Sandston staple to close after more than 50 years in business

Pope's Bait and Tackle closing after 50 years

SANDSTON, VA (WWBT) - A staple in the Sandston community is closing its doors after more than five decades in business!

Pope’s Bait & Tackle will close Sunday, May 5 at 4 p.m.

“Been a long time here,” said owner Lora Ellis. “Made a lot of friends.”

Friends that have turned into family the moment they walk through the door.

“Just a piece of nostalgia that’s going to be gone forever,” said longtime customer Alex Olenic.

The small shop along E. Williamsburg Road was created more than 50 years ago by the man whose name is embedded in the wood that hangs outside.

“This is why I get teary eyes,” Ellis said.

Because it was Ellis’ father, Pope.

“He left me a great legacy and I hope I did him proud,” she said.

In the time that’s ticked by since Ellis took over, the family business she’s been focused on making sure her father isn’t forgotten.

“They’ve kept this place like a thing of the past,” Olenic said. “They never changed it or modernized to the point that it’s not the old Pope’s.”

That includes Pope’s best seller.

“Those little squiggly wigglies...” Ellis said.

Also known as bloodworms.

Despite every dollar and penny that’s been brought in there comes a time when the must chapter comes to an end.

“This isn’t going to be the end of people fishing,” Ellis said. “It’s just the end for us for right now.”

And the beginning for Ellis to focus on something much more important.

“I got sick last year with a heart condition,” she said.

Ellis’ doctor diagnosed her with a heart infraction, a condition where the heart doesn’t pump properly.

“It was very hard the first couple of months,” she said. “You try to run everything and order everything and I was doing it from home.”

It left Ellis having to step away from the counter she's worked at for 35 years.

“Not being able to be here wouldn’t really feel like Pope’s to me,” she said.

Pope, a name that transcends well beyond the scores of fish mounted on a now bare wall.

“I think he would say Lora it’s time to let it go,” Ellis said. “So I’m okay with it. [These] tears are happy tears.”

“We have people come in once they found out we were going close who say they were six or seven years old and we’re still coming in here!” said Wayne Ellis, her husband.

The shop has also seen plenty of customers come in to purchase items to save as mementos for the number of years its been in the community.

“A girl bought [one of our t-shirts] and asked me to sign it,” Wayne said. “It wasn’t the size she needed, but she didn’t care; she was going to frame it.”

For more than 50 years Ellis’ family has put in the hours to keep the shop open, including holidays.

“Probably Memorial weekend will be the first shock for people because we will be closed for the first holiday in 50 years,” Ellis said. “We've been here every holiday."

While it’s a hot-spot in Sandston, the store’s impact reaches far beyond the town line.

“We’re known all over the place, all throughout the state,” Ellis added. “We’ve had people call us saying ‘hey, we’re coming from Charlottesville’ or coming down from Maryland this weekend. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised that haven’t heard that we’re closing.”

Pope’s, a store built on family.

“He was just amazing,” Ellis said about her father.

Now closing for family.

“We have a granddaughter on the way any minute,” Ellis said. “That’s the best part about this, being able to spend more time and make more memories with our family."

Just before NBC12 aired the story on Pope’s Bait & Tackle Ellis’ newest granddaughter was born.

Merchandise at the store is on sale; all sales are final. Ellis hopes people in the community will swing by before they close their doors Sunday afternoon.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.