Cottage Crafts opens at farmers' market

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Need a handcrafted birdhouse, a fall wreath, dog biscuits, a rack puller with "Hillsville, Va." inscribed on it, or a started tomato plant (in season)?

SWVTC Cottage Crafts, the newest vendor at the Southwest Virginia Farmers' Market, has all those items and others, and all at a reasonable price.

The booth arises as a logical extension of work projects involving residents of Southwest Virginia Training Center, said vocational instructor Lee Beeman.

High-demand projects so far have included cottages making dog treats, growing vegetables and flowers and house plants in a greenhouse on campus and building broccoli boxes for the farmers' market.

Training center staff looked at storefronts in Hillsville and Galax to open a shop, but there were many building requirements to take into consideration, Beeman said. The place that most closely matched the needs for accessibility and safety systems was the farmers' market.

Plus, the market near the Interstate 77 and U.S. 58 interchange gets a high volume of traffic, even tour buses, for harvests coming in and the onset of fall colors just around the corner.

And the place has affordable rent for the booth in the northeast corner of the retail building alongside the Brady and Myers produce stands.

The hand-made items and gifts of Cottage Crafts seem to go over well with visitors.

Training Center activity specialist Lisha Reynolds, who's the coordinator for the new shop, expressed surprise that the new booth has quickly sold 25 oven rack pullers.

"A lot of them are buying them as souvenirs, because it has Hillsville, Va., on it," she thinks.

Cottage Crafts gives pet owners another location to pick up dog treats made by residents.

"People seek us out for our dog bones," Beeman said.

There's a great variety of projects that the crafters take on, such as small tables, wooden cutting boards, tie-dye T-shirts and decorated sweatshirts, Christmas ornaments, pin-free photo boards, greeting cards for all occasions, totes, decorative bows, fire logs, gardening knee pads, wooden address signs and necklaces.

Residents help staff the booth with Reynolds and work on projects at the same time.

They like doing the projects — especially seeing the results on payday, Beeman said.

As long as Cottage Crafts brings in enough revenue from sales to cover the cost of supplies and makes the rent and pays the workers, it makes the effort rewarding for everyone involved

And she thinks that's an obtainable goal, because early sales have exceeded expectations.

"It's just a great thing — they're productive, they're busy, they're doing something, they're out in the community," Beeman said.

This will also foster understanding in the community, said volunteer coordinator Abby Adkins. It will give people the opportunity to interact with residents of the training center and realize they are all individuals.

Market manger Kevin Semones has been fantastic in his assistance with the project, Beeman said, and other vendors have gone out of their way to give advice on setup of the booth and their displays.

The Bradys will come over and say hello, meet new staffers and sometimes slip them a healthy snack of an apple or a banana, she added.

Beeman's enthusiastic about Cottage Crafts as a continuing project.

"We're going to be here a long time — I want to be here forever," she said. "I would really love to see it go and just take off. It's really cool to see them interact with the community."

• SWVTC Cottage Crafts at the farmers' market has hours of Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.