New shop features West Virginia products

January 06, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN - Kate DiServio's arrival in Charles Town is a process that evolved over time, but one that also developed quickly once she realized this is where she wanted to be.

DiServio and her husband, Stephen, came from New York and she said the area they lived in was a lot like Charles Town.

They eventually moved to Alexandria, Va., after leaving New York. But all the while they were searching for a place that resembled their New York home.


DiServio recalls that she and her husband were "astounded" when they discovered Charles Town. She was taken by the historic buildings in town, the stories that longtime residents tell about the downtown area and how ideal Charles Town is to live in and raise a family.

The couple moved to town a little more than four years ago, and DiServio immediately became involved in the community by running for a Charles Town City Council seat.

DiServio said she had seen bustling areas in Northern Virginia redesigned because they did not have adequate pedestrian and green space, and she did not want to see the same thing happen to Charles Town.

DiServio lost the election, but it didn't dampen her enthusiasm for the town.

She began setting her sights on another dream she had always had: Running a business.

DiServio said she and her husband were surprised by the large number of local artisans in the area and by how few places there were to buy their goods.

They decided to open a shop specializing in products made by West Virginia artists, craftspeople and entrepreneurs.

The spot they picked for their shop - McHale's Emporium - was the second floor of Charles Washington Hall, a historic building that sits at the corner of George and Washington streets in town.

The building was built in 1870 after the original structure was burned during the Civil War. The building is owned by the City of Charles Town, which is considering renovating the building for public use.

In the meantime, DiServio has signed a one-year lease, knowing she may eventually have to move from the building, depending on what it is used for.

DiServio and her husband worked on the building for several weeks, brightening up the place by painting dark paneling yellow and adding other touches.

What patrons will find inside is akin to an "adult candy shop," DiServio said.

There's everything from homemade marinara sauce to soap, children's toys to jelly, music CDs to aprons, and photographs to rugs.

DiServio has chosen to feature goods of artisans who live both near and far.

She has prints by Charles Town artist Katherine Cimaglio and chocolate made by DeFluri's Fine Chocolate in Martinsburg, W.Va. She offers old-time favorites like Blenko and Fenton glass, and toys made by Dick Schnackes.

Schnackes, a strong promoter of the West Virginia artisan business, has thrilled scores of children with his pop guns, ball and cup, train whistles and other toys.

DiServio proudly shows a collection of photographs of West Virginia residents taken in the 1800s and early 1900s, which she found on eBay.

In another corner of her shop, she features West Virginia foods, including jams, jellies, salad dressings and cake mixes.

DiServio has big plans in mind to further promote West Virginia artisans.

She hopes to offer classes in her shop during which craftspeople will teach pottery, woodworking and other skills. DiServio said there has been talk downtown about offering evening hours in local shops, having music concerts downtown and having a "farmers artisans' market."

"There's a lot of exciting stuff happening in Charles Town," DiServio said.

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