When Selby’s Market closed its doors for good in 2012, residents of Poolesville mourned the loss.
Not only was Selby’s the town’s only grocery store, but the market also served as a gathering spot for the small community in northwestern Montgomery County. It was a place where neighbors chatted while buying milk from the cooler or while ordering Girl Scout cookies from local troops posted out front.
As a result, over the past two years, Poolesville has reworked its zoning code to make its downtown more friendly to small businesses; it has hired the Rockville public relations firm Van Eperen & Co. to help market itself. And it has introduced a variety of other economic development initiatives.
“A town finds its identity in interesting ways,” said Jim Brown, president of the Poolesville Town Commission, and the market’s closing “really was a bellwether for us. It was a clear signal to us that for the good of all townspeople, we would have to focus on economic development to survive.”
Civil War history: The fact that the closure of the town’s only grocery store propelled Poolesville into the future is fitting, considering its beginnings as a market town for surrounding farmers. John Poole Jr. opened a country store in 1793 in a one-room log cabin, according to a historical brochure from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and the Heritage Tourism Alliance of Montgomery County.
Joseph Poole, his uncle, envisioned a community beyond the store and subdivided his property for his children, according to the brochure.
This led to a small development boom as other local families did the same, and as residents started to offer other goods and services within the town.
The community remained strategically important during the Civil War, when Union troops camped nearby to be close to White’s Ferry and White’s Ford, popular Potomac River crossings about six miles west of Poolesville, according to the brochure. Confederate troops crossed the river to invade Poolesville and other Maryland communities more than once, according to the brochure.
Living there: Poolesville’s boundaries are irregular. The arrowhead-shaped main section, bisected by Maryland Route 107, is bordered by Jerusalem Road to the northwest and Jonesville Road and a branch of Dry Seneca Creek to the northeast, with jagged borders to the south and west stretching slightly past Willis Lane and Willard Road. To the west, a smaller section juts out north of Route 107.
A wave of development in the 1970s and 1980s followed the construction of new water and wastewater facilities, Brown said. Many of the houses from that era are Colonials on large lots, but Brown said there are a wide variety of architectural styles present throughout the town.
Brown, who is also an agent with Turning Point Real Estate, said that the slow growth pattern over the decades has created a wide variety of housing options within the town.
“You can get anything from a $170,000 townhouse to a million-dollar home, and just about everything in between,” he said.
In the past 12 months, 74 homes have sold in Poolesville, with prices ranging from $173,000 for a small townhouse to $1.45 million for a four-bedroom Colonial on Sugarland Road, Brown said.
Brown said the inventory of resale homes is usually limited. The town will have more than 300 new residences when three subdivisions in various states of progress are completed.
Rural life: Poolesville is surrounded by the 90,000-plus-acre Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve.
As such, it offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, with the Potomac River and Sugarloaf Mountain a short drive away. There are also several town parks, a county swimming pool and a public golf course. An equestrian center is nearby.
Poolesville sponsors a variety of town events, including movie nights in Whalen Commons in the summer and Poolesville Day in September.
Schools: Poolesville and Monocacy elementary, John Poole Middle, and Poolesville High. Newsweek rated Poolesville High School the No. 1 school in Maryland in its 2013 rankings.
Transit: Many D.C. commuters take the nearby MARC train or the Ride On bus to the Shady Grove Metro station.
Crime: The Montgomery County police said Poolesville has seen no homicides, serious robberies or assaults in the past year. There also have been fewer than 15 residential burglaries in the past year.
New businesses: Brown said the town’s economic development initiatives are starting to pay dividends, though the closest full-service grocery store is still the Harris Teeter in Germantown.
The independently owned Zaglio’s Bakery Cafe opened in late 2013, Dollar General is slated to build a store in town later this year, and Brown said the town is working with Tractor Supply Co. to locate a store in town.
“When I first arrived, there were about 4,600 people living here,” said Brown, who in 2004 moved into a now-107-year-old home in Poolesville. “Now, there are 5,300 or 5,400 people, max. With the two new subdivisions in progress, we are seeing a slew of new, young families — and that’s a good thing. They bring vibrancy and diversity to our town.”
Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.