by Kathy Johnson
In the year since the Rockfish Valley Community Center took ownership of the retired schoolhouse it operates in, the building has blossomed into a mini-mall-like structure with a variety of shops, classes, and businesses inside. While the 1938 schoolhouse still shows signs of age, there’s life in the old girl yet.
New banners hang above each shop or business entrance and the building, once occupied by three or four businesses plus the Hamner Theater, is now fully occupied with yoga classes, behind-the-wheel driving instructions, a rock shop, boutique, Tae Kwan Do, dance classes, deep tissue and Swedish massage, custom clothing, a senior center, thrift shop, the Friday Café, Habitat for Humanity and several artists in different mediums.
RVCC President Sarah Jane Stewart is enthusiastic about the progress that’s been made. “We want the community to know we have a great facility here,” she said.
Most Fridays you will find the Friday Café, operated by Claudia Gibson Catering, bustling with activity and all the tables packed. Since there are only a few large round tables, newcomers are quickly swept up into discussions. Typical Friday fare includes homemade soups, salads, assorted baked goods and specials like bean burrito or a variety of empanadas with a mini side salad.
Capable of holding over 200 people, the old gym area is the hub of RVCC. Most of the shops and offices are entered through the gym. In late afternoons and evenings it becomes a sports center for various activities—basketball or other sports, Tae Kwon Do classes are held, and some members of the Charlottesville Derby Dames have been known to get in a few practice rounds there.
The large space is also available for special events.
On Saturday, March 5, the first Saturday Pancake Breakfast will be held there from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., and the Indoor Community Market will be open from 9 a.m. until noon. The market typically runs from October until April of each year and offers locally grown produce, meat, eggs, plants and crafts. Market manager Donna Kincaid reported that the holiday market in December grossed over $11,400 for the vendors. The April breakfast and market will be held on the 2nd.
On March 12, a special fundraising event, “Dance Your Winter Blues Away!” will raise money for the local SPCA.
On April 9, Virginia entertainers Robin and Linda Williams and their group will perform at 7:30 p.m.
Some shops are run by long-time RVCCers like Susan Gorman, better known as Derby Vixen, who can outfit all your “derby needs.” Among of Gorman’s big sellers are custom leather “toe guards” for derby skates. The guards are all custom work and most have some significant leather design work – lightning bolts, stars, and even large buttons.
Next door is fiber artist Rosalba (Rose) Valentino. Her boutique is filled with re-purposed clothing, fabulous neckwear (feathers, beads, sequins on fabric), children’s caps and other unique and one-of-kind fabric items. “I’m trying to combat the consumption mentality,” she said. “The right clothes make a big different in how you feel.” She makes custom pieces for people who are more interested in the “statement of dressing and better quality pieces,” she said.
Just across the gym floor is K Robins, jewelry artist who specializes in symbolic jewelry. “I design silver and carve wax,” she said. While Robins does a few shows, most of her work is ordered either online or at RVCC. Robins had the idea for the banners that tie the shops and businesses together so well.
RVCC has reached the tipping point. With additional rental income, they are better positioned to take on upgrades and renovations. Some occupants suggested improving the lighting in the central area.
RVCC is located at just off Route 151, at 190 Rockfish School Lane (route 635 west), south of Afton.