Berryville Main Street has received the Virginia Downtown Development Association’s 2010 Building Development and Improvements Award of Merit for its Fire House Gallery & Shop. The Fire House Gallery & Shop is a public-private economic revitalization project launched by Berryville Main Street to transform Berryville’s historic fire house building into a unique retail destination.
A Vision for Downtown Berryville
In early 2008, Berryville Mayor Wilson Kirby along with Berryville Councilman Allen Kitselman, and Berryville Main Street Board members Diane Harrison, Kate Petranech, and Christy Dunkle met with representatives from the Morgan County Arts Council and to learn about The Ice House Gallery, in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. The Berryville team used the meeting to identify the pro’s and con’s Morgan County encountered in building its gallery along with best practices for establishing a similar retail site in Berryville.
The vision for a retail art establishment was first discussed when it became clear that the Town of Berryville had decided to vacate its downtown offices in favor of a move to a new county office building. While the move made sense for many reasons it also resulted in an additional empty store front in the historic downtown available.
Kirby and the other downtown commerce advocates believed a new art gallery would generate multiple benefits to Berryville’s commercial district; Not only would the art gallery fill the vacant storefront, it would also symbolize the town’s commitment to its downtown commercial area and merchants.
Less than three years later, the Fire House Gallery and Shop opened its doors.
Turning the Dream into Bricks and Mortar
In February of 2009, Berryville’s Town Council held a public hearing. The council members fully agreed to Berryville Main Street’s offer to design, renovate and inhabit the town’s former office space.
Built in the 1930’s, the building housed Berryville’s first fire hall for more than two decades prior to use for the town’s offices.
With endorsement from the town council, Berryville Main Street went to work raising the funds for the renovation of the retail space. The Town of Berryville and the County of Clarke were the two largest supporters of the effort providing grant and loan funds totaling $75,000. Berryville Main Street board members and staff launched the “Fire House Founder” initiative which netted over $15,000. An additional $15,000 was raised through donations and in-kind gifts.
While “art” is the primary focus for the Fire House Gallery, the space also includes a community “Resource Room” featuring information about local, state and national organizations as well as demographic and business information. Residents and visitors interested in the Berryville Historic District and similar community initiatives by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Virginia Main Street and Berryville Main Street can obtain information in the Resource Room. Commercial space availability as well as tax credit and zoning information is also available in this area.
Local Design Ensures Authentic Look and Feel
Berryville Main Street worked closely with a local firm, Main Street Architecture, PC, to design the space. Additional design and construction was provided by Houseworks. Work of the Fire Houses’s faÃ§ade began in earnest in late August 2009 once the exterior was approved by the town’s Architectural Review Board. The work was substantially complete by early December.
Energy efficient systems were installed and modifications made to create handicapped accessible restroom facilities along with large tempered glass windows which restore the original fire house fenestration. Covered pilasters were exposed and the concrete floor was sanded and polished to its original form.
A Very Grand Opening
The grand opening festivities for the Fire House Gallery and Shop began by honoring those who donated to the Fire House Founders initiative. The January 8, 2010 event featured speakers and toasts from the community and tours of the new fire house space.
On the following morning, a large crowd of local residents and dignitaries turned out to recognize the people who made the Fire House Gallery and Shop a reality. Participants in the ribbon cutting event was the Mayor of the Town of Berryville, Wilson Kirby; Chair of the Board of Supervisors, Michael Hobert; president of Berryville Main Street, Diane Harrison; Gallery Manager, Kaye Bayliss; Board President of the John H. Enders Fire and Rescue Company, Chris Shipe and artist representative Nancy Bishop.
More Than an Art Gallery
The Fire House Gallery and Shop has created an exciting buzz in downtown Berryville since opening its doors. The facility not only provides a unique retail destination featuring local artists and vendors but equally importantly it is an important element in creating local traffic – and revenue – downtown. The Fire House Gallery has created three local jobs as well as an economic multiplier effect for local artists, writers and those who create other local products.
Since its opening in January, 2010 the Fire House Gallery has exceeded its financial goals with over $20,000 in sales with approximately 400 customers making purchases.
In addition to in-store sales, the 3rd Annual Clarke County Studio Tour was sponsored by Berryville Main Street. The tour showcased Fire House artists and their work.
Award Winning Design
The Fire House Gallery and Shop has received recognition from several sources in its short existence. To help celebrate Virginia Main Street’s 25th anniversary, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development identified “25 Treasures of Main Street.” One of the top spots for arts and crafts was the Fire House Gallery and Shop in Berryville.
Berryville Main Street then learned in June that the Fire House Gallery and Shop had been awarded a Marian Park Lewis grant from the Shenandoah Arts Council to launch a monthly community arts education series entitled “The Art of Making Art.” These Saturday programs feature instruction and live demonstrations by Fire House artists representing a variety of media.
“We were really excited about this award for the Building and Development category as the Fire House was definitely a community project – local funding, contractors and design by Main Street Architecture” said Berryville Assistant Town Manager Christy Dunkle. “This is our second award. We also won in 2007 for Business Development, Promotion and Marketing when we did a rebranding of Berryville Main Street.”
Located at 23 East Main St. Berryville, the Fire House Gallery is open Tuesday from 10am – 3pm, Wednesday – Thursday from 10am – 5pm, Friday from 10am – 8pm and Saturday 10am – 3pm.