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Forget Black Friday…Shop Small Business Saturday

Small business Saturday is this weekend, just after the insane rush of Black Friday. Skip fighting the crowds and buy local.

Why? Because it puts your money back into your community. It supports your neighborly entrepreneurs. And because you can only find unique, one-of-a-kind gifts from small shops.

Our area is full of interesting places to browse and buy. In fact, 90% or more of West Virginia’s businesses are small and locally-managed.

Southern WV has a smorgasbord of specialty shops to support this Small Business Saturday, here are just a few from our list:

Gauley River Pottery

Not only does Gauley River Pottery have a full range of ceramic gifts on the shelves, Mary Bethune and John Ackison, the owners

Gauley River Pottery

Gauley River Potterygifts on the shelves, Mary Bethune and John Ackison, the owners

and artists, create more pieces daily in the shop. Visitors can
watch the process.

“They can see it go from a lump of clay to art,” Bethune said.
“Not a lot of people get to see pottery ring made anymore. The
traditional arts are becoming lost arts.”

The pair have been molding mugs, serveware and dishes,
ornamental fish and birds, wave bowls and more for 20 years at the shop and studio.

“They’re all decorative, but everything we do is functional as well,” she said. “We use a lot of greens, and a sort of runny blue-green. But we have a lot of solid colors to go with anything.”

In addition to an array of great gifts that grows each day, including many for $25 or less, Gauley River Pottery creates custom works. It takes about a month to complete a custom piece, so Bethune said there was still time to get orders in for the holidays.

The Cheese N More Store in Monroe

From food to furniture, the Cheese N More Store is full of  homemade treasures.

The shelves are stocked with top-quality spices, savory lunch meats and an assortment of fine cheeses. You can stop in for a fresh sandwich, or take home jams, relishes and candy. You can even try a handmade pepperoni roll, a WV favorite.

After  you’re full, there’s more to explore in the shop. Handcrafted lawn furniture and gazebos are among the artisan works.

The drive in, scenic and beautiful, is part of the experience, as is the friendly, attentive staff, who will help you find the perfect gifts.

Harmony Ridge Gallery in Greenbrier County

Walk into Harmony Ridge Gallery, and you’ll be immediately

Harmony Ridge Gallery

Harmony Ridge Gallery

struck by the diverse and unique selection, from towering
re-purposed metal sculptures to quirky layered clocks.

“Everything we sell is made by people, not companies,” said
Aaron Maxwell. “Our business is about people. People making
things. With small businesses like ours, you find unique items
that are special.”

The award-winning, American-made only gallery was named the top
large gallery by Niche in 2011 for curating such an interesting
and diverse selection of handcrafted pieces.

Other items you might find as you stroll the 4,000 square feet
of artistic display are jewelry, ceramics, authentic Blenko
glass, artisan purses, and toys for children, which Maxwell said
it can be difficult to find American-made.

“We’ve been in Lewisburg for 9 years, and we pride ourselves on the fact that if someone wants to buy handcrafted American goods, whether they have $2 or $200, they can find it here,” he said.

For the holidays, they’re offering complimentary gift wrap, and serving up hot cider to sip while you shop, from their in-house coffee boutique and wine bar.

Wisteria’s Gifts in Fayetteville, WV

Find the gifts you seek with a Southern twist. Wisteria carries internationally-renowned brands like Pandora, Vera Bradley and Glory Haus alongside locally-made crafts from WV Grown, Fenton Glass and others.

From limited edition brand names to one-of-a-kind local woks, Wisteria’s Gifts is packed with unique items to browse.

You can also look through a hand-selected offering of antiques, prized pieces of the past, handed through generations, with stories to tell and more memories to share.

Dazzle someone with specialty jewelry, or surprise them with a lovely local work from Wisteria’s.

The Otter & Oak General Store & Art Gallery in Hinton, WV

In a renovated building standing since 1906, the self proclaimed

Otter and Oak, Hinton, WV

Otter and Oak, Hinton, WV

“not-so-general store” at Otter & Oak has a full local art
gallery upstairs, which overlooks the little-bit-of-everything
shopping selections below.

You can find boldly flavored local foods, artisan pottery,  durable outdoor gear, handmade soaps, Snoozies slippers and apparel… a sampling of quality finds of all sorts.

The shop caters to local crafters, with soaps, eyewear, cards, clothing and more from artists nearby.

“If people support these smaller businesses in town, the town itself will prosper and grow,” said Linda Seldomidge. “People will want to move in and visit, and it will make Hinton a better place to live.”

Seldomidge noted that some of her favorite holiday gifts at the shop were the ones that keep you cozy for winter: the locally-made texting gloves that allow people to use their phones while keeping their hands warm, and the Snoozies slippers. She also said the all-natural soy and beeswax candles were popular around the holidays.

& more

There are hundreds more unique, small shops to support this Saturday. Coffee Beans & Books in Beaver will have discounts all day long. The Beckley Art group will be bringing together independent local artisans for a Gift Fair at the Cynthia Bickey Gallery, which will run through Saturday.

If you look at the official Small Business Saturday map, you’ll can find shops near you. If you register your American Express card and purchase $10 or more at a participating small business, you can get $10 back.

Stop in somewhere local, and tell us about your unique finds.

Who are you supporting this Small Business Saturday?

Start Your Holiday Shopping Now: Gifts Made In West Virginia Are Perfect for Everyone

The holiday shopping season has arrived, and the next few weeks are all about finding gifts for everyone on your list. No matter how long or short your list may be, finding the right gift can sometimes be tough. We’ve got the solution for you, though. Give gifts made right here in West Virginia.

Grandma’s House in Hinton, West Virginia

This state is full of talented folks who create special, unique products. What could make a better holiday gift than a handcrafted West Virginia made item? Here are some items to look for.

Pottery
Pottery can be a very special gift. Each piece of handmade pottery is unique in its own way; no two pieces will ever be identical. Mugs, bowls, plates, vases and so many other creative pieces can be found at shops throughout the local area. Gauley River Pottery in Lookout is one place to find great pottery pieces and supplies.

Jewelry
Jewelry is another item that makes a great gift. Handmade necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings can bring great joy to that special someone when they realize you got them a unique, one-of-a kind piece. Harmony Ridge Gallery in Lewisburg has a great collection of handmade jewelry as well as many other handcrafted offerings.

Other WV gifts
There are so many great local craftspeople creating items that would make wonderful gifts. From hand-blown glass and paintings to homemade food products and sculptures, local artisans pour their creativity and skill into these gifts. Check out our shopping page for a list of places to find great WV gifts.

Tamarack

Gauley River Pottery

This is your can’t-miss holiday shopping spot in southern West Virginia. All of the artisans that sell at Tamarack have been specially selected, so you know you’re getting some of the best of West Virginia. This place literally houses thousands of hand made items, from specialty foods to hand blown glass. You’ll find an amazing assortment of art, ceramics, textiles, ironwork, books, music, and more. Plan to spend a couple of hours browsing here, and have lunch at the on-site café.

Are you shopping for locally-made gifts on Small Business Saturday? What WV made item would you suggest to a visitor? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Where The Locals Go-Fayette County, Part Two. . .

Where The Locals Go- Fayette County, Part Two

With so many cool and unique places in southern WV, its hard to mention all of the area’s great sites and places in a single blog. So, take a look at Part Two of where the locals like to go in Fayette County.

Exploring Fayette County, WV

To See

In addition to the places we featured last week, there are many other cool things to see in Fayette County. Here’s a list that highlights some local favorites you should think about visiting.

* Kanawha Falls- This river-wide waterfall is on the Kanawha River just downstream of the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers. It’s a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the river, and is also a favorite among local fishermen.
* Babcock State Park- Complete with an old grist mill, lots of rental cabins, trails, and overlooks, this area attracts locals who like to fish and hike with their families.
* Plum Orchard Wildlife Management Area - Tucked away in a hollow just a couple miles off I-77, this park has great hunting, fishing and primitive camping areas that locals really take advantage of.
*Long Point Trail – A local favorite for hiking, due to the gentle nature of its terrain and gorgeous view of the New River Gorge Bridge. At 3.2 miles ’roundtrip’, you can hike Long Point in as little as an hour or explore its multiple side trails and extend the hike according to your schedule.

To Go

After you’ve seen some of Fayette County’s natural beauty you may want to grab a burger, a beer, or a unique local craft. These next places are some local favorites to do just that.

* Studio B Gallery and Gifts- With a great selection pottery, glass, handmade jewelry and other items, this little shop is a locals favorite. They also have an extensive wine and beer inventory, including ales from local craft brewers, Bridge Brew Works.

*Midland Trail Gallery - Did we mention artwork? This gallery, located on Rt 60, is  owned and operated by a local artisan and features unique sculptures, paintings and more.

* Wisteria’s Gifts – This great little local shop is located in downtown Fayetteville.  They have WV Fenton Glass and WV crafts and pottery. They also carry a lot specialty jewelry and name brand gift items from Vera Bradley, Clothique, and others.
* Wild Flour Bakery – Who says former raft guides can’t make good bakers? This locally owned bakery in Fayetteville is a great place for breads, cookies, cakes and just about any other kind of baked good you crave.
* Elliots Whitewater Bar and Grill- Located in the Quality Inn at Laurel Creek Road, this is a local hangout for sure. If it’s an ice cold beer or a good burger you’re looking for, this place will fit the bill.
* Gumbos – This is Fayetteville’s Cajun and Creole style eatery. It’s a quaint little joint that has the most unique menu in town. Locals also like the cozy atmosphere.

What else would you add to this list?

20 Reasons Why Tamarack Really IS The Best Of West Virginia

Anyone who’s driven through southern West Virginia has seen it.  That red roofed round-about building that kind of looks like a landing spot for when the mother ship comes to down to get us.

Or maybe it’s a crown.  Or a flower.

Tamarack at Night

Actually, when viewed from above, the Tamarack building itself is a structured representation of its own logo, a geometric design within an invisible quilt square. It’s a beautiful work in and of itself. Inside the building, though, is what really matters.

Here are 20 reasons why Tamarack is always worth a visit:

1.    Tamarack houses art from all 55 counties in West Virginia.
2.    The Greenbrier Resort runs the kitchen, which means you’re walking in to pretty much the greatest cafeteria that’s ever existed.
3.    There are artisan made foods, candy, jellies, and sauces from all around the state.
4.    There is an information desk to answer questions right as you walk in (brilliant!)
5.    There’s live music, for free, almost every week.
6.    Kids like the small playground on the south side of the building (where they can’t break anything).
7.    Music from all over the Mountain State is for sale.
8.    Also, handmade instruments of all kinds are for sale.
9.    They have a ton of books written by, for, and about West Virginians.
10.     There’s a pretty good selection of out-of-the-ordinary WVU and Marshal items.
11.     Tamarack has a large and extensive gallery of fine art, if that’s your thing, if it’s not,  after visiting the gallery it will be.
12.     The glass objects section is easy to spend money in.
13.     You’ll see some of the most amazing woodwork of your life.
14.     Toys have their own section; all of them are handcrafted.
15.     If you find the perfect WV keepsake and can’t take it with you – they’ll ship it to you.
16.     The conference space is beautiful & well equipped, large enough to host nearly any event.
17.     The theater screens movies and slideshows from around the state.
18.     It’s the perfect (only?) place for eating ice cream while looking at art.
19.     It’s round, so once you look at everything, you’re back where you started.
20.     It’s a showcase of the art, music, dance, flavor, tradition, and pride that makes West Virginia wonderful.

The 15 Most Romantic Things About Southern West Virginia

Well, there’s almost no end to the romance when it comes to our particular spot here in the heart (get it?) of the Appalachians.

Scenic Winter View of the New River Gorge

Here’s a list of 15 things that are sure to get your baby to cuddle right up and give you a smooch.  If you’re lucky.

  • Cabin Getaways. A log on the fire, no phone, and no distractions.
  • Scenic Drives.  Driving slow up a winding road, with no particular place to go.
  • A Walk In The Woods. You have to bundle up, but oh-so-nice.
  • The Spa Treatment. You know it can’t last forever, but you can enjoy it while it does.
  • Historic HousesBed and Breakfasts offer those perfect romantic mini-vacations.
  • Casino Nights. Invite a little luck into your night out and win big.
  • Art and More. West Virginia is a showcase for art, and gallery openings can be as romantic as it gets.
  • Scenic Overlooks. With as many mountains as we have, it’s not hard to find the perfect spot.
  • Romantic AdventuresSkiing and snowboarding and tubing are a great way to find a little active romance.
  • Shopping Sprees. You don’t have to spend every dime to find that     perfect something special together.
  • Libraries.  No joke.  It’s a little known fact that bookworms are some of the most passionate Mountaineers.
  • Sports.  Between the Mountaineers, the Herd, and the West Virginia Blazers, it’s not hard to find a dinner-and-b-ball date to take a date.
  • Winter Camping. It’s not for everyone, but couples who camp in the winter have the outdoors to themselves, and, of course, you do have to keep warm.
  • Live Music.  West Virginia’s live music scene is small but vibrant, great for a date.
  • Moving.  One of the most passionate things anyone will ever do is move to southern West Virginia.   We call it wild and wonderful for a reason, and it’s a great place to share for a lifetime.  What’s more romantic than that?

Last Minute West Virginia Gifts

We know that a lot of you have waited until the last minute to grab those stocking stuffers and little gifts for Christmas this year.

Southern WV Gift Certificate Tree for the United Way

Southern WV Gift Certificate Tree for the United Way

Here’s a list of 20 great last minute ideas…

-Beautiful, inspired pottery from Guided Clay in the Oak Hill area.  Potter Andy Pense is a true master.

-Tickets for a show at the incredible, must-be-seen-to-be-believed Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton. All kinds of national touring musicians and plays come to the center, and it’s a great way to get out and enjoy some WV culture.

-Unique, delicious “coal cookies” from the salsa masters at Blue Smoke Salsa in Ansted (not to mention all the other great tasting stuff there, as well as arts and crafts)

-Handmade jewelry and hard to find fashion, as well as gourmet coffee and great whole deserts to go at Cathedral Café in Fayetteville.

-Local wine from local vineyards at Daniel Vineyards, right in Crab Orchard. A couple bottles from Daniel is enough to make any holiday party just a little more festive.

-Christmas plants, flowers and gifts from Bessie’s Floral Designs in Oak Hill. The flowers here are the real draw, with some amazing Christmas arrangements.

-Holiday books, art, and coffee from Taylor Books in Charleston. We’re going to go ahead and say that it’s southern WV because it’s such a cool place.

-Spirits for the spirit of Christmas at the Isaiah Morgan Distillery just outside of Summersville. This is WV’s first mini distillery, and is home to some unique and fiery gifts

-Tickets for a show at the amazing Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg. The hall is a great way to spend an evening in one of the best mountain towns in West Virginia.

-Amazing handmade pottery north of the New River Gorge Bridge at Gauley River Pottery. Artist Mary Bethune has a signature style that’s attractive and fun.

-A relaxing stay in one of southern WV’s cozy, luxurious cabins. Being Christmas, it’s hard to go wrong with a little break from the outside world.

-Award winning wines, right off the vines outside of Lewisburg from Watt’s Roost Vineyard. If there’s a perfect gift for the holidays, a bottle of wine from Watt’s Roost might just be it

-And of course, the best of West Virginia is all at The Tamarack. Everyone knows about the arts and crafts there, but there are great foodie gifts there, too. Some of those jams and preserves are not to be missed, especially during the holidays.

A Southern West Virginia Night-Before-Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas in southern WV
And all through the mountains, folks snoozed peacefully

Appalachian Coaltown Christmas

Appalachian Coaltown Christmas

The wood smoke rose up from the hollers in puffs
And old dogs everywhere sat back on their duffs

There was silence in Hinton, no trains rumbling by
No lights to blur out all the stars in the sky

It was peaceful and quiet along the Greenbrier
The picturesque river valley in winter attire

And from over along the Hatfield-McCoy Trail
There were no ATVs, just sleeping whitetails

Even in Beckley, the south’s biggest town
The streets were all hushed; there was no one around

When from over the treetops, what did appear?
It was Santa’s  sleigh, come to spread Christmas cheer

Santa said, “Here I am!  Hello, West Virginia!
I’m always my happiest when travellin’ within ya!”

“I’ve come far and wide, up holler and ridge
And I just flew right under the New River Gorge Bridge!”

And people came out of their cabins to see
The great jolly man who was shouting with glee.

“I brought you all presents,” he said to great cheers.
“I want to thank all of you good Mountaineers!”

“I have art from Lewisburg, and crafts from the Gauley,
Gift Certificates that everyone in the family will love, prob’ly!”

Cabins to rent, golf to be played,
Stays in places you’ll want to have stayed!”

“The world’s greatest adventure vacations, I’m crafting,
and did I mention last summer I went whitewater rafting?”

Then he waved to all the good people down low
Who were looking up skyward from their warm winter homes

And he jingled his sled toward the full moon so bright,
“Merry Christmas to Y’all, and to y’all, a good night!”

Things We Have To Be Thankful For In Southern West Virginia

In no particular order…

25. All of our state parks and forests (12 total!)

New River Gorge Bridge View

New River Gorge Bridge View

24. Theatre West Virginia
23. The history and heritage of the southern West Virginia mountains
22. Being right in the eastern flyway for migratory birds
21. The State Fair every year in Lewisburg
20. The Gauley River National Recreation Area
19. Some of the best traditional mountain music ever heard by human ears
18. Delicious local wine made right here in southern West Virginia
17. Mountaineers/Thundering Herd (tie)
16. Skiing, snowboarding, and the state’s best snow tubing
15. The incredible New River Gorge National Park
14. Great food and local cuisine
13. 3 minor league baseball teams and professional basketball
12. Internationally known ATV trails at Hatfield and McCoy and Burning Rock
11. Golf resorts to rival some of the best courses anywhere
10. Tamarack, our showcase for West Virginia artisans
9. The world’s best whitewater
8. Wonderful lodges at Pipestem Resort
7. Cabins in some of the most scenic places in the Appalachian Mountains
6. Hiking in some of the oldest, most beautiful spots on earth
5. Being a world class rock climbing destination
4. State-record fishing
3. Shopping and antiques in every corner of southern West Virginia
2. The pride that comes with having more men and women serving in the military than any other state
1. A home that we’re always happy to share with family, friends, and visitors

And there are so many more.  What are you thankful for this year?

What’s The Big Deal With The New River Gorge?

Fayette County, West Virginia has a secret.  It’s one of the world’s oldest places.  And that’s mainly due to the New River Gorge.

Sight-seeing in the New River Gorge

Sight-seeing in the New River Gorge

How do we know?  Read on…

Back before it was called Fayette County, about 500 million years ago, the New River Gorge drained the entire Appalachian Mountain Range, a lot like an ancient Mississippi river.  Everything that wasn’t under water or under ice drained into the New.

Fast forward to right now.  The New still cuts it’s same path down through the same ancient rock, but now you can visit without getting eaten by a T-Rex or a giant carnivorous slug.

In fact, Fayette County is a getaway destination for people all over the world.  The river and it’s shockingly good whitewater are the big draw, but there’s a lot more to see than just the “Grand Canyon Of the East”.  Fayco, as the locals call it, is a pretty big deal.

Eats
The area definitely benefits from having so many people from so many different places come in to visit.  That fact alone turns a lot of the fare from “food” into “cuisine”, without necessarily jacking the prices way up.

The result?  Great food just about anywhere you go around the gorge.   And it’s authentic.  Real Central American food that goes way beyond typical Mexican dishes, or the best Cajun broil outside of Louisiana. Sammies and salads, breakfast cafes, and just about anything else you’d like to scarf down is ready and available.

Shops
The New River Gorge is the place you want to go to find the otherwise unfindable.  From fine art to folk crafts, there are plenty of shops around the gorge to let your shopping bug run wild.

One place visitors might not expect to find good shopping is at the local whitewater outfitters shops.  These stores usually carry items that outshine the typical “T-shirts and Shot Glasses” inventory of most gift shops.  Oh, they carry that stuff, too, but you’re just as likely to find prints and other art that shows off the soul of the river.  They’re well worth checking out.

See And Do
The name of the game in Fayette County is white water rafting in the New River Gorge and on the Gauley River.  These rivers are the standards by which all others in the Appalachian Mountains are judged.  If you like doing stuff outside, it has to be on your list.

Here’s what you need to know about white water rafting:  it’s fun.  That’s it.  Everything else is just details.  The trips are easy to arrange, and the outfitters, no matter which one you choose, can pretty much take care of everything you need for your whole stay.   Just know that you can do super-adrenaline rafting trips, and lazy river kiddie trips, all with the same outfitter.

Then, there’s all the other stuff.  It’s pretty much a smorgasboard of outdoor bliss; anything you want to do outside, you can do in the gorge.  And the coolest part is, you get a local expert along for the ride.  Another cool part is that it’s not an amusement Park, and these aren’t rides.  This is the real deal- outdoor adventure that people can actually go and do on a vacation.

Other Stuff
Fayette County is also a good place for history buffs.  Civil war reenactments, interpretive natural history hikes, and plenty of old-timers who’ll tell you about growing up in the coal camps of the New River Gorge (that last one is my personal favorite) are all worth a visit.

Fayette county also has a vibrant music scene.  Again, this has a lot to do with the rafting companies, but there’s always live music somewhere to be seen out and about in the Gorge.

And that’s why Fayette County is a big deal.  There is quite literally always something to do, along with great places to stay, fine food, and friendly people.  There’s a lot to experience up in the New River Gorge, so make sure that you check it out when you visit southern West Virginia.

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