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Step Back in Time

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Owner Linda Landreth at her spinning wheel in the Waterford Market, Waterford, VA
Linda Landreth at the Waterford Market

Much of this article was from a 1999 Washing ton Post story by Jennifer Lenhart

Linda Landreth runs the only retail establishment in the community — the Waterford Market. She is also raises several dozen sheep just outside her market in the heart of the town

Two of her biggest-selling items in the store are penny candy for the youngsters and fresh country lamb sausage, a big seller fried up and served in a biscuit during the fair.

Her grocery store, with a pot-bellied stove and a dog sleeping nearby, and the Waterford Post Office serve as the town’s daily “meeting spots” for the village's residents.

Step inside the Waterford Market and the pace slows. Linda is happy to talk to customers as she feeds the wool onto a spinning wheel to make yarn, keeping in step with an earlier era.

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Panorama of the Waterford Market, Waterford, VA
A panorama view of the market

"I believe antiques aren't valuable unless you can use them," Landreth observed as she rose from the wheel and used a long grabber--another old and useful tool--to fetch a customer San Giorgio rotini from a high shelf.

Visitors to the market will see Landreth's 1940s-era freezer, her old-fashioned waist-high Coca-Cola cooler and her quirky system of price tags – an original boxed set of plastic numbers that slide into grooved tracks on the grocery shelves. (The box says: "Self-service modern price marking systems for grocery, meat, drug and liquor stores.")

" I don't think you can get them anymore," Landreth said, delicately fingering the neat containers of plastic tabs. "They're probably as old as the store."

Three circular moldings on the ceiling held kerosene chandeliers in the store's earliest incarnation as a dry goods store immediately after the Civil War.

" This was a fancy store where women came dressed up to get their fabric and ribbons," Landreth said. "It was converted in the 1930s to a grocery store, and all these things were carted away."

The shop owner has come by her bits of arcana through an avid attention to her customers. Landreth is always ready to hold up her end of the conversation – "I'm generally pretty upbeat" – and her eagerness to listen has yielded scraps of history. A silver-haired man who came in for a snack six or seven years ago suddenly stopped in his tracks when he noticed the hulk of the 1940s freezer. " He said, 'I'll be, it's a Tyler. I haven't seen one of these in years,' " Landreth recalled. The man went on to tell her that the company, based in Niles, Mich., manufactured the freezers out of sheet metal and insulated them with sawdust. The man had worked with the model that is in the Waterford store.

Such information is kept alive for years through conversations passed roundhead's store. " Sometimes I think I got to do something about this; it's too confining," she said. "Then someone will come in and it just makes your day. You learn something. You have the opportunity to meet people." That goes for lunch hour, too. This is not, Landreth will tell you, an urban-style delicatessen where people walk in, order a packaged sandwich and dash out.

When an uninitiated construction worker came in and walked purposefully to the cooler, poking his head in for a look, Landreth followed. "The barbecue ones are pretty good," she said, referring to a frozen packaged snack. (In a concession to modern schedules, she keeps a microwave on hand for people who have to eat in a hurry.) Otherwise, "it's whatever she has," said John Tsantes, an Alexandria photographer who was in the area on a freelance assignment for a Chantilly swimming pool company. He trooped in with two women who were on the job with him.

"This is just what we were looking for," Tsantes said. "We were hoping not to have to go back to Leesburg for McDonald's or something."