Nellysford : End Of An Era – New Owner Takes Over Wintergreen Hardware

Photo By Tommy Stafford : Jackson Cox (left - the new owner of Wintergreen Hardware & Garden Center) and Danny Watson (former co-owner of the family hardware store) stand in front of the business that Danny's family has operated for over 3 decades. Friday - May 26, 2023

Nelson County, Virginia

By Tommy Stafford

“I was 11 years old. I was helping my grandfather on Sundays, often on as a teenager, but I was pretty much a stone mason since I was 14. I was actually in Colorado when they started building this in 93-94. I came home spring 94 and started helping.” That’s how Danny Watson says he got his start in the family hardware business. From the ground up.

Photo courtesy of the late Richard Moore collection : Construction crews pour concrete for the new Wintergreen Hardware Store back in 1994. The original hardware store got its start in the old Valleymont Grocery location that is near Blue Ridge Pig. It was relocated to its current space in the mid 1990s.
Photo By Hayley Osborne : Generations of the Watson family have grown up in Wintergreen Hardware. Danny’s daughter Noel sits with her dad out back on a couch in 2015. Danny also has two sons that grew up there as well. Max, and Juddy.

Danny’s dad, Bob Watson, had a foot in business even before the current location. He was in the new store only 3 years when everything changed. “October 20th, 1997. So that was a huge shot. It was like a massive heart attack. You know, widow maker. He never knew what hit him. He was gone in minutes too. Nine o’clock in the morning.” Danny vividly remembered the day, and the time.

Above listen to Danny talk with Tommy about he and his mom’s decision to finally sell the decades old family run hardware store.

“Bob ran a very small True Value in Valleymont when my Daddy was still proprietor. I would be remiss by not mentioning that this was Bob Watson’s dream and he was himself a hardware franchise. The epitome of a Master Jack of all Trades. Not to mention the quintessential salesman. Many of our current customers followed him down the hill. Sadly, he died three years after we opened. And, that’s when Danny stepped up to the plate,” says Lyna Watson, Danny’s mother and widow to Bob Watson.

“We closed down for a week something and then, yeah. It was like all on me then,” Danny continued.

Photo By Tommy Stafford : Not only did Danny’s kids grow up in the store. So did ours and countless others. That’s Danny holding our daughter Peyton. To her right is Brian Kidd. This was his final day on the job after years working in the store. This was a going away party for him on September 17, 2011. Brian was one of dozens that worked in the store over the years.

“I love being here. And I love seeing everybody and I love helping solve the problems. It’s been a good gig. It’s been good to me and the family. It’s been good for me, like personal growth wise. But my help’s getting older. My mom, you know, she did 30 years at UVA and she’s done 25 years here. Overlapping. She deserves to have a break, and I can’t do it without her. I’m on two years straight of seven days a week.” And Danny says that’s much of the reason he and his mom finally made the decision to sell.

It’s hard to find Jacks of All Trades these days who also excel in customer service. There are no more Jimmy Campbell’s, Mr. Customer Service. There are no more Danny Watson’s the P.T. Barnum of Hardware. I needed to retire from my second tenure of thirty years. Essentially, it was time. What will I miss most? Well, if I miss the people it will be my own fault because we’ll still be here in the ‘Ford,” Lyna tells me.

Photo By Yvette Stafford : Many may remember Danny from our fix it series in the early days of the printed magazine. His “Dan-Dan The Wrench Man” column was a big favorite. April 12, 2005

So now you know the history and why the Watson’s decided it was time to exit the stage. Enter Jackson Cox.

Photo By Tommy Stafford : The new faces of what will be called Wintergreen Hardware & Garden Center. (L to R) Hanna Knopp, Jackson Cox, and Lee Cummings will be the new players at the familiar hardware store in Nellysford, Virginia. Jackson recently completed the purchase of the store and the adjoining property, with the exception of the old packing shed out back which Lyna says she kept. Jackson has already been clearing out the old space to make room for new plans.

“I Just decided to do it. Danny and I had been friends from the past six years just living over here and coming down there. Shoot, I was down here a couple times a week. It was a necessity for me, so I knew it was a necessity for everybody else. I wanted to save it and see it not be turned into something we didn’t need around here,” Jackson tells me.

Jackson Cox standing near the entrance of Wintergreen Hardware holding new plans for the interior of the store. Behind him is where Lyna’s old office used to be. Jackson recently tore it out to make room for other improvements coming down the pike. Friday – May 26, 2023.

Jackson says the store is in the exact right place, it just needs a new start. “So, when we were looking at this, I mean, the store, it’s an awesome store. Great location. It just needs a once over, needs everything touched. It fills the needs, but it could be a lot more. I knew that I couldn’t do it myself. And through reaching out to a couple other companies, there are different distributors that were more motivated than True Value to help us get this place up and running. One of their main competitors, who we chose. It’s an unbranded Ace, which is great. Emory-Jensen is the inside distribution. Right. And so we’ll get the pull from Ace’s catalog without having to have a big Ace brand on the store.”

Jackson says the store’s footprint wasn’t quite big enough to be a full blown Ace, but this allows him to pull from their inventory and update the floor space, cataloging, inventory and more.

Photo By Tommy Stafford : Hanna Knopp throws some demolition material on a forklift driven by Jackson’s cousin, Lee Cummings. Friday – May 26, 2023

Jackson says some major improvements are on the way in the very near future. “Ace is gonna come in here on June 19th with six guys for 10 days, take all the inventory outta the store, restock it. We’ll have over twice the inventory that we have now. And it’ll all be modern. It’ll be brand new. We’re putting in seven foot shelves that get here on Wednesday. I’m gonna take the existing shelves, put two rows out back for a lawn and garden section, some fencing material. Um, but we’ll be selling off some of the very old shelves. Some of ’em are from the seventies, and getting rid of ’em. But yeah, basically the idea is all new shelves, all new inventory tags on everything, everything in the store has a sticker on it. Everything matches the computer for the first time in 20 years. So, that’s the kind of advantage starting from scratch with Ace. Leveling it out. They’re gonna count everything for me, put it all in a point of sale system.

Photo by Tommy Stafford : Danny Watson of the original Wintergreen Hardware founders waits on a customer Friday – May 26, 2023. Danny says he’s not going anywhere immediately. He’ll still be around to help in the transition. Then he’s taking some much deserved time off. He’ll still be around Nellysford and will be helping Jackson out as needed in the future.

Jackson got his background in the hardware and construction business from his dad. He owned a sawmill company in Churchville. He said he’s also bringing a good selection of lumber back to the hardware store as well. “I will be stocking Weyerhaeuser lumber. We’ll have standard 2X4, 2X6, 4X4, everything. Ace is gonna allow us to bring in plywood, drywall, all of all the dimensional cut lumber that we need without having to get it from an outside supplier. That’s how Danny was having to do it. And it just it wasn’t as easy. We’re gonna be bringing a lot of wood here. We need it.”

Photo by Tommy Stafford : A closer look at the new plans for the Wintergreen Hardware & Garden Center in Nellysford. May 26, 2023

Jackson says he’s applied for a Stihl dealership as well with hopes of nailing that down in the near future.

Jackson says his cousin Lee Cummings along with Hanna will be his right hands. “I was the conservation technician for National Bridge Sloan Water Conservation District, Rockbridge County. Before then I was with the United States Navy building operating bases overseas. Right before that I was a landscaper,” Lee tells us.

Hanna Knopp on the other hand says this isn’t anything new for her. “Yeah. I grew up on a farm. So, you know, not a stranger to hard work at all. We actually have a little small kind of mini farm right now. We completely gutted that house and we’ve redone it and done a lot of work there too. So I’m not, not afraid of getting my hands dirty.”

Jackson says though he’s making some pretty ambitious changes, he’s not forgetting what he must be a caretaker to the legacy started here.”Really this is the first time since it’s founding that it’s really started over. Since it was built here, this is really the first time it’s gone through this kind of change. It’s never changed hands. And the land has been in their family for about 240 years. It was deeded to the brothers after, the Revolutionary War Times in 1780s. It’s amazing that this property was the first time that deed had ever been changed you know. Recorded in a different name.”

Danny tells us some strange things happened right as the store was closing to its new owner and the transfer was completing. “On the exact day of the change, this carrier pigeon showed up on the parking lot and hasn’t left. I really believe that’s my late dad Bob coming by to check it out.

Photo by Tommy Stafford : Our son Adam on the parking lot of the hardware store, Friday – May 26, 2023, checking out the pigeon Danny says may be the spirit of his late father. Bob Watson only got to work in his newly built store for 3 years before dying suddenly from a heart attack.

Danny says he’s working on some new enterprises and he will be looking after some of the family’s nearby properties in Nellysford. So he’s not going far away.

Lyna says it’s all bittersweet. But there are parts she won’t fret over. “What will I not miss. Bad economies, which equals worry, worry, worry. Danny having to work 7 days a week. The store is the heart beat of Nellysford. Wishing Jackson much success. Looking forward to new adventures as I move onto the next chapter of my very blessed life.”

One final question many have asked. Will Mr. Jimmy Campbell be staying on? Jackson thinks, yes, he wants him to stay and he thinks he may be reconsidering his retirement from the store once it sold. We vote yes! Stay on Jimmy!








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