Written by Cami Coulter
Queen Street in Martinsburg, WV houses a variety of businesses from restaurants and tattoo parlors to salons and fabric shops but a new kind of business just renovated a space on the busy street and put up their “We’re Open!” sign in June. The bright yellow and orange colored storefront of Berkeley Pottery, that can’t be missed, adds a different kind of business to the heart of Martinsburg. Walking into Berkeley Pottery customers can first see tables and chairs for painting, with abstract art designs on the walls, but also shelves holding more than a hundred pre-fired ceramics they can chose from to paint and glaze. All through out the space, the store has friendly, colorful lighting and fun music playing in the background. Continuing further into the space is a cute and quaint social bar and then several pottery wheels held in the back where owner, David Carroll, might be teaching a class to beginner potters.
Originally from Greenbrier County, David and his business partner, Mark Thompson, moved to Martinsburg in hopes of their big dream to lift off. They chose Martinsburg because it is very well situated geographically between three major interstates. “It’s a cultural hub for the Potomac highlands,” David explained. He says the surrounding areas like the Eastern Panhandle and Winchester look toward Martinsburg for leadership and cultural affairs.
After waiting seven years, they settled down in Berkeley County. Finding an awesome deal on a house from fore closure, they bought and restored it into a place they could call home. David did the same for the thriving Berkeley Pottery. The building had been vacant for thirty years and was in need of some definite TLC. “We renovated it and put our heart and soul into it. I spent six weeks on my hands and knees scrubbing the floors down because they were covered with shag carpet,” David said. The flooring under that shag carpet is hardwood flooring from the original building as well as the plaster on the walls and the ceiling. The brick on the walls were made right in Martinsburg at the Continental Brick Company and many of them show the Continental stamps on the sides. The owners also replaced the stark, florescent lighting with warmer, softer lights to create a more cozy and inviting space.
Berkeley Pottery holds three lines of business. Customers are able to paint their own pottery by choosing a ceramic on the shelves provided. Then you can paint and add designs on your chosen ceramic any way you would like. After that, the employees will glaze it in a kiln, which makes the glossy effect. It is a great way to make a personalized gift for a loved one or keep it for yourself.
In the back of the area there are four pottery wheels where the employees teach new potters how to create pottery. They hold classes for beginners and advanced potters alike. David also uses the wheels for his own production studio so he can produce pottery for retail sale, and for paint your own pottery, at the front of the store, but also at shops and markets.
Located at the center of the store is a coffee bar that serves light fare foods and hors d’oeuvres like cheeses, crackers, olives, salami and so forth. Along with the snacks, drinks are offered like coffee, tea, wine and more for customers. “We want it to be a social space to connect the two different experiences with the paint it yourself space at the front and the pottery wheels at the back,” David explains.
Berkeley Pottery provides a variety of fun things to do with family and friends. When asking what Berkeley Pottery offers, David explains the store offers experiences rather than trinkets. “We want people to come here and enjoy a good experience.” And for this store experiences can come in many different styles and ages. “If you’re an eight year old girl and you want a jewelry box, you can come to Berkeley Pottery and paint one that is personalized for you and you alone,” David explains. Kids can paint figurines like a piggy bank or dinosaurs. It is an unforgettable experience that a child can hold onto for the rest of their lives.
Another experience Berkeley Pottery offers could be a ‘girls night out’ sort of gathering. With the children being watched by husbands or babysitters, the moms come out for a glass of wine, or three, and paint a piece of pottery. A night out with friends, having fun and painting a dish, is a type of experience the business can provide. Berkeley Pottery also has a group of seniors come in from a nearby senior citizens center. They walk over for an afternoon tea from the bar and paint ornaments to give to their grandchildren. Other group party ideas Berkeley Pottery hosts can be birthday and office parties.
“To me personally, the most important experience that we can offer is teaching new folks how to make pottery and spreading that craft so that others can develop the art and become artists themselves,” David expresses. Introductory classes are available for folks who have never potted before, plus they provide everything needed to make their first piece of pottery. The employees fire the pieces in the kiln and are given back to the customers within a couple weeks because it is a process for the pottery to be glazed and shiny. Advanced potters can also come in and use the pottery wheels on their own for an hourly rate.
“My desire is that people from Berkeley County and the surrounding areas will be able to develop pottery as not just a craft or a hobby but as a professional trade, and be able to use this space and our kilns for supporting their industrial ambitions,” David expresses. The city has made plenty of things from textiles to whiskey and David thinks pottery could be another form of export for Martinsburg. Their vision is bigger than just the twenty-foot wide by sixty-foot long building Berkeley Pottery is held in. It extends beyond Martinsburg and Berkeley County.
Family and community are important to Berkeley Pottery and they want to be strong contributors to the area. “We are really optimistic about the future of the city and we want to be apart of the change that is occurring downtown,” David said. Nestled right on Queen Street, Berkeley Pottery is conveniently located around multiple different art shops, so being in a great location is an important focus for David and Mark. “We’re not going anywhere, this is home.”
115 South Queen Street, Martinsburg, WV 25401
8AM-11PM, Seven days a week