Shepherdstown store is The Source for local, exotic treasures

April 25, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Karen Valentine runs The Source in Shepherdstown, W.Va. She opened the store in November in a stand-alone, small block of a building on the corner of Back Alley and South Princess Street.
By Richard F. Belisle/Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — The Source is a downtown Shepherdstown store different from the specialty and gift shops that line both sides of German street.

A back wall in The Source holds bumper stickers and slogans that would warm a liberal’s heart with messages like “I love my country but I think we should start seeing other people” and “Suburbia: Where they tear out trees & then name streets after them.”

Another wall is a living community bulletin board. Fliers and posters advertise upcoming meetings and events.

Karen Valentine, 40, a divorced mother of three girls ages 11, 13 and 14, opened The Source in November in a stand-alone, small block of a building on the corner of Back Alley and South Princess Street.

“I love this store because it embraces the local community,” said Brenda Robinette of Shepherdstown, who came in on a recent Friday afternoon to buy a few bags of organic sweet potato and carrot chips. “It’s a community resource, a marketplace that brings people together, a place where craftspeople and artists can sell their wares.”

Valentine’s philosophy about recycling and reusing everyday things is evidenced throughout the store. What one person drops off, another takes home to make into something new and usable again.

The Source exemplifies the adage that one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

People bring in used batteries, and Valentine trucks them to the recycling center, along with old TVs, computer monitors and other unwanted electronic devices.

She accepts every wine cork that comes in and turns them into bulletin boards and serving trays, a store staple.

People drop off old denim jeans. A woman takes them home and makes handbags and shopping bags from the denim. A man builds birdhouses from old barn boards.

There was a steady stream of customers in the store on a recent Friday afternoon, some to look, others to buy from the eclectic inventory. The store sells organic food staples, gluten-free cereals and mixes for bread, pizza and pancakes, locally made soap, almonds from Palestine, honey from Shepherdstown and Zambia, a table filled with handmade wool hats, a “gently used” snowboard, rolls of toilet paper made from recycled paper and a canjollitary — a single-stringed, banjo-like instrument that derives its sound from an empty beer can. A lot of items are free for the taking.

A 55-gallon drum of vinegar with a dispensing spout on top takes up space near the front.

“‘Greenies’ use a lot of it for cleaning,” Valentine said. “They bring their gallon jugs in and I refill them so they don’t have to throw them away.”

Cassie Bosley, a store regular, said she believes The Source “is run for the people. It’s part of the community.”

“People say the store brings people together,” Valentine said. “They come in here and see people they haven’t seen in years. It happens all the time.”

She said the concept she tries to convey with The Source is that it is a community resource, a marketplace where people can find things they can’t anywhere else. I’m grateful that those who do come in understand the importance of not being wasteful.”

Valentine said she and her daughters live a simple life in their home along the Potomac River.

“We don’t buy anything new. We’ve gone through that phase,” she said.

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