Businessman Plans for 50 Years, Then Builds Market of His Dreams

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Retired contractor William T. Baines, center, constructed on his own most of the new farm market building that opened for business recently in Machipongo. As a result, the former Virginia Beach, Va., business owner owes nothing on the building. With him are friend George Thomas, on the left, and business partner James Braxton, on the right.

Story and Photo by Jim Ritch —

Drivers on Route 13 in Machipongo have watched for two years as a red farm market building rose at the intersection of Bell Lane.

Now, the Baines Farm Market is open and has moved from a former carport on the same property to its new 1,750-square-foot home.

The slow construction schedule was because owner and retired contractor William T. Baines built all but the concrete slab himself. Much of the wood had been saved from other projects. As a result, his produce business moved in with no mortgage to pay off.

The new building, which includes coolers, has allowed him to expand his product line. For the six years he operated under the carport, he was limited mainly to strawberries, sweet potatoes, and beans, he said. Now, he stocks as full an offering as one might expect in a farm market.

The new building also offers comfort for the staff and customers.

“Now, we can work when it rains,” he said.

Although the building looks finished from the outside, he is still expanding the coolers and adding other finishing touches.

Among them will be a public service: public restrooms. He notes that it’s difficult for anyone driving Route 13 between Exmore and Cape Charles to find one.

The market will draw heavily from his 26-acre farm, about three-fourths of which is planted, he said.

Opening the market has been a dream for many years.

“I had my eye on this property when I was courting my wife, and we’ve been married for 53 years,” he said.

In 2007, he purchased the property, which has since been rezoned three times.

His career in Virginia Beach, Va., left little time to pursue the dream, however. He owned a light construction firm that employed about 125 people and did maintenance work on all the Hampton Roads military bases.

He and his wife, Sandra, closed the business about three years ago, freeing him to develop the market.