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As sales slowed and fewer customers trickled in, Rooftop of Virginia management came close to shutting down its craft shop.
But when a new committee took on the job of creating a business plan, the craft shop reopened last month after being closed for six months.
Rooftop’s craft shop, which opened more than 40 years ago, will be returning to its original vision — to give people in the community the opportunity to display and sell their made-from-scratch items.
The craft shop in an old church on North Main Street in downtown Galax sells on consignment handmade items such as quilts, baby clothes, toys and dolls, crocheted items, Christmas ornaments, homemade soaps, furniture, pottery, jams, pickles, CDs and books — all illustrating the diverse talents of local artisans.
The committee consisted of Laura Romanowksi, director of the Twin County Arts Council; Judy Brannock, director of the Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce; Ray Kohl, Galax tourism director; Chris Thompson, director of Rooftop; and Jill Burcham, director of P.U.S.H. Ministries.
“The task force saw the potential and convinced Rooftop to remain open,” said Burcham, who oversees the operation of the craft shop on a completely volunteer basis. “After the first of the year, the task force began putting the store back together.”
The Rooftop board of directors was supportive of the efforts, she said.
Before, vendors from all over the country could bring in just about anything to sell. The new strategy is basically the original strategy for the shop — to have only local items that are handmade right from the beginning, such as crocheted blankets, birdhouses, baby clothes and breads made from scratch.
“We have a lot of great ideas for the future,” said Thompson. “We’re very excited, and we’ve got the perfect players in place to provide the quality that we need.”
The task force has now established a set of rules for vendors, and each item that comes through the craft shop is reviewed by the committee to ensure that it reflects the talents of this region.
Burcham said when the task force began implementing a new strategy, it returned items back to vendors. The items that weren’t picked up by vendors were sold at a reduced price.
The money made from those items not picked up will go toward renovating the craft shop, repairing the leaky ceiling and fixing the carpet.
“The new strategy is giving credibility back to the craft shop,” said Burcham. “The original purpose of the craft shop was to help people who had the gift of making handmade items but didn’t have the outlet to sell their works.”
Burcham said the craft shop had to either close or restructure, because it just wasn’t successful.
“Many customers want quality items that reflect the heritage of the community,” said Burcham. “We had gotten away from that.”
Besides bringing in all new items, the craft shop is operated on a volunteer schedule, with some help from the Senior Community Service Employment Program sponsored by Goodwill, which puts seniors back to work; and AmeriCorps, which helps put single moms back into the workforce.
Since reopening last month with many new items, Burcham has seen more visitors from out of the area, rather than local customers.
“Some say, ‘Several years ago, I bought the most beautiful blanket here, and I still have it,’” said Burcham. “People remember those type of products.
“One family from the midwest, who had family in this area, recently purchased a piece of pottery and Christmas decorations. They wanted traditional crafts that they could pass down through the family.”
While some old items are still left, Burcham said that by the time of the annual Old Fiddlers’ Convention in August, more than half of the store will be new items.
For now, handmade quilts that have remained at the store for months and normally go for $200-$400 are being sold for $20-$60.
Many of the crafters are seniors. They use the money from the items sold to pay bills.
“One 87-year-old said that the craft shop gave her purpose,” said Burcham. “She lives by herself and has no family. Crocheting blankets gives her a reason to get up in the morning, and she thinks about the people that might be happy with the purchase of the blanket.”
During the second week in January, Rooftop will close for a couple of weeks to renovate and make repairs.
Rooftop of Virginia is taking applications for new and former vendors.
• The craft shop is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., with special hours during downtown events. For more information or to fill out an application, call Rooftop at 236-7131. Rooftop is located at 206 N. Main St. in Galax.