I've been promising to write something about this, and now is as good a time as any. First understand, Valdese, NC is a small town, so just keep that as a frame of reference for "momentous".
Ok, let me take you back two days ago - Monday. I walked out the door to take the dog on her morning walk, and within seconds, knew we were in for it. I knew that it was overcast, already, but I was not prepared for the humidity (with a capital hew) that hit me like a brick wall when I walked out the door. Not a breeze anywhere, just low clouds and very warm, heavy, heavy air. Within an hour it was raining, and it didn't stop. It rained all day Monday, all day Tuesday, and a bit on Wednesday. In the afternoons it would rain especially hard, as if a normal afternoon summer thunderstorm was wondering by, not realizing that it had been raining all day long. Finally today, it let up some. At one point there was a break in the clouds, and I had the pleasure of experiencing hot sun mixing with very wet ground and grass. Its a steam bath out there, in beautiful Valdese.
Tuesday evening was the culmination of the momentous event in Valdese (here after referred to as MEV). We were invited to a private catered affair by Matt & Deb Ferris, owners of Cornerstone Antiques, where we are vendors - we rent a space there. Its part of what I do to try to keep from working. About a month ago (and this is the MEV) Matt & Deb leased the Myra's General building, from the owners of Myra's restaurant & catering - if you're ever in Valdese, you owe to yourself to stop by. Ok, I know this is a let down, but not being from Valdese, you don't understand the ramifications. And I'm not going to go into the recent history in any great detail, but it's a big deal.
Cornerstone Antiques has been in town since October 2007. They started out in Mrs. Powell's building across from Myra's, then when Valdese Antiques & Collectibles went out of business, they moved into that building. Much better building, the best location in town. I've watched that business grow and grow. Now, it even has a coffee shop inside, with tables, and its a nice place.
When they leased Myra's General (the store, not the restaurant), it signalled a whole different way of doing buisness there. Before, people were just hired to work there, and it was only open part time. Now, Deb and Matt own it. Not the building, but the business - they can run it their way, and it is their's to make work or not. The person who was running it before, who did not own it, is no longer there and has nothing more to do with the place.
Myra's General has tons of potential, but has never lived up to it since I've been here. Its a large, very interesting space, with a lot of intresting things in it.
So Tuesday evening, in a pouring rain, vendors gathered at Myra's Little Italy (a very nice restaurant, btw, but not to be confused with 50's style Myra's ice cream shop next door), and are treated to a catered meal of BBQ (North Carolina style), baked beans, banana pudding, and lemonade or ice tea. Since I hate going to Food Lion, and hadnt eaten a whole lot that day, I knew a good deal when I saw it and helped myself.
Matt & Deb gave a little talk to the gathering. I knew ahead of time what part of that talk was going to be, and actually felt a little nervous. First they welcomed everybody, then they sold themselves, explaining to the people who didnt know them that they had experience, they knew what they were doing, they were growing their own business and wanted to do the same thing here. One of the biggest selling points was that Larry agreed to do this - lease the building to them and turn over the business to run as they saw fit. They had all kinds of other examples, answered questions and so on. Then they explained they would have to raise rents - and this is where I thought it may get interesting. Because in effect they are doubling rents for people who are already vendors, and a bit more than doubling for people coming in new. And they explained why, explained that they could not succeed as a business with vendor rents as low as they were now. And honestly, I think they are correct, the rents were very low, compared to the amount of space you've got. And they have to hire some people. The stores are close to each other, but two people cannot run two stores, so they have to have help. But even with rents as low as they were, most people were still having trouble selling enough to make their rent, cause the place just was not open enough. Nobody fainted, nobody fumed, who knows what people said when they left, but they were nice and did not seem suprised while there. Some people will almost certainly leave.
This is Valdese, and as Matt & Deb pointed out, the money drives by on the Interstate. One of their major tasks as owners is to give people on the Interstate a reason to drive into Valdese, and they have plans for doing that. Myra's has not done really well since I've known about it. They get a lot of people in there on Fridays during the car show months, and not much any other time. It was closed a lot more than it was open, and its hours were irregular. It is located off Main Street, and is just physically hard to see. Their major challenge will be getting people in that store. If they can, they will succeed. If they can't, then they'll have problems.
I've watched them and I'm betting they will succeed. That's it, the MEV.