Williamsburg Pottery Factory is a large, multi-structure retail outlet store located in Lightfoot, Virginia, about 6 miles (9.7 km) west of Williamsburg. The Williamsburg Pottery Factory markets itself as one of Virginia's largest tourist attractions. Referred to by the locals as "the Pottery", the 200-acre (0.81 km2) attraction offers a vast selection of various handmade articles and imports from other 20 countries. The Pottery was famous for its "bare bones" appearance; however, it underwent a multi-million dollar redevelopment that reshaped its look in the spring of 2012.
In 1938, James E. Maloney founded the business, located near Colonial Williamsburg, making eighteenth-century saltglaze reproductions to sell at low prices. As time passed, Maloney added china and glassware, discounting prices so that shoppers would return. The small structure mushroomed into many warehouse buildings. Sales grew, and the size of the facility grew to serve the interests of the increasing people visiting the place. In addition to their famed saltgaze pottery, the pottery grew to include artisans that sold a variety of handwork: custom lamps, floral arrangements (dried and silk flowers), and made-to-order picture frames. The Pottery expanded further to sell a variety of items including baskets, china, glass, stemware, wines, cheeses, plants and many unique items, both foreign and domestic.
By the 1960s, the Pottery was the largest U.S. importer of home goods from Asia; and by the early 1980s, the Pottery was bringing in between $60 million to $70 million a year. The Pottery expanded rapidly to add a campground and factory outlet stores that sold clothing, furniture, linens, foods, and crafts. It grew to occupy 200 acres (0.81 km2), 32 buildings, 8,000 parking places, and had an inventory of 120,000 items gathered from all over the world. This 200 acres (0.81 km2) did not include the campground and the acreage it owned on U.S. Route 60.
The Pottery began a decline in the 1990s with the rapid growth of Prime Outlets on Route 60 closer to Williamsburg and struggled with the death of its founder in 2005. In 2008, the Pottery put up for sale 21 parcels of land that include the Pottery shopping complex along U.S. Route 60 and the campground behind it. The land in the Lightfoot area is spread across James City and York counties, and about a quarter of the acreage sits east of nearby Interstate 64.
Locals began to hear rumors that the Pottery was going to be sold; however, in May 2008, Kim Maloney, President and CEO of the Williamsburg Pottery, issued a statement about news articles concerning the Williamsburg Pottery.
"Recent news reports that the Williamsburg Pottery is for sale is false. We are exploring the sale of our land holdings and our real estate advisor has established a web site to make prospective purchasers aware of the opportunity. But we have no plans to sell the Pottery. Our only plan for the Pottery is to continue to offer the highest quality goods at terrific Pottery prices as we have for 70 years. I sincerely regret any confusion and hope that our customers and friends will come and see the exciting new products and enjoy the unique shopping experience at the Williamsburg Pottery."
On August 31, 2010, the president of the Pottery, Kim Maloney, unveiled plans for a new $20 million, 146,800-square-foot (13,640 m2) retail development. Construction began on the new Williamsburg Pottery in December 2010 at the original 1938 location on Richmond Road, following demolition of the old outlet buildings currently on the site. The retail project was designed by Guernsey-Tingle Architects, and includes 3 separate buildings in a traditional European Market theme. Henderson Inc. was chosen as the General Contractor for the project and AES Consulting Engineers was selected for the site plan work. All are local companies, as are most of the subcontractors.
Prominent features of the new Williamsburg Pottery include a unique silhouette with energy-efficient lighting and a courtyard with a stage for live music and performances, plus inside/outside seating at the Café & Bakery and Deli. Demolition began in September, with a groundbreaking ceremony in the beginning of December. Construction was completed in spring of 2012, with a grand opening held on April 5, 2012, the date which would have been founder Jimmy Maloney’s 100th birthday.
At one time, it was estimated that more than 3,000,000 people visited the Pottery on a yearly basis, and it was a top tourist attraction in the Historic Triangle. Recent figures are not available.
During the mid-1990s the Pottery became such a popular attraction that Amtrak started stopping at the railroad crossing at the Pottery, making it a regular stop for passengers. The stop was discontinued around 1996.