Bringing Campus and Community Together One Scoop at a Time
Madeleine Wells Mercer (‘21) knew she wanted to remain in Buena Vista post-graduation after falling in love with the town and a local firefighter. Seeing an opportunity to build a space for Southern Virginia University students and local community members to gather, she decided to create The BeeVe, an ice cream and souvenir shop, which opened in 2022.
“It’s been incredible to be part of bringing the local and university community together,” said Mercer. “Part of my vision in starting The BeeVe in the first place was that I wanted to give the students something right in town that they could hang out at, get a treat and some BV memorabilia, and have opportunities to connect and interact with this wonderful town and the locals.”
“I love that it’s become a place where the students can come into the community and bond with the locals,” continued Mercer. “We’ll have a team come in after practice and hang out with our local regulars, and it’s been so fun to watch that connection grow.”
Though she grew up around entrepreneurs and wanted to be one herself, Mercer had never taken a business class, instead graduating from Southern Virginia University with a degree in psychology with intentions of becoming a therapist. But as she pivoted career paths and began planning out her business, the university’s professors were quick to offer their support and experience.
One of the professors she met at Southern Virginia, Professor of Business Todd Brotherson, reached out to tell her of a grant opportunity for small businesses in Virginia, which she was able to receive and use to purchase a freezer.
“Having professors that I’ve known for years offer their advice in this venture, and then come down and say hi and bring their classes has been really special,” said Mercer. “They’re still supporting me in my growth, even though it’s not in the academic world anymore.”
After her freshman year at Southern Virginia University, Mercer decided to transfer to Brigham Young University. But before the end of her first semester there, she realized that Southern Virginia was home and returned after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Georgia and South Carolina. Looking back, Mercer is grateful she made that decision.
“I don’t think I could have opened a business in any other place,” said Mercer. “This is a very unique town and university that provides so much opportunity and growth. Everyone here is able to stand out, create their own path, and go on so many adventures that could only happen here.”
Mercer married firefighter Andrew Mercer in the Washington, D.C. Temple in 2023 and recently celebrated one year of business of The BeeVe.