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End of an Institution

Great Falls residents bid goodbye to favorite local spot Thelma’s Country Store.

Last week, “Thelma’s,” a longtime landmark and beloved Great Falls institution, was torn down after occupying a 3.5 acre tract of land near the intersection of Walker Road and Colvin Run Road for more than half a century.

Thelma’s Country Store, home of Thelma’s famous homemade ice cream, was one of the most well loved spots in Great Falls. Originally a gas station and general store that was built in 1931, the main building was made of old boards that came from a barn that was torn down in the 1800s. Thelma Feighery and her husband Frank bought the mom-and-pop gas station in 1950 and worked the store together until Frank Feighery died in 1988. Thelma Feighery continued to run it on her own, churning out her homemade ice cream for 51 years.

When she died in 2001 at the age of 86, her adjacent home went to her family, but the store and the surrounding property went to Nest Estates, LLC. In May of 2004 the property was auctioned off. McLean builder Alan Shams was awarded the winning bid, but the deal later fell through when the investors set a higher price, closer to $3 million, as was their right under the terms of the auction. The mixed-use property is slated for part-residential, part-commercial development.

THELMA’S homemade ice cream included enticing flavors such as black raspberry and butterscotch, and people traveled from near and far to get a taste.

“The first thing my sister and I did when we got our driver’s licenses was to drive up to Thelma’s and get ice cream, because before that, we used to ride our horses to Buck’s to get candy,” said long-time resident Laura Nichols.

Nichols is not the only person who headed to Thelma’s upon earning a driver’s license.

“I lived in McLean, but when I got my driver’s license I would drive to Thelma’s to get ice cream,” said Joseph Sartiano, who now resides with his wife in a home just off Walker Road near Colvin Run Center.