Downtown Marion revitalized by business boot camp

MARION, Va. - News 5 discovered that economic growth in one Southwest Virginia downtown all started with a boot camp.

Orders are up at Wolfe's Barbecue, Brent Wolfe's downtown Marion business.

"It's been very, very busy. I'd have to say we've been very fortunate. When we first opened it was overwhelming," said Brett Wolfe, Wolfe's Barbecue owner.

Wolfe tells us less than year ago his bustling restaurant didn't even exist, but thanks to an entrepreneur program dubbed the Pop Up boot camp the barbecue hotspot now calls downtown Marion home.

"At first we weren't real sure where [we wanted to open up] we looked around at different places, then we found this spot. It was a, done deal.  It was to be downtown," said Wolfe.

And with the help of Pop Up Marion, Wolfe's Barbecue opened its doors last July.

Ken Heath is the director of community and economic development in Marion and he explains how the small business boot camp works.

"The unique piece of this is all the different pieces we put together, with the survey we found out what the folks wanted to spend their money on, so we could fill up the business; with the classroom training, with the grant money to help you get started and also the mentorship program," said Ken Heath, Director of Community & Economic Development in Marion.

The four-week long classes are supported by Marian Downtown and they are free of cost to you.

Heath tells us the intellectual investment is paying off in dividends.

"We started it about a year and a half ago and so far we've trained 124 folks that have come through the class, we've had 40 graduate, we've sold four buildings through the program, we've filled 8 store fronts and we've created 64 new jobs directly through the program dropping the Main Street vacancy rate from 17 % to under 6% in under a year, so we are really excited," said Heath.

And Brett Wolfe credits the boot camp for his restaurant's quick success.

"I guess we knew what we wanted to do, but we had never written it out, it gave us a guideline for future," said Wolfe.

You don't have to live in Marion to participate in the boot camp.

Anyone interested in pre-registering for the next "Small Business Boot Camp" may contact Marion Downtown at (276) 783-4190 or email

The class is four-week evening class, and is offered free of charge.

Complete information on the program is available by calling Hall at (276) 783-4190.

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