2 Browns + 1 Whitehurst: a natural recipe for success at The Hamilton Mercantile

By Laura Longley

When word got out last February that 34-year Hamilton resident Sue Phillips was planning to sell the Natural Mercantile, the town’s beloved, 1970s organic food store, faithful health food patrons across the region took the news with much trepidation. What if an “outsider” were to buy it and turn it into, say, a ritzy restaurant? 

Their worries were groundless. In fact, the community couldn’t be luckier than to have a homegrown farmer and his partner, John and Meredith Brown, step up in December and buy “the Merc,” as locals know it. A 2003 Loudoun Valley High School graduate, John is a member of the sprawling family of Browns who own several farms stretching from Purcellville to Lincoln to Hamilton. 

He continues to work his family farm near Lincoln, as well as a client’s farm in The Plains. Meanwhile, he and Meredith have launched Meadowview Farmstead on Sands Road, tending flowers, fruits, vegetables, chickens, and a copper-haired toddler named Ada, who promises to be a regular at the newly named Hamilton Mercantile.

Add one more partner to the Merc, and you have the perfect mix for its future: Abbie Whitehouse, owner of Leesburg’s favorite King Street Coffee, where Meredith had worked as a barista. 

L to R: Meredith Brown and Sue Phillips.

Meanwhile, before taking off to travel with her husband and visit her son and his family in Florida, Sue Phillips has stayed on to help Meredith, Abbie, and John learn the ropes of running the store. 

The Natural Mercantile building, circa 1890, has been a presence in Hamilton for 131 years. It became a health food store in 1972 when two California women came east, launched their business, and caught the first waves of Loudoun’s farm to table trend.

When Sue Phillips purchased the operation in 2005, Natural Mercantile took the charge of maintaining the region’s premiere health and wellness destination to a new generation of consumers. Always looking for the latest health foods, she has provided an exceptional variety of provisions—bulk beans, fresh produce, organic dairy, eggs, ice cream, locally made soaps, essential oils, supplements, local honey, organic wines, beer, chips, nuts, seeds, chocolate, gluten free breads and baking supplies, and fresh local meats.

“We are very excited about continuing the legacy of the Mercantile as a source of healthy food for the community,” said Meredith. “It’s been wonderful to work with Sue through the transition, and she’s been so great in helping us learn the ropes and introducing us to the customers.”

Expect the Browns and Whitehurst to not only maintain that expansive inventory but also grow it with produce and meats from the Browns’ Meadowview Farmstead. And, while Abbie whips up new brews, count on her to also bring King Street Coffee’s biggest hits with her. Just wait ‘til you taste her vegan cinnamon rolls, scones, and breakfast empanadas.

“We think the coffee bar will add a new and exciting element to the business and a positive thing for the community,” said Meredith.

The Hamilton Mercantile is located at 341 East Colonial Highway in Hamilton and their number is 540-338-7080. Parking for cars and bicycles is available onsite. Hours: 10-6 and open seven days a week.

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