Haden Brothers: More than a Store in Downtown Crozet

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The Haden Store business in downtown Crozet predated each of the business structures visible in this c.1910 postcard view. (Courtesy of Phil James Historical Images)

Haden brothers Clifton and Curtis, Fluvanna County natives, established a mercantile in the heart of downtown Crozet in the 1890s. For four decades, that business adapted to meet the needs of its customer base, all while never losing touch with the community that they labored to serve. Along the way, they dispensed everything from parlor stoves and ginger snaps to Latin lessons and licorice sticks.

When brothers C.J. and C.A. Haden purchased some former Abram Wayland property near Crozet Depot from James and Maggie Jarman in 1897, it was described in the deed as “the remainder of [Jarman’s] orchard.” The Haden brothers’ original wood-framed store structure was rebuilt as a two-story cement-block building in 1910, two years prior to the construction of the first of Crozet’s cold storage facilities on an adjacent lot.

Ruth Wayland Nelson (1892–1983) was a daughter of Charlie Wayland, one of Crozet’s early promoters and businessmen. She wrote, “Down on the corner where the drug store now stands was a tiny shoe repair shop. Across the street was Haden Brothers store, a one story [wood-framed] building owned and operated by Mr. Curtis and Mr. Clifton Haden. Mr. Curtis Haden lived in the house which now stands between the moving picture house and the bank.”

View c.1919 from the corner of The Square looking across Miller School Ave./Main Street toward the Haden Brothers/Curtis A. Haden Store. Carter Cold Storage’s expanded operation was joined directly to the Haden building. L-R: Bessie Thurston Rea, wife of Crozet merchant A. Elmer Rea; unidentified woman; Marie Grant Rea, daughter of Bessie and Elmer. (Courtesy of Phil James Historical Images)

Do not be deceived: early 20th-century Crozet was a village on the move! The 1903 edition of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway’s Directory of Summer Homes, Hotels and Resorts along the C&O rails included three locations in Crozet: Jim Ellison (1846–1936) could accommodate 60–70 guests year ‘round a short stroll east of the depot at the Liberty Hall Hotel; seasonally, Martha Woodson (Mrs. Abram) Wayland (1837–1904) had rooms and meals for 40 sojourners just west of downtown at Crozet’s Pleasant Green; and, north of the railroad, Nicie Landram Haden could feed and sleep up to 30 in her family’s comfortable home on the northwest corner of St. George and Crozet Avenues.

Clifton J. Haden Sr. (1858–1906) and his wife Nicie (1862–1934) were co-workers in the Crozet business community. Their fields of endeavor included orchards, retailing, and professional hospitality. The elder of the two business brothers, Clifton died at the young age of 47, and was deemed a “universally popular man” by the newspaper of that day.

Chesley Haden (1887–1964) was a son of Clifton and Nicie Haden, and a seasoned Crozet fruit broker. He, too, knew the Crozet of earlier days, growing up under the tutelage of his father, mother and uncle. In the 1950s, he wrote insightfully of the village of his rearing. Reflecting, in part, on his own family, he said, “The Hadens came from Fluvanna, often described as a small, poor county whose chief crop was men. Their store at times had more the atmosphere of a Sunday School than a country dispensatory of ginger snaps and sardines: no swearing, no loafing and no ribald stories. Little levity and much worth was the keynote.

“Religion and a love of learning were carried regularly in stock. Curtis Haden, a former high school principal, often tutored, as a labor of love, the local boys in Latin and the higher mathematics. Clifton Haden had the first local scientific approach to horticulture, sending to Paris for a hand lens at the turn of the century to identify the new apple-destroying insects, and employing the late Dr. W.B. Alwood as a professional orchard consultant.”

Girlfriends at original entrance to Crozet Theater, 1940. Gene Autry’s “Melody Ranch” was showing, and it was “Bank Night.” The theater sponsored a weekly cash drawing, but the winner had to be present to collect; no winner and the pot rolled over. As the prize value increased, on Bank Night crowds would fill the street between the theater and drug store, waiting for the projectionist to call out the winning number from an upstairs window. (Photo courtesy of Cole W. Sandridge Jr.)

Curtis A. Haden Sr. (1866–1938) carried on in his brother’s stead as both orchardist and storekeeper. Along with his civic-minded wife Sue, he was deeply devoted to his community. In addition to keeping his store on an even keel, he was a trusted Director of the Bank of Crozet, was on the Executive Committee of The Crozet Board of Trade, and served as Secretary of the Crozet Cemetery Association. As his nephew Chesley noted, he maintained a continual interest in the youth of the town.

Frances Walker Hill (1919–2011) grew up on Carter Street directly behind Crozet’s landmark six-story Cold Storage building. “Mr. Curtis Haden had a store right beside where Mountainside is,” she recalled. “My daddy would give us 25-cents apiece. That was our allowance. For a penny, you could get three or four Mary Janes, or a couple of ginger snaps. They had some kind of old long black candy we liked, licorice, and that stuff was good. And a caramel candy wrapped up like little Kisses, three for a penny.”

Bill Haden, a son of Curtis Haden Sr., contracted with Crozet builder William F. Starke to renovate the Haden building into a movie theater following his father’s passing in 1938. Western Albemarle’s newest entertainment venue was named Crozet Theatre. Among its first employees was young Bobby Crickenberger who began his own business career delivering the theater’s promotional handbills by bicycle. Bobby worked his way up through the ranks, eventually managing the theater during his latter high school years prior to enlisting in military service.

Local businessman and Crozet native Robert “Bob” Crickenberger reflected on his post-WWII career in the automotive service station business during an era when the word “service” identified not only the customer’s expectation but also the business philosophy of the owners. “There’s more to running a business than the ring of the cash register,” stated Crickenberger.

During Crozet’s formative years, one needed to look no further than Haden Brothers store to experience that precept firsthand.  

Follow Secrets of the Blue Ridge on Facebook! Phil James invites contact from those who would share recollections and old photographs of life along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Albemarle County. You may respond to him through his website: SecretsoftheBlueRidge.com or at P.O. Box 88, White Hall, VA 22987. Secrets of the Blue Ridge © 2003–2017 Phil James 

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