If you’re winding your way down Interstate 95 and are in need of a pit stop, or if you're looking for a bit of country living between big city destinations, Layne's Country Store fits the bill.
Just off the highway near Ashland, Virginia, and just outside of bustling Richmond, Layne’s Country Store and Amish Kettle has been making customers feel welcome since 1954.
The family-owned business does a steady trade in hearty food, Whoopie pies, and locally made goods. There are jellies and jams, baskets full of vegetables, apples, and pears—whatever is in season. There are shelves filled with their own Bluegoose and F-R-O-G jam, Virginia peanuts, locally made wine, pickles and relishes, candles, and cutting boards. They also sell hoop cheese, butter, and other items bought from Amish and Mennonite communities between Indiana and North Carolina.
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It’s the original version of a country store that inspired the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, complete with penny candy, toys, and novelties. One thing they have that Cracker Barrel hasn’t caught on to quite yet is a display filled with a mountain of country hams, bacon, and side meat. They take those piles of cured meats and turn them into some of the best sandwiches the South has to offer.
The Layne family opened their country store well before I-95 existed and while they had sold country hams and bologna since the early days, they only started slapping the cured meats between bread with cheese and lettuce because of the new highway. "There wasn’t anywhere around here to get anything to eat. And the guys would walk up over the hill here and Mr. Layne would make them a baloney sandwich,” Angela Layne, whose in-laws opened the country store, told WDBJ, the local CBS affiliate. Her husband Steve Layne added that his father would make sandwiches for the locals, but "never really advertised it that much, but it was just one of the things that went along with the country store.”
Despite the fact that they didn’t advertise, word spread. People would drive hours to try the store’s country ham sandwich and were rarely disappointed. When USA Today’s 10 Best and the sandwich review website, Sandwich America, set out to find the best country ham sandwich in Virginia, of course, they headed to Layne’s Country Store. Soon enough the editors, food critics, and the voting public agreed—Layne’s had one of the ten best ham sandwiches in a state known for its ham sandwiches. Not bad for a store that just started making sandwiches to feed a hungry work crew. Now, travelers on that same highway know just where to stop to get one of the South’s best country ham sandwiches.