Patrick Co., VA - Soon people visiting Mabry's Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway are going to start noticing some changes, which includes some renovations to the mill itself. But one of the less obvious changes will be a change in the concessioner that runs the site, including the very popular restaurant there.
As the leaves begin to turn on the Blue Ridge Parkway, peak season is just around the corner, which made Friday the unofficial kickoff for the staff that runs one of the most visited sites in the most visited part in the National Park System.
For General Manager Terri Smith, the beginning of the season could actually be the end of her tenure.
"It means so much to people that come up to visit it" she said.
With a new concessions company coming in, her three year run - since a move from Baltimore - could end at the end of October.
"In those three years, honestly, I have fallen in love with the place and with the people who visit it and I can't imagine walking out that door at the end of October. Same thing with my staff," said Smith.
The staff is just as dedicated.
Sharon Webb is literally following in the shoes of her mother by being a server here. Her father used to come to the mill for molasses before the Parkway was even built.
"It's a family tradition. I hope to stay on. I hope we still do like we do now," said Webb.
Regardless what new management does, Smith will stay in the area she has grown to call home. But a nod from the new boss would be the ultimate validation.
"My goal would be to say, 'Why don't you just leave it alone and let us just keep doing what we're doing and just be a part of what we already rekindled," said Smith.
The current concessioner didn't want to renew her contract because the Park Service wanted a 10-year lease.
They say the Park Service told them two qualified companies have bid for the contract but they have yet to hear of any final decision regarding new management at Mabry's Mill.