Photos by Lauren Hunt
Route 33 W., which runs from Elkhart, Indiana to Richmond, Virginia, is scattered with kitschy shops and restaurants that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Find out which treasures are buried on this winding road.
The Cupcake Company
5471 Spotswood Trail,
Renee Brown dreamed of a raspberry merlot cupcake. She woke up hungry the next morning and made her way to the kitchen. And just like that, her tasty treat turned from a dream to a business.
Surprised by the decadent taste, Brown had her friends and family try her new recipe. With a successful response, the rest is history. Today, Brown, owner of The Cupcake Company, has been in the business for four years and it’s been a sweet adventure.
“I was bored with my previous job,” Brown said.
Baking started as something fun to do in her spare time, but has “turned into much more!” The Cupcake Company offers a large variety of flavors. The everyday flavors consist of vanilla vanilla, chocolate vanilla, chocolate ganache, red velvet, and cookies and cream. To keep customers coming back, Brown offers daily specials like strawberry crunch and bacon french toast. There’s a flavor for everyone, but if there’s not, it’s not a problem.
“We take suggestions from customers all the time,” said Selena Carper, a student at Bridgewater College and employee of the shop. Brown prides herself by creating her own recipes. If she finds something she likes, she’ll tweak it until she makes it her own. The delicious, fun flavors match the business’ decor. With chalked walls full of positive comments and sprawling signatures, and colorful decorations hanging from the walls, The Cupcake Company is the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a sweet treat.
Stumps Old Town Antiques
10279 McGaheysville Road,
This antique store has tables, chairs, stop signs, old gas signs and knick-knacks galore… and that’s just what’s in the parking lot. Walk through the doors and you’ll get two stories of collectibles lining every space on every wall. John Nyman, the owner, has been running the store for the past eight years.
“It’s a great industry to be in, you just get addicted, and then you’re screwed,” he said with a chuckle. The oldest item in his possession is “probably an actual fossil.” That’s because the store has just about anything imaginable. From boxes of records to boxes of love letters, or Nyman’s collection of more than 30,000 buttons, it’s hard not to find something that catches the eye.
He has decorative items that fit any style, including “steampunk,” which blends industrial-era technology and 19th century aesthetics, and “shabby chic,” which has items that show purposeful age, or wear and tear.
Another interesting part of Stumps is the business format. Nyman owns some of the items, but he also has approximately 25 vendors who lease a space to sell their antiques. Organized by room, vendors place and decorate their belongings for sale.
One in particular, Jayne’s Apparel and Gifts, has an array silver tea sets, desks and dressers, a large crystal chandelier, and a bookshelf packed to the brim. On the second shelf lies an original copy of the 1944 novel, “Lusty Wind for Carolina,” which has a dark green binding with yellow pages like parchment, and a slight tear in its spine. The personalities of these vendors match the character of their antiques as well. Through the double doors, an older male vendor walks in with a whimsical stride while wearing a green top hat.
“This guy’s the original Mad Hatter,” Nyman said with a laugh that could be heard throughout the store. He may seem carefree, but Nyman puts a lot of work into his humble store. While the items in the store may be ages old, he made a point to show that his business model is not. “We may not follow all the trends, but we do change with the times,” he explained. “We’re not just your grandpa’s antique store.”
60 West Market Street,
Laura “Belle” Stemper, owner of Ragtime Fabrics, a small fabric shop in downtown Harrisonburg, loves to provide a little piece of heaven for her customers. She encourages them to leave their problems on the outside of the double glass doors, come in and create something beautiful.
“They walk in and it’s their happy place,” Stemper says. And she’s right. It’s hard not be happy when surrounded by lively colors; plaid, camouflage and floral textiles; and sparkling embellishments. Ragtime Fabrics offers a large assortment of fabrics and other design products. To connect with local residents and students, the store offers sewing lessons and workshops for all ages. However, it’s not just their customers who get to explore the large selection of fabrics, but the employees, too.
“One day I’ll be working on a leather jacket and the next, I’m working with lace on a wedding dress,” employee Phoebe Renfroe said. Currently, she is working on a ballgown that will eventually hang in the shop. According to Renfroe, Stemper encourages her employees to be creative, and allows them to experiment with design and fabrics. Once the design is complete, it’s displayed in Ragtime Fabrics for 90 days. This kind of work not only allows the employees to pursue their passions, but also inspires customers to create their own products. Ragtime Fabrics gives customers and employees alike the opportunity to craft artwork straight from their imagination, simply with needle and thread.
Harrisonburg Union Station Restaurant & Bar
128 West Market Street,
Located in downtown Harrisonburg, this restaurant revives the deep historical roots entrenched in the Shenandoah Valley. A pamphlet at each booth and table outlines Harrisonburg’s history, which touches on everything from battlegrounds to social movements. Framed drawings line the walls, many of which feature an artist from the early 20th century who drew events for newspapers before modern photography.
The building itself is also a historical landmark. Before the restaurant took over, it belonged to the Wetsel Seed Company, a prominent gardening business that was founded in 1911. The Wetsel Seed Company logo still graces the side of Union Station’s brick front.
Cameron Grant, who owns the bar along with his wife Sirena Grant (a lifelong local), had reason to establish their business for more than financial needs.
“So many tourists come here for places like Massanutten and students come to JMU, and they know nothing about where they live,” Cameron Grant explained. “But here they can learn about the evolution of a town with a cool history.”
While the history may be rich, Grant said the food’s not too shabby, either. The restaurant features cuisines from all over the country, including traditional sandwiches, meat and potatoes, Cajun entrees and vegetarian dishes. The most popular dish is a barbecue platter with Carolina pulled pork, Texas brisket, cole slaw and french fries. They also have award-winning ribs and pastrami that they cure in-house.
The Grants have created a dining experience that will satisfy your mind and your stomach.