New Ravenna Mosaics Revitalizes Virginia's Eastern Shore

Exmore, Va. used to be a ghost town-or close to it.

Set on Virginia's Eastern Shore, a landscape of farming land that stretches for acres surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean--Exmore was once a bustling market town, supplying vegetables to the entire Eastern seaboard.

But by the late 1960s, competition from Mexico and southern U.S. states forced a change that would push the region into an economic spiral that left the town one of the poorest in Northampton County, the second poorest county in Virginia.

The farmers switched to growing grains, but that failed to help the town's economy much, as those crops also faced competition from other states. The final straw that sealed the town's financial decline was the construction of a shopping center along the bypass for U.S. Route 13 in the early 1990s. Twelve businesses closed their doors forever.

The impact of those decisions can be seen driving along the 20-mile stretch of Charles M. Lankford, Jr. highway to reach Exmore. Abandoned, boarded up buildings have almost been overtaken by tall grasses.

But drive off the main highway and into Exmore and the scene changes. Several bright white buildings with crisp blue awnings dominate the small town. A handful of stores are still doing business. Ten minutes east, the Exmore Diner remains a mainstay among the locals.

Here, two decades ago, Sara Baldwin came to town with a dream to build a company.