AUGUSTA SPRINGS, Va. (WVIR) - A new store nestled into the countryside of Augusta County features wool as its main attraction. The owner of the operation says they’re selling more wool and yarn than ever before.
Francis Chester recently opened the Cestari Country Store in Augusta Springs. But his history with all things sheep dates back 75 years.
“My uncle came to me, who was born in Italy, and he said ‘Francis you got sheep’, laughing, ‘how come?’ I said ‘I don’t know there’s something about them I love.’ He says ‘well kid, it’s in your blood’,” said Chester, just 10 years old at the time.
Fast forward more than seven decades and it’s a family affair. “My kids have taken to it, just like I did.”
The farmer, who is also a practicing lawyer, moved to Virginia from New York in the late 60s to expand his operation.
“That was a really great move. Here in the mountains, the sheep did well. We did well,” stated Chester.
Then the 1970s came and the mill started closing.
“I went to my wife and I said I think we better buy a mill,” said Chester. “She looked at me, she says ‘you gotta be kidding, what do you know about a mill?’”
Today, Chester owns and operates a textile mill, has a herd that produces both meat and wool, and opened up a new store with a museum upstairs, and downstairs that features all kinds of yarn and wool products.
“Wool for centuries was known as the king fiber,” said Chester, who says it’s king again, saying people are recognizing wool’s durability and sustainability.
“It’s protein. It’s a natural product, so it breaks down in nature. And sheep produce it every year. So it’s a renewable product,” said Chester. “How could you possibly not want something like that?”
In the middle of a pandemic, Chester says online sales were up more than 500% in 2020.
“There’s something about sheep that are just... they’re an amazing animal,” stated Chester.
At 85 years old, he says it’s up to the Good Lord how long he gets to do it. “I’m passionate about what I do. I can’t wait till the sun breaks and I’m up,” said Chester. “That’s my life.”
Next up for Cestari is offering classes and seminars hopefully by this spring, and moving the mill from Churchville out to Augusta Springs.