From a river rental cabin and then a few more river rental cabins to reviving an old mercantile building and developing multiple food, art and shopping venues, music, recreation and fine dining events, Bill and Debbie Gardner have embraced a vision which has put Draper on the map as an attractive, multi-faceted destination. Draper Chapel, the former Draper Christian Church built in 1896, is now under renovation for weddings and special events. Their mission is clear:
Sustaining heritage, heart and soul in Southwest Virginia.
The long version is:
The Draper Mercantile creates positive ways of coming together through food, art, music or the outdoors. There’s something about the energy here that evokes a sense of belonging. This old building has a way of speaking to what inspires us.


Among the ongoing expansion and new activities are the Chef’s Table five-course dinners with a “Soulful Summer” theme. Chef T matches exquisite cuisine with creative music and innovative beverages. Dinner is $65 per person with option of adding wine pairings for $20. Reservations required. 540-994-5669.

July 14 and 15 ~ “Summer Steak Dinner” … Celebrating the inner rebel in all of us.

July 21 and 22 ~ “The Beverly Hillbillies Appalachian Dinner” … Live music with this unique dining experience.

July 28 and 29 ~ “Under the Tuscany Sun” … The Roman Players celebrate the artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in 18th century Europe.

August ~ Check details at

Shopping might be embedded in the top 10 national pastimes, and the newly named Draper Mercantile Village offers an abundance of necessities, gifts, treats and surprises for everyone.

• The Junction Bike Shop has everything you need to ride, repair, outfit your bike and yourself, plus bike rentals and maps, ball caps and more.
• Draper Blooms is the garden and holiday shoppe with accessories as well as plants, ornaments and decorative pieces.
• The Marketplace features local honey, nice wine and beer, kitchen accessories, canned goods and seasonal produce from Merc Farms.
• The Village Shoppes have special gifts for everyone, regional art, fun and unusual merchandise, home accessories, baby and children’s well-respected toys.
• Merc Farms contribute locally-grown produce, herbs and fresh eggs from happy chickens which can freely roam.
• Blue Door Café and Bakery serves lunch Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday brunch, plus Friday and Saturday supper for which reservations are requested. Local and organic ingredients and made-from-scratch food fare. Closed Mondays.
• New River Retreat, oh yes, you can still rent a cabin along the New River Trail, on Claytor Lake or overlooking the New River.


Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos courtesy of Draper Mercantile