Bring Your Creative Spirit
Aug01

Bring Your Creative Spirit

Article By: Paul Long Photos By: Josh Triggs You don’t have to be artistically inclined to complete a project at the Polka Dot Pot in Old Town Winchester. All you need is a creative spirit, an enthusiastic attitude and a willingness to try new things. The Polka Dot Pot, which bills itself as a “create your own art studio,” has been a popular destination for the past several years for people looking for unique holiday gift ideas as well as those interested in learning a new skill or two. “People want to come in and relax and not do anything that’s too complicated,” studio owner Emily Rhodes said recently. The studio recently moved into a new location at 157 N. Loudoun St., next to the Snow White Grill. Rhodes says the new store is actually about 600 square feet smaller than the previous one, but it features more table space, more tables and a party room that is more private.Rhodes, a former special education teacher, was a stay-at-home mom when she launched her new venture in 2002 with a friend who was also a stay-at-home mom. They worked out of a small space in Berryville for about two years before the business moved to Winchester and set up shop in Creekside Station. Rhodes moved to Old Town about five years ago. Until recently, she operated out of a storefront just down the walking mall from her current location. Then, with her lease about to expire, she learned that the storefront at 157 N. Loudoun was about to become available. She acted quickly and was able to relocate in June.Making a gift at the Polka Dot Pot is a process that requires some advance planning. For example, a project involving clay usually requires about three weeks to complete. But if Rhodes can help speed things along to help her customers, she usually will. “Basically, I always push the deadline as close as I can for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and Christmas,” said Rhodes. “I can run some rush loads through. I need at least three or four days when it’s really busy and crazy before a holiday. But most everything, like the pottery, takes a week to get back.” Often, Rhodes said, a customer will come into the store knowing they want to paint something for a holiday gift, but they may not have a specific idea in mind. That’s when Rhodes can help with a suggestion or some colors to work with. “If they’ve seen something online, we can help them with that,” she said. “Or we have tracing paper we can use. We can help them with...

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Landscaper goes FRESH with farmers market
Aug01

Landscaper goes FRESH with farmers market

Article By: Samantha Cronk Photos By: Josh Triggs Since he was 16, Jason Shade has been working in the landscaping industry with a desire to open his own business. However, upon achieving his goal, he never expected landscaping to bring a new opportunity for him: opening his own farmers market. A well-established name locally for quality landscaping through his company Made in the Shade Landscaping, Shade, a Martinsburg native, recently decided to expand his brand by opening a farmers market in Martinsburg. Made in the Shade Local Market has been open for about two months. “I had an idea to start this to bring something to Martinsburg that just wasn’t here,” he said. “I’ve always said that I can make money working with my hands. The store is something entirely new for me, so it’s working through trial and error. But, it’s exciting. I think the market is a great addition. “Through the market, Shade wanted to provide a vehicle for local and regional farmers to be able to sell their products, from meat to produce, jams, honey, soaps, flowers, handmade duck calls and more. He sources the market’s items from local farms including Kilmer’s Farm Market, Sunny Meadows Nursery, Blonde Farm, Heritage Farm and individual farmers and crafters, with a focus on quality, in-season products. “We’ve only been selling for two months, so it’s too early to tell what’s going to be the niche here. We’re trying to find it so we can offer it to the community. We really revolve around the local people though. People want local businesses, but it takes the support of the people to have a local business,” he said. Shade plans to keep the farmers market open year-round, offering staples and seasonal items, like pumpkins and mums in the fall and wreaths and trees in the winter. While anticipating a slow start to the market while word on the new store spreads to the community, Shade said he is looking forward to the market’s addition to the area and the ability to provide fresh items. As with any business, Shade is learning the challenges, as well as the triumphs that goes with operating a farmers market. “Produce is a hard market to really push, because it’s a perishable item. It has a shelf life before it goes bad. That’s been one of the hardest things for us to figure out, having never done this before. What I would like to find out is what I can do with the stuff that is going bad. Right now, what I’m doing is providing bad produce materials to a local farmer to feed his hogs,”...

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Coming back strong despite devastating Harper’s Ferry fire
Aug01

Coming back strong despite devastating Harper’s Ferry fire

Article By: Bonnie Williamson Photos By: Josh Triggs “We lost everything,” says Cindi Dunn, who owns The Vintage Lady shop along with her husband Billy Ray. “We literally watched it burn. It was unbelievable,” says Billy Ray. In the early morning hours two years ago on July 23, a horrendous fire struck the small historic town of Harpers Ferry, WV. The fire, located in the commercial area of town, reportedly started on a back patio in a building owned by Doug Alexander. The building housed Private Quinn’s Pub. Quinn’s Pub has reopened but is now called Almost Heaven Pub and Grill. Flames destroyed three buildings housing eight retail shops and two apartments. A fourth building suffered some fire damage. Luckily, no one was killed or injured. According to Courtney Rosemond, public information specialist for the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s office, the fire did about $4 million worth of damage. Ironically, the only good thing about the inferno was the cause remains undetermined. Otherwise, if fire officials said arson was involved, the site would have been declared a crime scene, keeping retailers from moving back. Despite the destruction, the sickening smell of the burning buildings and shock of watching her shop at 181 Potomac St. turn to cinders, Cindi never considered giving up on starting anew in Harpers Ferry. “I never hesitated to reopen. We love it here,” Cindi says. “We chose not to be defeated.” “It was terrible looking at that empty space, but Cindi’s positive attitude gave us new hope,” Billy Ray says. Cindi went on the lookout for a new space immediately and found one at 196 High St. on a street above and parallel to her former store. She began ordering inventory from her home and moved into her new store Labor Day weekend six weeks after the fire. “It’s so beautiful here. We have the mountains and the national park. And the community is so supportive,” Cindi says. Shortly after the fire, the Harpers Ferry/ Bolivar Historic Towns Foundation sought donations to help the businesses hurt by the fire. More than $50,000 donations were received. Cindi and her husband have been running The Vintage Lady in Harpers Ferry for 14 years. Both of the Dunns faced challenges even before the fire. Neither one started out in the retail business. Both she and her husband were educators in Marietta, Ohio, before relocating to West Virginia in 2000 to be near family. Even before the move from Ohio, Cindi found she liked to make jewelry from buttons and a variety of other materials. She gave her creations as gifts, receiving numerous compliments. She began entering juried shows...

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Leigh Ann Hixon: Baking is Her Passion
Aug01

Leigh Ann Hixon: Baking is Her Passion

Article By: Tricia Lynn Strader Photos By: Josh Triggs Some people are natural-born cooks. They come by it naturally. They’d rather be in the kitchen than almost anywhere else. And a subset of those great cooks are the bakers… the ones who make the delectable desserts we can’t wait to sink our teeth into. Leigh Ann Hixon is one of those bakers. “I like to cook regular things, but baking is my passion,” she says. For the past three years, she’s operated Snix Snax Shax Bakery out of her home in Hancock, Md. Business is growing thanks to her delicious treats, the Internet, and word of mouth. One could say baking is in her genes. She says her father is a great cook, and he gets his skills from his mother. Leigh Ann, 47, watched her grandmother while growing up and credits her for a lot of her talent. The family visited Leigh Ann’s grandmother Edith Coleman in Alabama in the summers. Leigh Ann’s dad Ken Coleman was in the Army Corps of Engineers and ended up in Pennsylvania for a time working on a lake project. He met her mom Millie, and they married. They set up housekeeping in Alabama, but when Leigh Ann was young, they moved back to Pennsylvania near where her mother hailed. “I was born in Alabama,” says Leigh Ann. “We moved back to where my mom’s from, and I used to visit my grandmother for two weeks every summer until I was 20. I watched her. She was a cake and biscuit maker.” Leigh Ann says her grandmother was always making Southern buttermilk biscuits and homemade cakes from scratch. “She made a yellow cake with caramel icing and nuts I can still remember,” she said. “She used a lot of pecans and used to ship us pecans from the South.” She still has her grandmother’s biscuit bowl that was used to make the dough for all those years of biscuits. It was passed down to her. Leigh Ann began baking seriously at 16 years old. She started out making cookies and brownies. She then added pies, muffins and cakes. She always enjoyed baking, more so than cooking anything else.”Mom’s mother Ruth Smith baked breads and pies,” she says. “Mom cooks and bakes, but Dad is really good at it and enjoys it more. Mom still works, so he’s the cook and baker for the most part. And they do a lot of canning. Their homemade sweet relish is really good. I have to learn how to make that.” Some of her specialties are banana nut, blueberry, and lemon poppy seed muffins. In keeping...

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A Cut Above The Rest
Aug01

A Cut Above The Rest

Article By: Jeffery Marcum Photos By: Josh Triggs An old adage states that “Variety is the spice of life.” Most of us demand variety. We want options and crave individuality. We want it our way instead of being forced into what others have chosen. This is true in the clothes that we wear, the way we order our food at restaurants, and how we decorate our homes. We expect to be able to customize our lives. Of course, this is not always an easy task. Most stores have limited options. You may have to go from store to store to get what you want, or order something from the internet instead of a local company. Furniture stores are no exception. They are stocked with mass-produced items that may not be the right size, or the right color, or the right material. Often there is no opportunity for individuality because the furniture is made from a pattern in a factory. So, you’re left to wander to the next store in hopes that you will find exactly what you want. Todd Gladfelter, owner of Worthy’s Run Furniture, is here to help. Todd custom builds the furniture that you want. Most of his current business is kitchen islands, but he has also built tables, benches, buffets, and sink basins. You decide the dimensions, the colors, the materials, and the style. You also decide what options you want. Todd is there to guide you and make sure that you get exactly what you want. Todd started his business as a part-time job several years ago. He took what he learned from shop class in high school, and his experience building homes around Mount Snow in Vermont, along with his experience repairing antique furniture for his wife’s shop, and turned a hobby into a business that he enjoys going to every day. He started by using his two-car garage in Hedgesville as a shop and sold his wares on the internet. He set up a shop on Etsy (Worthy’s Run Furniture) and created a web page at Worthysrunfurniture.com to interact with customers. Recently, Todd has outgrown his garage and is currently renting space in Hagerstown. He has hired two more full-time employees and has another who works part-time as a painter. He also has customers all across the United States. With all of this rapid growth, Todd is optimistic about his future, but has to remain cautious. “It was a little bit of a learning curve moving into a bigger space,” Todd admitted. He can no longer walk just a dozen steps to get to his workshop. The larger area means more projects can...

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Experience Counts For A Lot
Jun01

Experience Counts For A Lot

Article By: Paul Long Photos By: Josh Triggs The way Jason Singer sees it, experience counts for a lot. Singer, the owner of Berkeley County-based CounterTop Solutions, estimated that he and his employees have remodeled more than 1,000 kitchens during the last 20 years, and he believes that’s something that potential customers might want to take into consideration. “We’re proud of the fact we’ve built a place you really should see before you complete your project,” he said recently, “even if you go with someone else.” Singer grew up in the kitchen and bath business. For many years, parents owned a showroom called Innerspace in Hagerstown Md. He left the area for awhile and explored other aspects of the construction business before returning to this area and opening CounterTop Solutions in Hagerstown in 2005. He has worked extensively in both the residential and commercial building sectors. “I’ve been lucky to have the skills to work with my hands,” said Singer, adding that he sees himself as more of an entrepreneur these days, and he has been trying to branch out into other things. Every now and then, though, it feels good to handle the work himself. In December 2016, he relocated his business to the Eastern Panhandle, opening the Earth Art Slab Studio and Granite Factory at 286 Langston Blvd. near Spring Mills. At approximately the same time, he launched a new showroom, the Earth Art Slab Studio, at 2625 Valley Ave. in Winchester. Earth Art is CounterTop Solutions’ particular brand of stone, Singer explained. “We wanted to bring up the retail portion of our business,” Singer said, explaining that CounterTop Solutions has been focusing more on retail kitchens since 2013, when it opened a retail showroom in Williamsport, Md. It was at that time that Singer and his staff began photographing slabs on a green screen, an important advancement in the design process. Moving to West Virginia made sense from a location standpoint, according to Singer. While Berkeley County’s population is substantially smaller than that of Washington County, Md., Singer’s market is centered along the Interstate 81 corridor, and his proximity to I-70 is also a bonus. CounterTop Solutions serves customers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia as well as Washington, D.C. Its residential coverage area runs from Harrisburg, Pa., to the north; Harrisonburg, Va., to the south; Deep Creek, Md., to the west and Frederick, Md., to the east. The company also has commercial clients in Baltimore, Washington and several communities in northern Virginia. As a general rule, Singer said, CounterTop Solutions will travel anywhere within a 100-mile radius of Berkeley County to work with a...

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