When the Stokes County School Board voted to close Francisco Elementary School in the summer of 2015, the small surrounding community was devastated. Not only had a part of their identity changed, but it also lessened any future chance that families would move into Francisco. Roadblock after roadblock continued the following year. Any and every idea was quickly stalled when government and liability insurance played a major part in everything the community came up with. Then, Mark Black entered into the picture and became an important piece of the community puzzle.
Most everyone in Francisco knows the name. Black and his family moved into northern Stokes County recently because they loved the area. Although, being a businessman with some interest in commercial real estate, he had no intention of starting a business in Francisco. A neighbor suggested he take a look at the closed Francisco Elementary School. His investment group, Chestnut Street Investments, LLC, with encouraging support from the community, purchased the school property from the county. Another chapter began in the community.
Now as people pass through Francisco, they notice a flurry of activity going on. The school sign is gone, the playground equipment, no longer there, and there’s a different atmosphere now, one of hope. Walking into the front entrance, it’s not a school anymore. It’s a future. Gone are the partitions that separated the classrooms. Wide open spaces with newly sheet rock walls make it hard to imagine what it used to look like. Not that anyone would want to now. Even though the memories of Francisco Elementary School are still there, the changing physical appearance of the building reminds the community that something better is ahead.
Soon the machinery will come in; machinery that makes cabinet doors and drawer boxes, along with wood and metal crafts. Machinery that will need operators, cabinet doors that will need painters, a loading dock that will need someone to load the trucks; this is the new chapter in Francisco. Once everything is in place, an open house is being planned for the community and all the people who were so instrumental in bringing this vision to life. Very soon, all of this will come together and once again, so will the community.