Ever wonder how a dying town finds a new lease on life? How boarded up buildings become bastions for new businesses? How small rural communities can educate youth while empowering them to improve their hometowns? If so, you’re going to love meeting these Possibilitarians. They embrace bold ideas with purposeful action and inspire and mobilize others to do the same. They focus on solutions instead of problems. They think positively and act with passion. They turn possibilities into realities.
“I’m a son of West Virginia—born in Huntington and attended grade school in West Charleston. In 2008, Beth and I retired and moved to Capon Bridge after 25 years in Arlington, Virginia. My first entry into small-town development was when I purchased and renovated an old building that was once a Big T burger joint. My daughter Kate and her husband Pete Pacelli, who is a butcher, were living in North Carolina and looking to start their own business, and I suggested that they come to Capon Bridge and look at the building. Although Hampshire County is in the top five agricultural counties in West Virginia, Capon Bridge was a fresh food desert. They took the leap and opened the Farmer’s Daughter Market and Butcher, a whole animal butcher and locally sourced grocery. It wasn’t easy, but they made it work through grit, hard work, and creative vision.
This got me thinking: What other buildings in town were in distress? And could we take an old building, fix it up, and then match it with a young person? Our next project was The River House, a nonprofit, community-based arts and music venue. It was a grassroots movement. I provided the building, local contractors and volunteers donated time and materials to renovate it, and Johanna Murray and Mike Everson oversaw the concept and program creation.
It became a formula: Take an old building and put a young person in it. My third project was The Cat and the Fiddle, a private music school that teaches traditional music. I built it and sold it to Dakota and Richard Karper, and they live above the studio. People come from all over for lessons, and they now employ half a dozen local musicians as teachers. Next I renovated a dilapidated warehouse into an art studio and apartment and sold it to another young person. Now other young people like Logan and Daniel Mantz are coming back and rolling up their sleeves and renovating historic structures in town. This town has forward momentum!
There wasn’t a master plan; one thing just led to the next. We are creating a future built around young people and the assets the area has always been known for—art, music, farming, and outdoor recreation. We are giving them opportunities to see a future here in the state so they don’t leave. It’s kind of like missionary work, taking our assets and capitalizing on them. It’s exciting, but in order to be successful you need a critical mass of 20-to-30-somethings. If you are the only young person and all you see are gray-hairs or no-hairs around you, you may feel out of place. Here, many people are younger—some are West Virginian by birth and some by choice—and they are finding each other. They’ve learned that, in West Virginia, individually you can make great change without mortgaging your entire financial future.
It isn’t about me. It’s about us. I’m just a cheerleader. The hard work is being done by the young entrepreneurs who are bringing new ideas and creating and maintaining new small businesses. I feel like I’m passing the torch to the next generation, who are seeing opportunities to propel us forward. And that’s incredible to watch.
Farmer’s Daughter Market & Butcher—Best Burger—Best of West Virginia 2021
FARMER’S DAUGHTER MARKET & BUTCHER—BEST BURGER—BEST OF WEST VIRGINIA 2020
READ MORE ARTICLES FROM WV LIVING’S SPRING 2022 ISSUE
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