If you’ve spent time in the historic river town of West Point, Virginia, specifically between 6th and 7th Streets, you’ve likely wondered what that savory (& delicious!) smell is in the air. You may be surprised to learn that the quaint coastal town is home to nationally distributed brands of cheese straws, pretzels, shortbread cookies, and other fine snacks.
Meet Integrity Food Group, parent company of Savannah Grace Cheese Straws and Chelsea’s Spicy Pretzels, lovingly named after the owners’ granddaughters. Integrity’s core brand, Savannah Grace Cheese Straws, is an addicting entertaining snack full of sharp cheddar cheese and baked crisp to perfection. The key to their distinct taste is lots and lots of sharp cheddar (did we say lots?!) mixed together with quality ingredients and baked slowly until light and crisp (and it’s that baked slowly part that fills the air in West Point with cheesy goodness). Chelsea’s Spicy Pretzels, a key product within Integrity’s Chelsea’s Pantry line, are dredged in a delightful blend of seasoning and baked slowly for a flavorful snap.
Owners Jeff and Helen Bateman began in the specialty food industry in 1987 and operated a successful brand until 2006, when they decided to sell that brand and start Savannah Grace Cheese Straws after developing a love for this savory, timeless snack. The Batemans purchased much of the equipment still in use today, and formed Integrity Food Group, LLC in August 2006. As they were building their business plan, Helen told Jeff, “If I have to do this again, the name of our product is Savannah Grace,” with Savannah being the first name of the Bateman’s oldest granddaughter and Grace the middle name of their second granddaughter. And once sweet Chelsea, their third granddaughter, came along, they knew they needed to name a product after her, thus Chelsea’s Pantry and Chelsea’s Spicy Pretzels were born.
Now that they had equipment and product lines, it was time to find a place to house their growing business. The Batemans discovered a beautiful historic building in downtown West Point that was once home to a Chevrolet dealership and transportation company, Leggett’s Department Store, and the headquarters for Citizens and Farmers Bank (see more about the building’s history at the end of this article). They fell in love with the location and began to work with the Town of West Point and C&F Bank to open the shuttered building. Integrity Food Group became the anchor tenant in the newly opened Downtown Business Center and leased space until 2013, when the Batemans decided to become the fourth owner of the historic building and purchase it to secure a permanent home for the operation.
Fast forward ten years, and you can find Integrity’s brands at specialty food stores, tourist attractions, state parks, upscale grocery markets and retailers, boutiques, and more all around the United States. Daily operations are now overseen by Beth Bristow, the Bateman’s daughter, and mother of the brands’ namesakes. The Batemans are still very much an active part of the daily functions of the business but rely on Beth and their dedicated staff of ten awesome employees to keep Integrity’s customers happy. On any given week, the Integrity Food Group family produces over 10,000 six-ounce tubs of cheese straws, and uses over 3,000 pounds of creamy, rich cheddar cheese. [And all the cheese lovers rejoiced!]
Savannah Grace Cheese Straws may be Integrity’s core brand, but the company has a southern style snack for every palate. Whether it’s savory, sweet, or spicy you crave, Integrity Food Group has you covered with over fifteen varieties of specialty snacks, all certified to carry the Virginia’s Finest seal. If you are near West Point, you can find their products at the following retail locations: West Point Ace Hardware (seasonally – 611 14th Street, West Point), Divin’ Off the Dock (417 6th Street, West Point), The Exchange on Main (706 Main Street, West Point), and Three Rivers Seafood (718 7th Street, West Point). And for those of you not local to our little part of Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, not to worry—you can order any of Integrity’s snacks online and have them delivered right to your front door: https://integrityfoodgroup.com/.
Now that you’re aware of these delicious snacks that are baked to perfection right in the heart of downtown West Point, keep an eye out for them as you are traveling around the country. You never know when you may spot Savannah Grace Cheese Straws or Chelsea’s Spicy Pretzels on a shelf near you. And our favorite part—aside from enjoying every sweet, savory, and spicy bite of course—seeing “West Point, VA” on the product packaging.
History of 621 Main Street
To know (& love!) the Town of West Point, means you likely know how much we love our history ‘round here. The iconic building that now houses Integrity Food Group’s operation has a storied past, and one that we can share here thanks to our friends at the Historical Society of West Point.
In the 1940s, the Browning family owned and operated a popular Chevrolet dealership in the building located at 621 Main Street. The showroom was on the first floor with service located on the second floor. Fun fact—cars were driven (or pushed and pulled!) to the second floor on ramps, and you can still see the garage door openings that led to service bays. During World War II, the Browning family secured a contract providing transportation for soldiers between military bases in the Mid-Atlantic region and the building then became home to Camp Peary Transportation Services which later changed to Browning Transportation Services.
The following photo was provided by the Historical Society of West Point and dates to 1943. Pictured are Mr. Leslie Macon Browning, Jr. (center) and Roy Henson Browning (right).
In later years, 621 Main Street served as a busy Leggett’s Department Store until 1989, and eventually became headquarters for Citizens and Farmers Bank (which was founded in 1927 in another downtown icon, 802 Main Street). While making updates after purchasing the building in 2013, the Batemans discovered décor from the former Leggett’s behind the walls, as well as other artifacts from a bygone era.
Leggett’s photos courtesy of Historical Society of West Point
C&F Bank Headquarters watercolor courtesy of Citizens & Farmers Bank
During your next visit to downtown West Point, stand on the corner of 7th and Main Streets (diagonally from 621 Main Street near 4 Paws Thrift) and gaze at this stately historic building. You can still see many of the original features, including the chimney on the 7th Street side as well as the beautiful details in the brick above the openings of the former second floor windows. You can even spot some of the original brick peeking through the new paint! And your eyes are not playing tricks on you—the second story building on the right side of the photo from 1943 and watercolor from C&F Bank is no longer there—in its place is a lovely seating area with a pergola where visitors rest after a stroll down Main Street.
This unique building has had many different looks over the years, often making it hard to believe these photos depict the same structure. However, the one constant—our iconic 1937 water tower in the background (which has its own amazing history as being one of the oldest water towers in use in the United States)—is proof positive that 621 Main Street has withstood the test of time in historic downtown West Point.