The great outdoors inspire a former Marion actor’s dream | Community
Millie Rothrock | Southwest Virginia Community Newspapers
Marion Outdoors opened at 208 E. Main Street in Marion last week. Comedian-turned-businessman Andrew Livingston says owning and operating an outdoor store has always been a dream.
Previously, Livingston worked as an actor for the Barter Theater, where his wife, Amanda, worked as marketing manager. Amanda is now Smyth County’s Director of Tourism.
“I’ve always loved Marion and thought about opening a store like this for a very long time,” Livingston said. “I have two kids and working at the Barter I haven’t been able to spend as much time with them as I wanted. I wanted to be able to read them bedtime stories, but I usually did a show in the evening. Now, they hang out with me at the store.
The Livingstons have daughter Clara, 6, and son Arthur, 4.
They purchased the building in December and worked hard to renovate the building to serve a variety of purposes besides the outdoor store. Livingston rents space at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu next door and also rents two apartments in the brick building. He is renovating the top floor, which will become The Merry Inn, housing eight backpacker berths and two private Airbnb rooms.
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Additionally, Livingston rents space from White Blaze Outdoors, which offers guided hikes and shuttles for hikers/mountain bikers from Wytheville to Erwin, Tennessee.
Livingston nurtured his love of the outdoors while growing up as a Boy Scout in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Today he enjoys bikepacking, cycling hundreds of miles and camping in the woods along the way.
He just returned from a 365 mile trip to Florida.
“You start in Ocala and do a big loop in Florida,” he said, adding that the longest trip he’s made so far is the Trans Virginia route from Washington, DC, to Damascus. He hopes to one day bike and camp on the Great Divide Trail that stretches from Canada to Mexico to the middle of America.
Livingston said he was excited for the challenge of owning his own business.
“I was ready for something new,” he said. “I wanted a new challenge; I don’t like to sit still.
Marion Outdoors has anything and everything a hiker would need on the Appalachian Trail. Livingston uses a cell phone app to connect with hikers on the trail. Marion is about 62 miles from Damascus, making it an ideal place for hikers to replenish their supplies.
“I knew Marion was an Appalachian Trail town,” he said. “I pick up hikers and bring them to the store and then bring them back or to a local hotel. Hopefully they can stay upstairs soon. I knew Marion didn’t have a store like this so thought this was the perfect place.
But AT hikers aren’t the only ones who’ve visited the store — residents of Smyth and Wythe County have shopped there.
“A lot of locals came, probably more than the hikers,” Livingston said. “I think people are excited about it.”
Helping Hands Community Thrift Store
Also in downtown Marion, Helping Hands Community Thrift Store has reopened in its new location.
The store, which serves a variety of community needs with its recipes, is now located at 116 East Main St., the former Jewel Box building. A non-profit organization, Helping Hands opened in 2005.
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In nearby Wytheville, two highly anticipated businesses, Roses and IHOP, are set to open this spring.
A representative for Roses said this week that the Roses store at 800 E. Main St. will open within the next 60 days and that the store is hiring employees. To apply for a job, visit the store between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday to Thursday.
The popular store returns to Wytheville after an absence of nearly three decades. The store is on the former site of the Virginia Department of General Services Surplus Retain Store.
In January, an official from store owner Variety Wholesalers Inc. said plans called for a soft opening in late April and a grand opening in early May.
Roses had a store in Wytheville from around 1980 to 1996 in the Food Lion Mall on Fourth Street, where Harbor Freight is located today.
Variety Wholesalers is based in Henderson, North Carolina, has nearly 400 retail stores, including Roses and Maxway, and employs approximately 7,000 people.
Anyone who wants to order IHOP’s famous pancakes will have to wait a little longer. A company spokesperson said the restaurant plans to open in Wytheville this spring, but did not provide an opening date.
Last summer, IHOP confirmed plans to open a restaurant in Wytheville. It looks like the location will be at the Travel Center of America truck stop on Peppers Ferry Road. According to City of Wytheville Building Permits for July 2021, Travel Centers/IHOP/Connors & Gaskins have applied for a permit to renovate the property at 1025 Peppers Ferry Road, which is owned by TA.
According to the permit report, renovations for an IHOP restaurant are expected to cost approximately $280,000.
To reach journalist Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 573, or email [email protected].