Sunday, January 13, 2013

Republic of Floyd store owner Tom Ryan recalled as an iconic figure

Tom Ryan, who died Saturday, "talked and acted like a hippie, but was a solid businessman."

A Floyd store owner who was "iconic" in the town died suddenly Saturday.

Tom Ryan, 58, owner of the Republic of Floyd store, suffered a massive heart attack, according to friends.

Kerry Underwood, of the Oddfella's Cantina & Tapas Bar, said Ryan's death was devastating for the community. Many of Ryan's friends gathered at Oddfella's on Saturday night to celebrate his life.

"He had such a presence here in this town," Underwood said.

"Right now it's hard for us to understand how it will be the same."

Ryan's store opened about three years ago in downtown Floyd, selling items appealing to the tourists he was enthusiastic about attracting to the town. It also sold a selection of beer and wine.

Prior to opening Republic of Floyd, he was involved with the Harvest Moon Food Store. Before it adorned his Locust Street shop, "Republic of Floyd" was the name of his blog.

Ryan wrote frequently about the town and its residents, sometimes in an online satiric newsletter called The Enquirer. Underwood said he had a way of bringing people together.

He had recently published "The Floyd 'Dysfunctional' Family Cookbook," which included recipes from locals, along with vignettes Ryan wrote.

"People did it for him," Underwood said. "People gave up some of their highly regarded recipes - because it was Tom."

Doug Thompson, a Floyd resident who writes the Blue Ridge Muse blog, said Ryan was devoted to building on the culture of the town he called home.

"He loved Hawaiian shirts and long hair," Thompson said. "He talked and acted like a hippie, but was a solid businessman."

Aside from his business interests, Ryan made an impression through his sharp sense of humor.

"He could cut you down really quick, but make you feel really good about it," Underwood said.

Ryan had worn many hats in Floyd. He was at one time a vice president of the local chamber of commerce. At other times, he tried his hand at music promotion and bartending at a Floyd restaurant called The Pine Tavern.

"If you knew Tom, you loved Tom," Underwood said. "He was iconic in Floyd, as far as this communitygoes."

And in a town that embraces its reputation for quirky personalities and interests, Ryan was a fixture, according to Thompson.

"Tom was a character who stood out in a town full of characters."

Gardner Funeral Home in Floyd is handling Ryan's ceremonies.

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