*** This story appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier on Saturday, May 22. ***
ABINGDON, Va. – The new home of the former Cave House Craft Shop will be celebrated today with a grand reopening in the old sheriff's office building on Park Street.
Now called the Holston Mountain Artisans Shop, the retail outlet of the 39-year-old Holston Mountain Arts and Crafts Cooperative opened its doors at the new location May 1, after making renovations. The century-old brick building is being leased for $1 a year from the town, which has a similar lease from Washington County.
Donna Price, manager of the craft shop, said the building has a lot of advantages, including accessibility for the disabled, room for studios and an extra building where classes can be held.
"A lot of what we do is becoming a lost art: quilts, basket making, throwing pottery, and now we can teach that," Price said.
She said classes will be available to the public beginning in July. Today's festivities are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and include craft demonstrations, musical performances, refreshments, door prizes and a barbecue vendor. The ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 11 a.m.
Lighter and brighter than the old location, the freshly painted shop has quilts adorning the walls, pottery on shelves like China on display, a bedroom setup with quilts, aprons, stuffed toys and a shelf of books written by local authors.
Price said the co-op did about $50,000 worth of renovations for $7,000, with the help of donated materials and about 20 volunteers. The process took more than three months.
Two volunteers putting on the finishing touches Friday were Rees and Kathy Shearer, who've been involved with the craft guild since its founding in 1971.
Rees Shearer, its founder, said he always knew Abingdon had something special in its arts potential, but he's been surprised over the years by the number of local people who buy the crafts.
"People outside the area understood it first; now the people locally know the value of hand work and the culture it represents," he said. "It spawned really a lot of the arts movement here in Abingdon."
The building is at the center of a newly created arts and cultural district, which the town hopes to develop by offering tax credits. Among the ideas being kicked around is an arts incubator, with studio space in the cells of the old jail next door.
Rees Shearer said that while the craft shop isn't on Main Street, it's just a matter of getting the word out about the new location, a block south of the courthouse at the bottom of the hill.
Price said with better parking and accessibility, the craft shop has already begun to draw tour buses, and she's excited about its future.