another potential gift idea Gemparcel offers is the Seiko line of watches, which range reasonably from $140 and up. Michael has always been interested in automatic watches and he and Peach felt that carrying a line of quality, affordable watches was an ideal addition to their business.
by Claire Stuart
property was constructed in 1893 and was one of the first stone houses in the area. When the train began service to Bluemont in 1900 there was a Real Estate frenzy “like the vicinity had never witnessed” which resulted in a few more houses being built. Around 1910 the owners of the property converted it into a B&B for city folks who took the train from DC out to Bluemont to escape the heat of the city. People stayed for the weekend, the month or sometimes the entire summer at the inn called Twin Oaks Tavern. And the business continued on as an inn all the way up until the 1950s. And then in 1968, the train stopped coming
Berryville’s Booster-in-Chief Turns 25
Berryville’s commercial scene has changed a lot in the last decade. I remember visiting the town when working on a travel guide to the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area. I remember thinking, “Cool, what a nice place.”
It was actually a functioning downtown. You could still come to Berryville to buy things you need — an almost extinct phenomenon in
America’s small towns.
Today, Berryville is more than a functioning town; it’s a truly awesome place. You can still buy things you need: eyeglasses, prescription drugs, flowers, electronics, appliances. All that good stuff. But now you can find things way beyond the everyday. Experiences that make life a little better, like galleries, gift shops, and locally sourced eateries.
There is much credit to recognize. Good planning, the Barnes of Rose Hill, and incredible community financial support for a town of this size, to name a few.
Let’s also give credit to the work of Berryville Main Street, a nonprofit booster for downtown that recently celebrated his 25-year anniversary.
The group has brought amazing energy to create an atmosphere hospitable to locals and tourists alike — and one which has attracted several businesses that have relocated to Berryville in the past few years.
There is an old saying. “Bad things happen through neglect. Good things happen only through intention.” When you look at all the wonderful things about Berryville, you see that the Main Street miracle is part inspiration and a heck of a lot of perspiration. It’s intentional.
Much hard work, most of its volunteer, has gone to create the charming yet still practical small town å is Berryville. It’s nice to know that Berryville Main Street is not resting on its laurels. Instead, Main Street is looking ahead to the Town of Berryville in the next 25 years.
By Liam Harrison
Mark your calendars for the Clarke County Studio Tour on Saturday October and Sunday October 2. This self-guided, free family-friendly tour will take visitors through the Clarke County countryside and the towns of Berryville, Bluemont, Boyce, Millwood, and White Post. The tour offers a diverse group of 30 artists and 22 different locations. The artist studios will be open 10am–5pm each day. Most artists will be doing demonstrations, offering refreshments, and have items for sale. Locations will be marked by a tour sign at
On the tour you will see woodworkers, furniture makers, fine artists in watercolor, pastels, acrylics, and oil painting, pottery, a variety of sculpture, fiber art, jewelers, floral design, antique upcycled/repurposed items, art in nature, and hand carved gilded work. The following 30 artists are participating on the tour:
Julie Abrera, Gale Bowman-Harlow, Scott Carpenter, Tim Chambers, Mizue Croswell, Christy Dunkle, Jay and Peggy Duvall, Constance Fisher, Norma Fredrickson, Malcolm Harlow, Diane Harrison, Liam Harrison, Russ Harrison, Jeff Headley and Steve Hamilton, Hip and Humble – Julie Ashby & Steve Scott, Dave Hickman, Sue Hickman, Ron Light, Carl Maples, George Maxwell, Tia Maggio, Julie Miles, Peter Miller, Keith Patterson, Kellie Patterson, Nancy Polo, Rachel Rogers, Mikisa Shaajhante, Bruce Smallwood, René Locklear White-Feather.
Peter Miller, a frame maker on the tour, was key in helping revive the tour. A Connecticut native who moved to the area and opened his shop on Main Street in Berryville was amazed at the number of artists and artisans in the county. Peter started in January by pulling in a key group of artists, shop owners, citizens, and staff working on tourism in the town and county. After receiving all the responses from artists, the group was surprised by how many newcomers and the variety there is in the area that will be opening their studios.
The Clarke County Studio Tour organization, headed by Miller, hopes to highlight the abundant creative talent that resides in Clarke County. Also, the group wants to help promote tourism which will benefit the county as a whole. The Clarke County visitor’s center at the Barns of Rose Hill is the center point of the tour, providing information on the area and tour, brochures, and a viewing of the raffle items beginning mid-September. The center will have extended hours that weekend from 10am–4pm on Saturday and 10am–3pm on Sunday.
Diane Harrison, a Berryville potter, helped run the previous tours in the county. She said that this tour goes above and beyond any that we have had in the past. The quality and the variety of skilled artists and artisans is amazing. “It has been a great pleasure to work with the group to get this one off the ground and to meet so many new artists to the area,” she said. A number of the artists are also participating in the new Top of Virginia Artisan Trail kicking off in September. This will help to give tourists and locals an idea of what a treasure of artistic talent Clarke County has to offer.
A Passport Program gives each tour visitor a chance at one of many artist-donated items which will be on display starting September 16 at Barns of Rose Hill. Visitors will pick up a passport at their first stop. At each stop, the passport will be stamped marking where you have been. When a participant is finished with their tour, they turn in the passport at their last stop to be entered into the raffle. You must have visited at least one tour stop to be eligible for the raffle. Winners will be drawn the following week.
A website allows visitors to preview artists with links to their websites and maps are available so that you can plan the route. The site is also phone friendly, and ties into Google Maps. You may also download the PDF brochure if you want to ‘go green’. The website address is clarkecountystudiotour. You may also access the tour Facebook page directly from the site for posts highlighting artists on the tour and updated information.
By Claire Stuart
Whether it’s a single lovely bloom, a bouquet, or a whole garden, flowers have a certain magic that elicits smiles and happiness, and there’s no happier occasion for flowers than a wedding. As a floral designer specializing in weddings and events, Julie Wheeler Abrera radiates enthusiasm when she talks about her work. She understands how important flowers are to a bride and believes that every bride “needs to feel amazing and wonderful with everyone on her team of wedding vendors.”
Growing up in Berryville, Abrera always loved flowers and trees. “Gardening is in my DNA,” she says. “Mom was an avid gardener — Dad, too. But at 18, I never would have thought that I’d be doing this.”
Actually, Abrera took a vastly different path before returning to her figurative and literal roots. For 20 years, she lived in Alexandria, working in management of nonprofits involved with humanitarian projects like affordable housing and school nutrition programs. She was proud of her work, yet felt that something was lacking in her life.
Pondering a career change, Abrera thought about how she had always enjoyed working with flowers. It could be possible to make people happy while bringing herself the joy that creative people seek in
She decided to take some classes at FlowerSchool New York while still working, “to see if I could seriously do this for a career.” FlowerSchool New York offers floral design classes on a host of topics, from beginner’s level through the latest new design styles for experienced professionals. Intensive workshops are taught by top floral designers from all around the world.
“It’s a wonderful place to hone your skills,” said Abrera, “and discover the things you are good at.”
Abrera came away convinced that she could be successful, and launched her own studio, Beaumont House Design, in 2013. The first wedding she booked was for a friend of a friend in Alexandria. She recalls that she felt tremendous pressure to make her flowers live up to the bride’s expectations, and she was happy to report that the bride loved them.
Her business has continued to grow through brides referring her to friends and through social media. She does a lot of networking, building relationships with photographers, wedding planners, caterers and other wedding vendors. She joined the Ashburn chapter of the Rising Tide Society, a national online creative community with local chapters. They offer business webinars, educational opportunities, and ideas for creative entrepreneurs, and they meet in person once a month.
Abrera enjoys the challenge of constantly stretching herself to learn more. “Working with flowers, you are always learning new things and practicing,” she reported. “You have never completely mastered it.”
She recently attended a workshop in Bethesda
learning a new technique for making flower crowns. She follows Ponderosa and Thyme, an Oregon fine-art wedding and event floral boutique online. She was so taken with a picture of a bouquet they posted that she contacted them. When it was announced that they were giving a workshop, she quickly grabbed a spot before they sold out and flew out to Oregon
Abrera loves creating everything from wrist corsages to floral arches. She shared a photo of a stunningly beautiful arch made for a wedding, using a trellis base covered with chicken wire, into which the flowers were placed. “I did one with eight or nine hundred individual blooms,” she said. “Each bloom is in a flower pick with water to keep it fresh.”
She also loves to teach. She has held wreath-making workshops and looks forward to doing some flower
Some of her flowers are gathered from her own cutting garden, which she started just this year. She pointed out a stack of seed catalogs and noted that she is taking what she learned this year into her planning for next year. She also enjoys foraging for wild flowers and green accent plants in the fields near her Clarke County home. “I always keep clippers and a basket in the car,”
Other flowers are purchased, and she buys as many locally-sourced flowers as possible. Additional flowers come from a wholesaler in Baltimore, where flowers from all around the world are available. She buys a lot of flowers from Greenstone Fields in Purcelville, where they raise over 90 varieties of flowers and something beautiful is available throughout the growing seasons.
“Greenstone Fields raises their flowers using organic methods,” she said. She noted that this is especially important for weddings, so that the clients will not have to be concerned about pesticides on
Of course, Abrera admits that production work can be stressful, particularly on the wedding day. “I might have 20 centerpieces to pack and load safely,” she explained. “My husband Richard helps me with deliveries. He is the vice president of logistics!”
Abrera likes to form a relationship with every bride-to-be, inviting her to bring her ideas, lists of favorite flowers, and dreams of what she wants her special day to look like. She reports that she has never experienced a “Bridezilla.”
“All the brides I have worked with have been wonderful and appreciative. I love to present the bouquet to the bride. I want to be her personal connection with the flowers. When the bride says, ‘It’s what I imagined,’ it makes me float!”
Visit her website at
beaumont-house.com or call 703-801-3529; studio hours by appointment.
Story and photos by Claire Stuart
In Colonial America and during the settlement of the west, “the blacksmith shop was the hardware store of the day,” says blacksmith Phil Travis, who teaches a series of classes in this vital traditional craft. He explains that the town blacksmith made all the essential tools (and tools for making tools) for home and farm, from nails and hinges to shovels, axes, forks, pots and pans.
To 21st Century eyes, the most amazing thing about blacksmithing is that all of these things can be made using only a forge, an anvil, and a hammer. Tongs are useful for holding metal stock, but not essential.
Movies usually show the blacksmith at a huge brick forge, often making horseshoes. Travis explains that farriers are another type of blacksmith, and they specialize in not just making horseshoes but also caring for the horses’ hooves. If a blacksmith was the only metalworker in town, he would be making all of the implements and hardware, and horseshoes would be a very small part of his business. If the town was large enough, there was a blacksmith and a farrier.
The big brick forge in the movies also isn’t necessarily typical. Forges come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Travis conducts his classes at forges that are about the size of a backyard grill. The forge is a very simple invention, requiring only a firepot to hold fuel and a source of air that is forced through to make the fire burn hotter.
Travis uses a coal burner and an electric fan, but explains that in third-world countries, blacksmiths use whatever fuel they have — be it charcoal, wood, or animal dung. The firepot can even be just a hole in the ground to contain the fuel and a way to blow air through it. For air, they might use a child blowing into a tube or operating a simple bellows made from animal skin.
Of course, nails were essential for early settlers, and Travis says that they were frequently made in the home. Mothers and children would make them during winter in the hearth fire. Often they would make enough to sell for extra cash, just as farm women sold butter and eggs.
Forging differs from other types of metal work because forging does not remove any of the metal. Travis explains that all blacksmithing is based on one or a series of just five processes. “Drawing” is thinning or lengthening a metal rod by heating and hammering it. “Upsetting” is shortening and thickening it by heating it and hammering in at the end of the rod. Then there is cutting (punching holes), bending, and forge welding (which joins two pieces of hot metal by hammering them together).
Blacksmiths generally work in dim light so that they can see the color of the metal being heated, which is essential to the process. As it heats up, the metal goes from dark gray through shades of red, orange, yellow and white. Golden yellow is the ideal color, and white is too hot, causing oxidation and flying sparks.
Travis has been interested in blacksmithing since he was about ten years old. As a teenager, he made a forge out of a hibachi grill. He recalls forging arrowheads out of 16-penny nails. He learned his skills by reading about blacksmithing and taking classes. In 1989, he took a class at the John Campbell Folk School in North Carolina with noted seventh generation blacksmith Daniel Boone VII, descendant of THE Daniel Boone.
Retired as an electrician and project manager with Xerox, Travis says he doesn’t call himself a professional blacksmith, but rather an enthusiast and hobbyist. He has participated in French-Indian War and Revolutionary War living history demonstrations, Shenandoah Longrifles and other events. He used to camp at the Belle Grove Plantation and he rebuilt the forge there, and he demonstrates at Sky Meadows State Park. He enjoys going to blacksmith “hammer-ins” and meeting people in the blacksmith community, who he describes as having “old American-style ethics.”
He has been teaching since 2011, and his classes are open to anyone age 16 and up. He says his students have included teens and seniors, men and women, office workers and construction workers, jewelry makers and artisans who want to make specialized tools for their craft.
“They can make a tool and then use the tool,” he says.
In his first class this year, Travis taught students to work with a coal forge, hammer and anvil to make wall hooks, nails, punches for metal work and several types of tongs. The punches made by the students were used to make holes for inserting nails to hold the two arms of the tongs together. It was interesting to see how many steps were necessary to make a small steel bar into a simple hook.
Student Jay Quintin was taking his second class with Travis. He said that he grew up on a farm and his father did blacksmithing to maintain equipment. He is trying to set up his own shop. “I make stuff like hooks and nails and give it away,” he laughed.
David Patton was taking his first blacksmithing class. He, too, says he likes to “make stuff,” especially “old school stuff” and also plans to have a small forge.
Travis recycles discarded metal and gives it new life. He indicated some pieces used in the class made from coil springs and a hammer he made out of a truck axel.
He notes that several popular old sayings came directly from blacksmithing, including “dead as a doornail,” “Strike when the iron is hot,” and “too many irons in the fire.”
Travis will teach two-day blacksmithing classes on several weekends from April through July and one five-day class. Absolute beginners are welcome in all classes and will learn to make items like bar-b-que tools, hammers, colonial boot scrapers, shelf brackets, and custom tools.
All classes are held at Opus Oaks Art Place, 2330 Crums Church Road in Berryville. For dates and details, e-mail email@example.com or call 540-539-6685.
By Patrick Blood
Well, it’s April and we’re finally into spring. No, seriously, I jest you not; spring is here!
If you’re able to look out your window while you read this and see some remnants of a snow mound—the one you’ve seen for at least two months—and you don’t believe me, you need merely look towards the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C., where cherry blossoms will bloom at their fullest between April 8 and 12 this year. That’s your sure-fire indicator that we’ve rounded the equinox.
What does spring mean in Real Estate World? It means hibernation has ended, people are beginning to walk out of their caves and bathe in the sunlight, getting re-motivated to do things like look for new homes and consider putting their homes on the market. If you’re one of those thinking of selling a home, now is a good time to size up what you need to do.
There’s a weird psychological thing that happens when people go house hunting. The condition of the house when the buyer sees it becomes, in their mind, the permanent condition of the house. So, if a buyer walks in to a sparkling tidy home they will subconsciously think “Wow, I’ll be so organized.” Conversely if they walk in to a home that is cluttered and messy, they’ll think, “Ugh, I’ll have to clean all the time.” Of course, this doesn’t make logical sense. Buyers do know that there’s no such thing as a magically clean house. Still, knowing how to prepare your house so that it appeals to the buyers’ subconscious experience can make all the difference.
Here are 5 tips for preparing your home for sale.
#1: Prepare your home for pics
It is like school picture day . . . for your house. Buyers are finding their houses online, which means having the house looking appealing on the web will reduce its time on the market. It doesn’t have to “be” neat and tidy, it just has to “look” neat and tidy when the shutter snaps.
#2: Little Things count big time
It may cost you a trip to Home Depot and a weekend of your time, but taking care of the little things will pay for itself many times over when the offers come in. Pressure wash and seal that deck, mulch that garden, replace the 1980s hardware on the cabinets, replace those dead bushes. These are some of the details all buyers will notice—in their minds they’ll be thinking of all the things they’ll have to do if they buy your house.
#3: Be relevant to the buyer
We recently went to an open house and saw, sitting smack in middle of the living room, a wheelchair and some geriatrics equipment. Now, you tell me: is that how to prepare your home for sale? Nuh-uh. The golden rule for preparing your home is to appeal to buyers. Since you don’t know if your buyer will end up being an elderly couple, a young family, or a single professional, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take down your child’s art, put away grandma’s oxygen tank, and replace those leopard print satin sheets with something, um . . . neutral. Just sayin’.
#4: Say buh-bye to tenants
An important tip for how to prepare your home for sale is to avoid having a tenant stretched out on your couch eating a bag of Cheetos during showings. I tease, but truly, unless you have an extremely cooperative tenant, it is a good idea to be renter-free before you list. Keep in mind, when your house sells, your tenant loses their home, so it is not in their best interest to tiptoe around to help you sell faster. A little rental income is not worth losing your sale altogether.
#5: Stage Or Sparkle It
For vacant houses, a couple of towels in the bathrooms, or a bowl of fruit and some cookbooks in the kitchen can bring it from looking barren to having a feeling of home. Although more common in markets like DC, a professional staging is often a worthwhile investment, particularly if you’re about to put a heavyweight home on the market—or if you’re out to demand a higher than average price for your home. We have worked with stagers in the area that can do a wonderful job at this, too.
Patrick Blood is senior partner at Blackwell Property Management and Real Estate Services. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit blackwellpropertymanagement.com.