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Skeeter-Dogs and Giant Pencils? Yep! In Wytheville VA You Gotta Stop in Wytheville, VA

Posted on: June 9, 2013

Skeeter-Dogs and Giant Pencils? Yep! In Wytheville VA

165 East Main Street Wytheville, VA 24382

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Mod Betty needs little excuse to get off the main highway and onto the back roads – even when our destination that night (home!) is hours and hours away. If you’re the same way and happen to be on route 81 in Virginia make a “point” to stop in Wytheville VA. It’s an easy peasy detour off the boring highway, and you’ll be glad you stopped.

The Pencil - Wytheville Office Supply

Point, get it? Like a pencil point (wokka wokka!)

Thanks to Retro Roadcommenter Lee who below notes “Wytheville is just 1 hour from the state line on I-81 from Tennesee,  just north of North Carolina (30 miles from the state line on I-77); and just south of West Virginia (30 miles from the state line on I-77).” So you have no excuse to not stop there!


While you can’t miss the giant pencil pointing you towards Wytheville Office Supply, the first thing that grabbed my attention as we headed into town on Route 11 was this sweet deco-inspired neon signage for Count’s Drug:

Count's Drug Neon Wytheville VA

I love it when people put their neon signs on even during the day!

I don’t want to give away all of the Retro Roadmap-worthy photo ops that we discovered in Wytheville, because then you’d miss that “delight of discovery” that makes exploring the back roads so much fun! But trust me, there’s more to discover in this little town than the giant pencil.

Like these giant scissors for example (and they move!)

The Big Scissors Wytheville VA

“Just a little off the top”, says Retro Roadhusband

You may be asking yourself,  ”what’s the deal with these oversized implements?” – and pretty much the answer is, with all of these glorious roadside delights is…Advertising! The Big Pencil was the idea of the original owner of Wytheville Office Supply John Campbell Findlay, who had the 30 foot long pencil constructed (out of metal) in the early 1960s to draw attention to the original location of the store. Since then he has passed, and the pencil has moved a few times, but it has been at this final location since 1985.

The Big Pencil in Zippy The Pinhead Wytheville VA

You know you’ve hit the bigtime when you’re featured in Zippy!

As a good Retro Roadmap Reader you know not to just point and shoot, but go in and shop at the store. That’s where you’ll see those giant scissors as well as some interesting artifacts from the history of office supplies – my how times have changed! I’m sure you can find something to buy show your support, as we loaded up on pads of paper, pencil erasers and binder clips. You can’t have too many binder clips, I always say.

And don’t forget to shine your shoes:

Free Shoe Shine Wytheville Office Supplies

Wytheville Office Supply
146 West Main Street
Wytheville, VA 24382
(276) 228-5537

Binder clips in hand and shiny shoes afoot, we continued our stroll down Main Street and saw this intriguing wall sign:

Skeeter's Hot Dogs Wytheville VA

While we weren’t particularly hungry, we just had to – for the sake of the website – try a Skeeter Dog at Skeeter’s E.N. Umberger Store. The old fashioned interior was well worth the price of the dawg.

Skeeter's Lunch Counter Wytheville VA

As was the kind waitress who patiently took our order as we stumbled through the limited menu.

Skeeter's Lunch Lady Wytheville VA

Two quick things to know about Skeeter’s: 1. They claim to have sold more than Nine Millllion hotdogs since  they opened 1925 (I’m not about to count ‘em!) and 2. Be forewarned, the dogs are an unnatural red/pink color, but taste just fine. Our pal Hawk Krall over at Serious Eats can tell you more about the finer details of the dog and their slaw, but I’ll say, they were good, cheap, and well worth the stop.

Oh and 3. As I just learned from their Facebook Page, the E.N. in E.N. Umberger stands for Ernest Nuckols Umberger!

As if to confirm that our detour off the interstate was a Retro Roadmap worthy stop, check out what drove past us as we left Skeeter’s:

Retro Roadmobile Wytheville VA

It’s a sign from above, I tell ya!

So do yourself a favor – get off that danged highway and bring your camera, wallet and appetite to Wytheville. Invest in the kind of downtowns we want to help survive!

  • Lizzie

    Oh my gosh! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve passed through Wytheville and I’ve never visited the business district. Thanks for “pointing” out what I’ve been missing.

    • Mod Betty

      That’s music to my ears Lizzie! Not the “I didn’t stop there” part but the “Now I know to stop there because of Retro Roadmap!” :-)

      • Lizzie

        Yes, because otherwise I’d have not learned about the Skeeter Dog!

  • Traci

    The giant pencil would be reason enough to encourage me to visit…but now we’re also seeking out great hot dogs on the road, so this makes Wytheville even more appealing!

    • Mod Betty

      Traci! I thought of you when I posted, with the big pencil and scissors, Glad I’ve helped you discover Wytheville!

  • Lee

    Terrific article! I live in the area and in the rush of day-to-day busyness I seldom stop to appreciate the details you’ve highlighted here. Thanks to you, I am now motivated to take a walk with my camera and enjoy a bit of our local flavor.
    One thing I wanted to point out so that folks hoping to find us aren’t confused is that Wytheville is a very long way from Georgia (7 hours/400 miles). However, we are just west of Tennessee (1 hour from the state line on I-81); just north of North Carolina (30 miles from the state line on I-77); and just south of West Virginia (30 miles from the state line on I-77).

    • Mod Betty

      Lee, you know, you’re so right – I guess I was getting my states confused – embarrassing as the Hostess of Retro Roadmap, but as I’ve said before, one of the reasons I started Retro Roadmap was to help me with my states! That said, I’m going to update the article to make it more accurate per your input. Thanks!

      And yes, please enjoy your local flavor – doing Retro Roadmap has taught me that not all places have such gems, so consider yourself lucky :-)

  • Laura Laing

    I grew up in Wytheville, just two blocks from Main Street. Skeeter dogs are an unnatural color but the best in the world. I was lucky to live so close to Office Supply and Counts Drug. My sister and I often strolled up to Main Street after school to “shop.” In my day, we had a Leggett, Carps (a locally owned shoe and accessories store) and Kincer Miller Hardware — where you could buy a clarinet reed, can of paint or a hunting rifle. All of the towns parades still go down Main Street.

    But did you know that Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, was born in the building where Skeeters is now? The space next door and above the restaurant is now a museum in her honor.

    • Mod Betty

      Laura – that’s right! I remember looking at the sign for the Edith Bolling Wilson museum while we were outside of Skeeters – thanks for the reminder. She seemed like an interesting lady! And how neat to have Skeeter’s to go to after school. Ah, Main Street life :-)

    • Beth Horne-Bowling

      Oh, I forgot to mention, all those ‘retro-style’ signs aren’t fakes, they are carefully preserved originals! We don’t throw things out just because we can afford something new, we love our history and if you ask any native, you can get many stories about the people and town! It’s a very special place that has wonderful memories!!!

      • Mod Betty

        That’s awesome! The “real thing” is always better than a reproduction.

  • Mary

    Skeeter dogs are worth getting off the highway! We make the trip to Wytheville just for the hot dogs at Skeeters!

    • Mod Betty

      Mary -that’s awesome! Glad to hear folks are getting off the highway and supporting small town businesses.

  • Beth Horne-Bowling

    Hi, as a native of this sweet town, I would like to say, you missed a few ‘big’ things! We also have a HUGE paint can that advertises one of our oldest hardware stores, and I hope your readers will stop by this week for our annual Chautauqua Festival, which is a festival of the arts that is FREE, and has included everyone from the ‘Temptations’ to Lorrie Morgan to Dr. Hook! We celebrate the arts in a big way in our little town, and I hope your readers will delve into not only the history but the joy and pride that comes from the great little town of Wytheville, VA!

    • Mod Betty

      Beth – I’m so happy that you let my readers know that there is a lot going on in Wytheville than we were able to sample on our all-too-short visit. We love our little town that we live in here in PA, so I know all about local pride! Thanks!

  • Jane

    You can’t beat Skeeter Dogs. I still remember sitting on the red stool at the counter with my grandfather when I was a little girl! Now our son loves Skeeters and it’s always a treat and a trip back in time to take him! Brings back good memories for me and is making new memories for him! I love out small town! The folks of Wytheville are bursting with pride for our town! Thanks for the great article!

    • Mod Betty

      Jane- all of these comments from “Wythevillians” have totally made my day! You all definitely have a town to be proud of, and I’m happy to help bring more people into your downtown to support your Main Street. Love that Skeeters brings back such fond memories for so many folks :-)

  • Jen

    That looks like SO much fun, all of it! The huge scissors are awesome for some reason. ;) And the neon! And Skeeter’s! Great find, I’ll keep this in mind next time we are in VA, which is one of our favourite states.

  • EP

    OMG! What wonderful memories you’ve brought back about Wytheville, Va. Many…many years ago – a group of us single gals took a road trip to GA, via Smoky Mountains. Driving from PA to VA, we lost the car muffler somewhere in Wytheville…..and found a great auto shop that sold us a new one. Unforgettable! Thanks Mod Betty for liking the town as much as this ‘old gal’ did back in %^*^*&(*)_!!!!!!

    • Mod Betty

      So glad I could conjure up the memories EP – glad they are good ones!