Business Briefs: November 2021

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Susan Stanley Sprinkle prepares to apply gilt to coasters at Reprotique. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

The Coaster Queen: Reprotique Relocates to Crozet

In the very spot where she learned arabesques and pliés as a child, Susan Stanley Sprinkle now fills orders for classics-inspired ornamental household objects through her business, Reprotique.

“Just about everything happened in this building,” Sprinkle said of her workroom on Carter Street. Besides the ballet studio she attended, there were shops and offices of various kinds: “One man said he got his polio shot here.” 

Its first use, in 1928, was as a community center and home for the Woman’s Club of Crozet, and Sprinkle credits those women of the early 20th century for many of the good things that have happened in Crozet. Her family, the Stanleys, bought the building in 1977. Most recently it housed Crozet Antiques, and when it became vacant in 2019, the Sprinkles––Susan, with her husband, Philip, an attorney––moved back from Richmond to Crozet, bringing her sometimes whimsical, sometimes formal fine-art accessory business with her. 

Her business at present is only to the trade, but her hope is to open a showroom in Crozet in a few years.

She’s a regular with the giant houseware and gift markets in High Point, North Carolina, and Atlanta, and sells to interior designers and high-end stores all over the world. At the moment, her coasters are wildly popular at the markets, she said: “Right now, I’m the coaster queen.”

Susan Sprinkle creates almost every one of her carefull-crafted reproductions. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

Sprinkle uses designs and patterns from classical Rome and Greece as well as European masters and Chinese sculptors. In fact, almost anything might inspire her.

Something as modest as a cigar cutter might have a design so pleasing in its proportions that it will translate well to a tray, or a sconce, or a coaster. Other images come from places you might least expect: an old sketchbook, a woodland scene by an obscure artist, a medallion by a long-forgotten engraver, an ancient map. Recently she found an antique French drapery ring, and duplicated it for her clients. “People are always surprised at what I find and how I use it,” she said.

Sprinkle started out dealing in fine antiques and discovered she didn’t have the heart to sell the wonderful pieces she collected. It’s a bad tendency for an antique dealer, she acknowledged. She set out to learn to reproduce art in various media, starting with paintings. Once she’s inspired by a piece, she considers how best to use it in a tangible product. 

There’s no assembly line or studio full of artisans at Reprotique. She’s the only staff member. Luckily, she had seriously studied and practiced many creative processes in preparation for becoming an antiques dealer. She has continued to learn a wide variety of skills, both ancient and modern: how to work from a 3-D printer, apply gilt to acrylic, mold textured candles, pour soaps embossed with classic designs, and create dozens of other reproductions of precious and beautiful objects. A stylized deer might peer out from the woods embedded in an acrylic tray, or a large sconce or a coaster. She applies her creative genius to items as small as necklaces, fobs and cuffs, and as large as huge wallpaper panels.

There’s a good reason why designers and retailers snap up her imaginative creations, she said. “People might pay thousands for draperies and furniture, and ignore the details,” she said. “But they really do make a difference.”

See Reprotique’s products online at reprotiqueart.com.

Say It With Pumpkins

Four young Crozet mothers hatched a plan to beautify area porches, indulge their love for design, and greet the fall by offering large custom arrangements to neighbors and friends. That’s how “Porch Patch” was born, and the business took off, first in Crozet and then in Charlottesville and Richmond. Porch Patch owners––Kristen Craig, Alexis Macias, Kathleen Ross and Marilyn Speight––limited their first round of personalized porch designs to 40 houses and, by mid-October, had met that goal. The results of their artistry and labor can be seen on front porches of Crozet homes and also at a handful of local businesses. 

Porch Patch uses fruits of the season for a stunning display. Submitted photo.

It wasn’t just a good feel for design and the pleasing impact of fall produce and colors that distinguished the successful business. Supply logistics were involved, and lots of physical labor. The women forged connections with farms and nurseries, hauled giant pumpkins, heavy hay bales and pots and pots of flowers up the steps and on to the porches of their clients, resulting in breath-taking, all-natural still-life displays, providing a contrast to the giant spiders, skeletons and monsters of their neighbors. 

The women realized that some families enjoy the results more than the process of decorating for the seasons. “People are incredibly busy and may not have the time to source pumpkins for their porches personally, or perhaps they love the look but prefer to outsource to someone who has an eye for styling,” Speight said. 

With supply connections and satisfied clients in place, the next question is where to go next with Porch Patch, Speight said. It’s clear they’ll gear up for next fall, but they’re also considering other seasonal decorating. To keep up with the latest, follow on Instagram (@porchpatch) and watch for their website, still under construction (www.porchpatch.com).

Herbal Healing at Skyline Apothecary

Beginning in early December, those wanting a dose of herbal healing can find salves, gummies, coffee, lotions, and potions at the Skyline Apothecary, a CBD retail store opening in the former F&R building on Route 250. 

The Apothecary is the creation of five local business people: John Schoeb and Andrew Messina of Pro Re Nata farm brewery; Rod Phillips and Pete Kooken of Re/Max realty; and Jane Hammel, who owns the business. “This is a historic time in Virginia for these natural products,” Hammel said. “It’s a beautiful step forward.”

Jane Hammel, owner of Skyline Apothecary, hopes to have the new store open by early December. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

CBD is derived from the cannabis plant and is known for its health benefits. THC, the other compound in cannabis known to have psychoactive effects, cannot be sold legally in Virginia as yet. “It’s a complex situation right now,” Hammel said, but she acknowledges that Skyline Apothecary would be a logical outlet for both compounds as the legal status changes.

Hammel has worked in fundraising and marketing for area non-profit and for-profit businesses, including U.Va. and Hospice of the Piedmont. Once she began the planning stage several months ago, she was certain the business would do well here. She said customers can expect an upscale look to the new apothecary, with everything carefully curated and organic. A major partner is CannaBliss, a Vermont company, and each new addition will be scrutinized for its quality, she said.

Hammel sought comments from people in the community before deciding what to stock in the shop, and new requests are always welcome, she said. She expects to employ four part-time employees. A pre-Christmas opening is planned. 

Clay as Canvas on View at Artisan Depot

Crozet Artisan Depot presents contemporary ceramic artist Lynn Hilton Conyers of Lyndhurst as its November guest artist. Meet her in person November 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the historic train depot. 

Conyers is a retired Waynesboro High School art teacher. Her initial training in ceramics began with wheel-throwing stoneware pottery and evolved into wall plaques. 

Paradise Lost designed by artist and potter Lynn Conyers. Submitted photo.

Conyers is a life-long pioneer in the possibilities of ceramic art. A class in Raku, which began in Japan in the 16th century, inspired an interest that stayed with her throughout her professional career. Conyers saw the fast-firing technique as an appealing creative tool, and she also found that fabric impressed into the surface of the clay produced textures that were further enhanced when she put the piece, hot from the kiln, in a chamber of combustible materials. The process creates iridescent qualities on the glazed surface, and she often adds fiber, wood, and glass or semi-precious stone beads to echo a variety of themes from ancient cultures.

Besides her work as a contemporary ceramic artist, Conyers is an advocate for art education. The exhibit will remain through November. 

Rage, Release, Reset: Smash Therapy in Waynesboro

Feeling a little angry, or nervous, or just perhaps more restless than you’re comfortable with? Maybe you’ve had too much caffeine, or maybe all that’s needed is a little havoc in your life. At least that’s the theory behind Waynesboro’s “Havoc House,” a business devoted to allowing its patrons to let off steam in a safe way, in a safe place. 

Although customers break glass, shatter electronics, take a baseball bat to china and throw axes, the idea is not to glorify violence, said Tyler Nuckoles, a co-owner. Instead, he and the other owners believe that releasing pent-up energy has a calming effect on those who visit the rage rooms and axe-throwing studio. “We all have had plenty of experience with people struggling with mental illness, Nuckoles said. “Like almost everyone, we’ve watched loved ones suffer and even die from its results.” Nuckoles and his colleagues have been active in mental health causes in the Valley.

He acknowledged that experts are divided on the wisdom of expressing rage in a harmless way: “Some think it’s therapeutic and others think it’s not,” he said. “But we’ve seen the release it provides for those who come here.” 

Getting ready to break a few things at Havoc House in Waynesboro. Submitted photo.

It’s no surprise that those cycling in and out of the rage rooms are often teenagers between 13 and 16. “In fact, their parents bring them in,” he said. “We’re a popular destination for birthday parties and family outings.” That’s not to say that all Havoc House patrons are especially angry or distressed. It’s just sometimes fun for people to break things while knowing they’re not doing any real damage.

The Havoc House plays a part in Waynesboro’s recycling stream, with local restaurants and bars collecting glass empties to be hurled and shattered at the Havoc House. “We also buy in bulk from missions and thrift stores, taking china and glass objects they know they can’t sell, so this helps them, too.” Old electronics are easy to come by and popular targets for those who believe that Facebook or email have ruined their lives. Nuckoles recalled one woman who brought in her own electronics to destroy in the padded rooms.

Careful attention is paid to safety. Visitors wear helmets, face guards and shoe protectors and, at least so far, there’s never been an on-site injury. “A couple of times someone has gotten a minor cut later, by trying to remove a piece of glass from their shoe,” Nuckoles said. He asks them to check for shards before they leave, so the managers can use a pliers and gloved hands to clear them.

Here’s how it works. Visitors book a session online, ranging from “Outburst” (5 minutes) to “Temper Tantrum” (20 minutes), or they may prefer axe throwing for 30 to 60 minutes. Patrons sign an electronic waiver and are cautioned to wear shoes that cover the whole foot, and long pants. Once at the Havoc House, the manager checks identification, and the destruction begins. 

Nuckoles has a background as a chef as well as a businessman, and he hopes that someday there will be a food component. For now, he encourages customers to patronize local restaurants. They, in turn, advise customers facing a wait to register for a 15-minute segment at the Havoc House. This is especially true of the popular River Burger Bar, just across Wayne Avenue, which often has more customers than it can serve immediately. 

The violence of the scenes inside the Havoc House is in contrast to the motivation of its four founders. “We all saw this as a viable novelty business, Nuckoles said, “but we’ve stayed in it because of our dedication to mental health.”

Find out details and book a session at havochouseva.com.

Can You Bake an Apple Pie?

Find out how you stack up against the area’s pie bakers by entering your pie (you’ll have to be quick) in the apple pie contest at Albemarle CiderWorks in North Garden. Judging is Saturday, Nov. 6, and all pies must be at the cidery by 11:30 that morning. Send them a note to let them know you’re coming: [email protected], with your name and phone number and “Pie Contest” in the subject line, along with a paragraph about yourself and your approach to apple pie. 

Once you bake the pie, attach a card to it with the crust ingredients and variety of apples, your name and the recipe. The winner receives a $100 gift card to Albemarle CiderWorks, and the North Garden Ruritans will sell slices of all the pies to help fund their good works in the North Garden community. 

Rachel Willis of Cakes by Rachel with miniature apple pies. Submitted photo.

Whether you enter the contest or not, you can up your pie game with advice from Crozet’s pie-baking champ, Rachel Willis of “Cakes by Rachel.” She’s served many years as the judge of the CiderWorks pie-baking contest and anyone who’s had one of her pies can attest that she knows what she’s talking about. She advises would-be bakers to pay close attention to the quality of the apples, and to cut them properly. “You want to make sure that the apples are cooked through––but not mushy––when the crust is done,” she said. Apples are different in their sweetness and acidity, so she encourages bakers to taste their apple mixture, adjusting the lemon juice and sugar to achieve the right balance. 

As for the crust, Willis said the important thing is not to overwork it. At Cakes by Rachel, all pie crusts are made by hand to avoid a tough dough and achieve the buttery flakiness that we love in pies. “And make sure the crust is fully cooked,” she said. 

The pie-baking contest is only part of the Annual Apple Harvest Festival, now in its 21st year at Albemarle CiderWorks. It’s hosted by the Cove Garden Ruritans, who make Brunswick Stew and apple butter on the spot. You can taste vintage apple varieties that aren’t available in stores, as well as plenty of hard and sweet cider. The Festival, which goes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., also has vendors, hayrides, live music and artisan demonstrations. 

Bizbits

Ridership continues to grow for the Afton Express, with pick-up sites at the Staunton Mall, the Fishersville Park & Ride lot, and the Waynesboro Park & Ride lot by Target. The bus picks up four times each morning between 5 and 8 a.m. on weekdays. Commuters are dropped off at Bavaro Hall and the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, both on U.Va. campus, West Main Street in Charlottesville near the Amtrak station, the Charlottesville Downtown Transit Station near the historic downtown mall, and Fifth Street Station near Wegman’s. The fare is $3, and the buses offer free WiFi to commuters.

Loving Cup in North Garden is Virginia’s only organic-certified winery. Theresa Curry.

Loving Cup Winery is way off the beaten track in North Garden, but way ahead of other Virginia wineries in its efforts towards sustainability. Not only is the wine the only certified organic option in Virginia—Loving Cup also uses only compostable trays and wine tasting cups, and they’re serious about recycling. Loving Cup is open Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. through December.

Word has it that Sabor Latino, which opened and closed in Crozet during the pandemic, will reappear in the form of a food truck stationed at its former site.

Does your business have a special promotion planned for Christmas? Send business news and tips to Theresa Curry, [email protected] 

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