Holdren’s County Store is Vinton’s best kept secret, according to manager Keller Poole.
Many people do not realize what the store is, according to Poole.
Nevertheless, the store, on the outskirts of Vinton, has a steady stream of customers.
Along with being Vinton’s best kept secret, however, Holdren’s is also where Vinton started. The store, on Gus Nicks Boulevard near the old William Byrd High School, was the site of Gish’s Mill until the 1950s. The Mill ground wheat, corn, and other grains for local farmers.
The building was eventually bought by the Holdren family. Carol Holdren, and her son Lee, are now the co-owners of the store.
Originally a farm-supply store, Holdren’s now sells pet supplies, feed for wild animals, and gardening materials such as seeds.
“That’s what happened to a lot of our farm animals: they became pets,” Poole said.
When Poole, often called “The Man with the Mustache,” first arrived at Holdren’s in 1982, the pet section consisted of a few shelves of dog food and collars. Now, however, product-wise, Holdren’s resembles a pet store. They carry food, clothing, toys, beds, and just about anything else a pet owner might need, including dog breed collectables.
The difference is the history. The cat food section used to be where feed was ground. Remodeling has placed the cash register where the parking lot used to be.
Now Holdren’s most popular product is dog food. Home to over 60 different varieties of dog foods, Holdren’s specializes in feeding dogs with special needs, such as food allergies.
Many pets seem to have problems with corn and wheat, which are major ingredients in many dog foods; consequently, Holdren’s sells very few foods containing the grains.
The store also tries hard to sell holistic, healthy foods, instead of the cheaper varieties. If customers come in with a problem, Poole and the other employees will look for a solution, which is often as simple as a different kind of food.
Because of this, Holdren’s has developed a good reputation with customers.
“We have a very loyal clientele,” Poole said.
Roanoker Angie Hodges is one of those loyal clients. She has been shopping for her dogs at Holdren’s for years, most recently for a Beagle puppy named Jonah.
“I love [Holdren’s] because you can come here and get what you need for your pets,” Hodges said.
Hodges also spoke about Poole himself.
“He’s great,” she said.
Several horse people buy at Holdren’s regularly. Dorothy Runion, director of Roanoke Wildlife Rescue in Cave Spring, drives to Vinton often to buy food for her animals. Holdren’s also has a growing clientele of people buying food for birds and other wildlife in their backyard. One thing which Poole has seen an uptick in lately is gardeners looking for supplies. They have begun to shop at Holdren’s for fertilizers, grass seed, herbs, and other items which gardeners need, excluding plants. Holdren’s is one of the only stores in the area which sells bulk garden seed.
Holdren’s does not keep the success to itself, however. The store has a generous streak, and donates bags of food to the local Dalmatian rescue, the Greyhound rescue, and the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue. The store also collects money for different charities.
So while Holdren’s is Vinton’s best kept secret, it continues to do well, even in this tough economy.
“We’re right fond of it,” co-owner Carol Holdren said.