Ofter one too many long, dark cold winters in Michigan. Charlie and Christine Bentley decided it was time to start thinking about a move. “Somewhere warmer, or with milder seasons than what they were currently dealing with,” says Chris. They began to travel. They loved the Carolina’s and spent many years vacationing in Edisto Beach, where they thought they would one day retire. After visiting with retirement in mind, they looked and searched and came up empty. It just wasn’t what they had in mind. Both of them were educators. They loved education and the fullness it brought to a town. College towns were very high on their list. They loved culture and history and knew that every college town brought with it a certain balance of both.
Charlie’s brother should get the credit for attracting the Bentley’s to Virginia. Bentley had studied at the University of Virginia and had very fond memories of his time in Virginia. He encouraged the Bentley’s to check it out. After all, it is drop-dead gorgeous.
They took a road trip through the Shenandoah Valley, starting in Winchester and visiting every small town along the way. They visited libraries, local coffee shops, checked out events calendars and book stores. Arriving in Rockbridge, they booked a room at the Historic Col Alto Hampton Inn. From there they ventured into town, walking the streets of downtown Lexington and stopping into Pronto for coffee, visiting with the librarian at the Rockbridge Regional Library. Enjoying dinner at Southern Inn and even catching a show at the Lenfest Center at W&L.
“It just felt friendly”, says Christine. Everyone loved to chat with us, to share their stories and ask us ours. The store owners were helpful and open and really seemed to love where they lived. We decided right then that this is where we wanted to retire.
We sold our home in Michigan a lot quicker than planned, and ended up moving almost immediately. We found a beautiful home in Rockbridge Baths and settled in. After seven years of driving back and forth to town every day, we had a funny idea to move into downtown Lexington. One day we mentioned our desire to be downtown to Betsy Lee of Old Lex Mercantile. Betsy and her husband Lai run a specialty grocery store and business incubator in downtown Lexington. They introduced Charlie and Chris to the Bezold’s, who just so happened to be renovating an abandoned building in downtown with the idea to put apartments upstairs.
“One year later we were living in downtown”, says Charlie. “And walking wherever we needed to go!,” Chris chimed in. We love walking the campuses, having a late lunch and brew at Brew Ridge Taps, visiting with our favorite bartenders at Southern Inn, or attending one of the dozens of speaker series, musicals, or plays put on by W&L, VMI and SVU.
We love that town is always full of interesting people. We tend to meet someone new every time we are out walking the dog, or going for a meal. The uniqueness that the military and history bring to Rockbridge Co. is hard to find, coupled with the faculty that serve our three local institutions, we have something very special here in Rockbridge. We have always loved small towns, growing up in one myself, says Charlie, but Lexington is special. It lives bigger than it is. It’s hard to believe we have so much, in a town of just over seven thousand and a county of less than thirty thousand. When friends visit, they can’ believe the small town charm, and the adventure we have to offer around every bend in the road!