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Shutdown of Potomac Supply has wide-ranging impact on Kinsale, Northern Neck.
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There are other employers in the area, including the Bevans Oyster Co. and a number of farms that had a banner year growing row crops. But Potomac Supply's influence is so great that even people who criticized management decisions to a reporter did so anonymously--they feared they would jeopardize future employment opportunities should the mill reopen.
Local churches rallied to organize a prayer vigil for the company a few days after Potomac Supply's temporary shutdown began. The event was attended by current and former employees, as well as local politicians and religious leaders. Congressman Rob Wittman was on hand to lend support.
WORKING FROM HOME
Herbert Brooks, 75 and retired, started at Potomac Supply in 1961 as a truck driver. He ended up working there, in various capacities, for 53 years.
"I could get a job other places," he said, "But I wouldn't be treated like I was down at Potomac. They were real people."
Brooks is a Kinsale native and still lives there. He knows firsthand just how valuable a job at Potomac Supply can be. And even those who didn't work for Potomac Supply might have had a job that relied on what happened there.
"People don't understand," he said. "That company feeds a lot of people."
Bill Carden is confident that Potomac Supply will continue feeding people, although he thinks the company might need to be sold before that can happen. A skeleton crew is working at the mill to prepare for what they see as the eventual reopening, while Carden's son--Chief Operating Officer, Bill Carden Jr.--guides the business through bankruptcy.
The elder Carden's confidence is tempered with a modicum of sorrow. His connection to the area and the employees is clearly important to him. Like his father, he relished the opportunity to make a living in the place he loves.
Carden questioned his son's decision to move the corporate headquarters to Charlottesville. The elder Carden, who lives in nearby Hague, still prefers a hands-on approach to management, and still keeps an office at the company's building in Kinsale.
He spoke highly of former employees, and expressed awe at the skills of some of the craftsmen who have worked at Potomac Supply over the years. He said that a lot of those people didn't work for wealth, but for the opportunity to simply stay on the Northern Neck.