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Governor Northam Announces Landmark Virginia Company to Expand in Sussex County, Doubling Production of Iconic Gourmet Peanuts

WAKEFIELD, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia Diner will invest over
$4.5 million to nearly double production of its iconic gourmet peanuts. Founded in 1929,
Virginia Diner is known for its landmark restaurant on Route 460 in Wakefield and line of
gourmet seasoned peanuts, snack mixes, peanut brittles, and other candies. The company
currently sources Virginia-variety peanuts exclusively from Florida and as part of this
expansion, will create 16 new jobs and commit to sourcing 100 percent of its peanut purchases
from the Commonwealth, leading to the purchase of nearly four million pounds of peanuts
from Virginia shellers over the next four years. Governor Northam celebrated the
announcement with company leaders and local economic development officials during a visit
to the restaurant.

“Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, and that means it is vital to our economy and the
well-being of our residents,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia Diner celebrates all of the
culinary traditions of the Southeastern corner of our Commonwealth, most notably, Virginia
peanuts. This expansion will not only bring new jobs and investment to Sussex County, but will
create important new markets for Virginia peanuts and help secure the future of one of our
most iconic businesses.”

Opened in 1929 in a refurbished railroad dining car, Virginia Diner soon became famous for
serving patrons not the traditional after-dinner mints, but local peanuts fresh-roasted in the
diner’s kitchen. By the late 1940s, customer demand for their famous peanuts led to the creation
of a small mail order business. Today, Virginia Diner’s gourmet peanut business accounts for
more than 80 percent of the company’s annual sales, with half their sales going through major
retailers with the remainder direct to customers through the company’s mail order catalogs
and website.

“Peanuts have been an iconic part of the Commonwealth’s agricultural history since we became
the first state in the country to begin commercial peanut production nearly 200 years ago,” said
Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Thanks to companies like Virginia Diner,
the Commonwealth’s reputation as a producer of the world’s best peanuts continues to thrive.
I’m thrilled that we could partner with Sussex County through the Agriculture and Forestry
Industries Development Fund to support this cornerstone of Virginia agriculture.”

“Virginia Diner has been an icon throughout Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region for 92 years
in large part due to the support of our local Wakefield community, regular customers
throughout Sussex and surrounding counties, and families who have been visiting for several
generations,” said Virginia Diner President and COO Andrew Whisler. “We are thankful for
the support of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Sussex County as we embark in a multi-year,
multi-phase investment to bring more jobs, revenue, and agricultural purchases to the region.”

The planned expansion is expected to occur in two phases over the next four years. The first
phase includes construction of a 22,000 square-foot addition to the existing building for
warehousing, distribution, and office space. This new facility will also enable the company to
store all of its products on-site. The second phase of the project is an expansion of Virginia
Diner’s manufacturing facility, which will increase the company’s production capacity, improve
operational efficiencies, and decrease costs, thereby improving product margins. Virginia Diner
roasts an average of 4,200 pounds of peanuts per day, scaling up to more than 7,000 pounds per
day during peak holiday season.

“Virginia Diner’s commitment to sourcing their peanuts from the Commonwealth is something
to celebrate, not just for our state’s progressive economy but for Sussex County as a whole,”
said Senator Louise Lucas. “A few weeks ago, Virginia was named the nation’s top state for
business by CNBC. Today, we are proud to continue to uphold that standard by celebrating this
economic development announcement in Sussex County, one of the rural parts of my district.”

“Virginia Diner is known for its delicious peanut products all over the country,” said Delegate
Roslyn Tyler. “As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am pleased to work with
Governor Northam, Secretary Ring, and state agencies to fund small businesses and create job
opportunities that are vital to the economy of rural communities like Sussex County. We must
continue to move Virginia forward and we can’t turn back.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Sussex County
and the Sussex County Economic Development Authority to secure this project for the
Commonwealth. Governor Northam approved a $100,000 grant from the Governor’s
Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which Sussex County will match
through a rebate of taxes and infrastructure improvements that will directly benefit Virginia
Diner as well as two adjacent agriculture-related businesses.

“For nearly 100 years, Virginia Diner has been a fixture of Sussex County’s business community
and this expansion project is evidence of their continued long-term commitment to our
county,” said Sussex County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Seward. “In addition,
this project will further promote our strong agricultural heritage and provide opportunities for
our peanut growers. We appreciate the support of the state and look forward to working with
Virginia Diner on this expansion.”

“We are delighted that Virginia Diner has made the decision to continue to grow and prosper in
the Gateway Region,” said Keith Boswell, President and CEO of Virginia’s Gateway Region
Economic Development Organization. “We look forward to continuing our strong partnership
with the company and celebrating this next chapter of their growth for Sussex County.”
Photos from today’s announcement can be found below.

 

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