Edwards: Surry plant still not a certainty

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Whether or not S. Wallace Edwards and Sons rebuilds in Surry County depends on several, and as yet unresolved, issues.

Meanwhile, Edwards Virginia Smokehouse has been contracting with other meat processors to make its products after the plant was completely destroyed by fire in January 2016.

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Some of the stumbling blocks include a lawsuit and suitable land.

The lawsuit between Edwards and Selective Way Insurance remains an ongoing issue. Owner Sam Edwards said he was scheduled for court on Nov. 21 to choose a trial date, but there is also a motion to be heard in December, according to Virginia Courts. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Edwards said one portion of the suit needs to be settled before the other part can proceed.

Edwards filed suit last year, alleging the company’s insurance carriers failed to recommend and adequately cover the business against potential losses.

When it comes to rebuilding in Surry, there are also a few problems, Edwards said.

The plant’s former site has a stream running nearby and that brings up the question of run-off, Edwards.

Edwards said Surry County has been helping the company find land in its business park, but the available lots are either not large enough or have wetlands issues.

Those can be mitigated, but it’s time consuming and expensive, he said.

Meanwhile, James City and York counties have “aggressively pursued” Edwards’ business and the lots being offered in those localities are ready to move in, he said.

Edwards said Isle of Wight County made a couple of inquiries right after the fire, but haven’t been as active as James City and York counties in courting his business.  

Ultimately, it all depends on what happens in the next three to six months, Edwards said.

“We’re looking at all options on the table and at what makes the most sense, financially,” he said.

“Surry is definitely on the table.”

Edwards said that if the lawsuit results in just a portion of what the company needs to rebuild, it may instead concentrate on its specialties, such as the Surryano ham.

The renowned Surryano uses free-range Berkshire pigs that are also fed peanuts. The ham is eaten raw, like the Spanish Serrano ham.

While the processing plant burned down, the company still runs its retail store along Rolfe Highway in Surry and customers can still place orders online.  

Recently, Surry County deeded its wastewater facilities over to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District so that the utility authority can take over operations. The question of whether or not Edwards Virginia Smokehouse would return to Surry County was included in the discussion of signing on with HRSD as current laws would not allow the smokehouse, which had been grandfathered when it came to waste disposal, to continue operating as it had in the past.

Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, which had operated in Surry for about 90 years before the fire, was considered one of the county’s largest employers.  {/mprestriction}