When people walk into the downtown New Castle Emporium, the nostalgic atmosphere engulfs oneself with memories as well as quality goods. One may even smell fresh coffee or tea.
On Saturday, September 2, everything in the store will be five percent off for their Fifth Year Anniversary celebration.
Phil Spence, owner of The Emporium, shared that he initially started the Emporium because he wanted to do something that was “meaningful” in his life.
“I was in construction and sometimes the world is built by the lowest bidder,” Spence, a former construction crew leader, shared. “I was fed up with all of that. Every job you go on you know you are the lowest bidder and there’s always ways to cut corners and I didn’t like that.”
“Here, I can make the decisions on what we sell and in what we do, and we don’t cut corners,” he added with a big smile.
Anyone who walks into his establishment can feel his passion for what he does. “I wanted to have a different philosophy of business and to provide something that the community didn’t have,” Spence said who specializes in health foods and has a huge book selection (especially on history and foods).
“We might be swimming upstream, but I set out to get the best possible products,” Spence explained. “We figure out what the price has to be so that we can make a decent profit to keep the store open and that is the price…we don’t compete with prices.” Yet, some of his prices are lower than the major stores.
Quality is important to Spence. “We shouldn’t price compete until we are selling the cheapest thing around,” he added.
Spence must be doing something right, as he is celebrating his fifth year, expanding his store and his sales have gone up each of the last five years. “I’ve learned a lot!” he said with a smile. “I didn’t know much about retail, but I’m learning.”
However, for years before he opened The Emporium, he was in the book business and traveled every weekend. “Within five hours of New Castle, there is a show every weekend except Christmas,” Spence said. “I had two full-time jobs, but of course I was a little younger then.”
Spence is also known for bringing authors for book signings, especially local authors. “I plan to have authors here as much as possible because a lot of people are interested in meeting authors that they like or want to get to know,” he shared. “That is important to the author and to the people.”
He added that he didn’t feel local authors got many chances to do book signings, so he enjoys providing them a platform to do just that. “It makes everybody have a good day,” Spence said.
For anyone who enters his store, they come to quickly discover whether by him, his wife Deborah or his workers, that he is a very positive person. “Every day is exciting!” he shared. “It is really interesting dealing with people and having people to come in and see if they like what we have done and if they like the shop.” He has had customers from many European countries such as Luxemburg, France, Ukraine, England, Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia.
He admits that he is in Craig County by choice. “I chose to move here because I LIKE it here!” he said with a big smile. “I passed through here about 35 years ago as I was moving to Roanoke, and I looked around and said, ‘this is a nice place’, ‘I think I’ll make this my new hometown’. So, he did. “My kids grew up here,” he said. He has lived in Craig about 32 years on Aps Knob for a while before building his home in Craig Woods.
Anyone wanting to stop in Saturday is ‘more than welcome to shop around’, Spence says. You can choose from some of the ‘hometown’ favorites of old time soda pops and candies – especially the ginger candy. He has everything one needs for canning plus a few extras.
His line of soaps, shampoos, body needs and candles are top quality. There is a large line of teas and vitamins and supplements as well as oils you can choose from. He also has cast iron ware, dried foods for long storage and many Watkins products. Still, the favorite seems to be the walls of books he has to choose from.
The hours of the Emporium are Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. “We hope to see a lot of our regulars and maybe a lot of new faces,” Spence shared. “Everyone is welcome.”