin County and that we’re supporting our own,” Simms said.

Simms, who grew up in the area, said Rocky Mount has long been a drive through town, meaning people drove through it to get to other places to do their business. But the pandemic kept people close to home, and in turn, bolstered local businesses.

“Prospective business owners saw that and they said ‘Hey our community is supporting itself right now, this is the perfect time to open’ and we’ve seen that for nine or ten months now,” Simms said.

The Reddens are living on the top floor of their building and are here to stay. Redden said he and his wife have invested more than $1 million and they believe in what’s to come.

“We know it’s going to happen, we know and we can feel the economy is turning in this area, and you know we want to be a key part of that, we want to be a key to bringing as many people into this community as we possibly can,” Redden said.

Simms added embracing regionalism and support from Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge has helped their road to growth.

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