A Downtown Blacksburg Paradox Turns 40

12 Mar

When I turned 40 (I won’t tell you how many years ago), I understood firsthand why, for a time, it was known as “The New 30” (I’ve recently heard that that distinction now belongs to 60). It was liberating and empowering in ways I never imagined. I was comfortable and confident in my own skin. Like so many other invincible women before me, I never dreamed getting older could have so many wonderful fringe benefits. It seems a fitting paradox, then, that Fringe Benefit joins rank as it celebrates its own 40th birthday on March 18th.

Keeping up with the times

The Downtown Blacksburg women’s fashions’ mainstay has come into its rightful own in the capable hands and devoted heart of its endearing shop owner, Nancyne Willoughby, for the past 25 of those years.

“The original owner, Beverly Patterson, opened it as a natural fiber clothing store to combat the evil polyester of the ’70s,” Willoughby reveals.  “I thought the store needed a local owner after Beverly moved to Austin (Texas), so I wrote her a letter asking if she would sell the shop,” she divulges.  Two years later, Patterson conceded, and Willoughby bought the shop, as well as the name in September 1987 with then business partner, Judy Murray, who moved on in 1997 and now lives in Mexico.

“I shopped in the store while I was in college and enjoyed it. I never left Blacksburg after graduation,” says the arts-major-turned-shop-owner.  “We gave it a facelift and some love and expanded our market beyond students into locals and professionals.  We focus on personal service, and the store has evolved to keep up with the times,” according to the successful businesswoman, who knows every customer by name.

An Affinity for Giving

Every shopper gets 20% off on their birthday along with a Frequent Buyer Program, which has been a signature promotion for the past 16 years.  The loyalty incentive automatically entitles customers to 15% off every purchase beyond the first $350 through the following Labor Day, culminating in an annual end-of-summer, holiday-themed sale.

A Move in the Right Direction

In June 2004, Willoughby moved the shop from its original location on College Avenue, now home to Hokie Spokes, to its current location at 117 North Main Street between Matrix Gallery and Homebody.

“We more than doubled in size, increasing the space from 900 square feet to just over 2100,” she says.  “It was scary, because I had such a bigger space to fill,” she confides, “but I ended up overfilling it.”

Some of that additional space was filled with brand extensions like Ten Thousand Villages and Dansko shoes, which she has carried since 2004 and 2007, respectively, along with her most popular lines Cut Loose, Click, Habitat, Jag Jeans, Pure, Neon Buddah  “tons of accessories”, and a lot of stuff made in the U. S.

“I pick up new lines each season,” she adds, without being forced into playing favorites.  “I don’t know that I have one,” she says, genuinely torn. “It’s hard to decide.  I like a little bit of everything.  There’s something for everyone with jewelry from $10-150 and clothing prices that range from moderate to ‘up’.”

Stop by and check out the Spring 2012 collections, which feature a lot of green, perfectly coordinated with the shop’s day-after-St. Patrick’s Day 40th birthday.  While you’re there, check out David Nickerson’s original miniature, depicting Fringe Benefit’s place in Downtown Blacksburg’s history, on display behind the counter.

Help Make Fringe Benefit’s Birthday Wish Come True!

Looking for the perfect thing to get Fringe Benefit for its 40th birthday?  Lots and lots of likes on its Facebook page, which you can do by clicking here.  It only takes a minute and won’t cost a thing but will go a long way toward poising the shop for many years of continued success.

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A Downtown Blacksburg Original in Every Sense of the Word

1 Mar

Post written by Karen Quina Doyle

The first thing Martha Heiskell made me do was promise not to tell her age.  She did, however, tell me it was okay to say that she was born in Blacksburg in the ’20s.  You do the math.  Either way, her age doesn’t matter, except to say that she is the very essence of refined grace, impeccable character, and endless charm that only women of a certain age and era possess and embody.  It has served her well: she is celebrating 44 years as the proprietor of Downtown Blacksburg’s bedrock antiques shop, Heirloom Originals.

If These Walls Could Talk

Heirloom Originals is more like a living museum than a business and Martha its worthy curator.  She inherited the house, in which the shop is based, from her maternal grandmother in 1940.  It was built in 1872, the same year neighboring Virginia Tech opened.

Martha took me through Downtown Blacksburg’s modest beginnings over a laminated vintage photograph she pulled from a drawer.

“Blacksburg’s town limit ended at Main and Giles Road.  It was all open farmland with woods full of walnut trees,” she recalled fondly, as she pointed to a spot on the picture just west of the house. “People would go to Mr. Reynolds’ Lumber Yard, which was next door to the shop in the ‘20s.  They would pick up logs to take over to Mr. W. E. Broce’s planing mill on what is now Progress Street, so they could make a fine piece of furniture,” she continued. “Coal from the local mines would be taken by horse and wagons to heat the buildings at Tech,” she went on, recalling every detail of the carefully preserved photograph.

For many years, the little house was rented for forty dollars per month, with a fireplace in each room for heat and no indoor plumbing until the late twenties.

In 1917, Paul Derring, for whom Derring Hall was named, arrived at Tech to work with student programs.  Blind from the age of 13, he met Katie Cook, who was living in the house at the time with her parents and her sister Mary.  Katie began helping him with his correspondence, and the two fell in love and were married in 1921.  Several years later, Paul became Blacksburg’s first YMCA director, a position he held until his retirement in 1966.

After renting the house to several other families, Martha decided to convert the house into an antique shop in 1964.

“I’ve always appreciated the arts in its many forms ~ art, art history, beautiful objects ~ whether made by a person or by God’s own hands,” she shared as the inspiration behind her decision to go into antiques after an early, beloved career as a second-grade school teacher, first at Blacksburg Elementary and then later in the sixties at Gilbert Linkous Elementary. “I don’t know why anyone would want plastic when they could have something of lasting value and beauty to leave as an heirloom to their children,” she wondered. “I have customers come in all the time fondly recalling things like ‘My grandmother bought me the cutest little tea set from here when I was a little girl’. It makes me very humble…and very happy.”

Having lost her mother at the age of 49 and her father three months later at 57, Margaret J. Beeks, who was not only Martha’s 7th grade teacher but also the first principal for whom she worked during her time with the Montgomery County School System after graduating from Tech in 1948, became like a mother to Martha and a grandmother to her three children.

It was Miss Beeks who inspired Martha through art.  “I lived for Miss Beeks’ art class.  She opened the doors to the whole world for me there.  She had traveled a lot,” Martha remembers. “One day, we were painting the Nile and ran out of cobalt paint, so Miss Beeks sent me down to Mr. Brown’s hardware store to pick up a little tube,” she reminisced, before being unfairly scolded for not getting the right color.  “That nearly broke my heart,” she said, remembering how it felt to be wrongfully reprimanded by the teacher she worshiped.

“When I opened my shop, there she stood on the porch with this gift,” she lovingly recalls, showing me the wreath Miss Beeks made for her as a shopwarming gift with moss she had collected from the shoals of South Carolina. “It has hung on this door for 44 years.”

A Prized Collection

Today, the shop is brimming with something for everyone: china, porcelains, ceramics, art pottery.  Cut glass from the Brilliant Period (1890-1915) takes up nearly an entire room; pieces made out of Martha’s favorite woods, walnut and cherry, here and there.

“To qualify as an antique, a piece must be at least 100 years old, but there are many items in here that go back to the mid-1800’s,” she attests.

Her oldest piece?  A Canton platter from the 1700s with what they deciphered to be a Chinese Export Armorial Crest, circa 1785.  The back of the piece bears what look like one-inch-wide brass staples along the spines of several primitive cracks — distinguishing mending methods that were employed through 1838.  Though the piece is not for sale, Martha takes delight in relating a story about two men who came in looking for Jim Beam memorabilia. “No Jim Beam bottles, but isn’t my platter gorgeous?” she offered instead, before overhearing each of them asking the other how she would ever sell that broken platter as they made their way out the door.  “I didn’t even have time to tell them that it was not for resale,” she knowingly confides.

“Let me show you my little Charlie in here,” she insisted, ushering me into another room. “He’s so wonderful.”

“Charlie” was the pet name given to the little boy whose likeness appeared in a painting she had acquired from the Bailey estate of Charleston, West Virginia, the forebears of which included an attorney general and several generations of judges. “Look at that little hat.  He’s so cute!” she mused, with the kind of genuine affection usually assigned to doting grandmothers.  “I think it’s sad that portraits get separated from their families over time.”

A collection of handsomely displayed teacups holds another story still.  “I sold each one of these teacups to a gentleman who bought them for his wife’s birthday and Christmas year after year.  When she passed, he asked me if I would like them back, all sixty-six,” she remembers. “Many items in the shop have come back a second and third time.  I love it more than the day I first opened the door, so many memories.”

Martha cares for her inventory nearly as much as she cares for her customers — which is to say, a lot.  She knows the detail of her stock down to the very last toothpick holder; she keeps a careful inventory, copied in her own hand, of every item in a red ledger I was lucky enough to see.

“I don’t consider this a store,” she confides. “This is where my friends come to visit.”

Having spent the afternoon with her, I understood the attraction.  The proper woman, with a clear abiding faith and the warmth and congeniality of a dear friend, had won me over, too.  Stop in the next time you’re passing by her Heirloom Originals shop on Main Street, and let her do the same for you.
Heirloom Originals is conveniently located at 609 North Main Street, next door to Castle’s Kettle and Pub. See you there!

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Cash Mob!

20 Feb

UPDATE: NEXT Blacksburg Cash Mob- Tuesday April 17 at 5:53pm. Meet in Market Square Park. Please like our new Facebook Page and follow us on the  Cash Mob Twitter @CMdtblacksburg

Second  Blacksburg Cash Mob took place as part of National Cash Mob Day on Saturday March 24 at 11:32am. Meet at Market Square Park in front of the mural! Greenhouse Boardshop and Cafe de Bangkok were the two businesses chosen for this Cash Mob event!

First Blacksburg Cash Mob- met Thursday March 8, 5:48pm, meet at Market Square Park (Farmers Market) under the shelter. The store visited was Homebody and the Restaurant was The Cellar.

It’s the craze that’s sweeping the nation and it’s coming to Downtown Blacksburg! To further complement our efforts on Small Business Saturday, and our BUY EAT LIVE local campaign we are joining a very recent phenomenon and starting Cash Mobs downtown. The downtown Cash Mobs are coming soon and we hope that you will chose to join us in this chance to show our local small business owners how much you appreciate your downtown. Check out the Cash Mob Blog – we are already listed as participants and our countdown to the next Cash Mob clock is ticking on our website.

The Plan

1) The Cash Mob will meet at the announced time and location

2) The specific business to support will be revealed and the Cash Mob will shop there

3) The After Mob will share a celebratory drink or snack at the assigned local restaurant

Cash Mob rules for participants

  1. Spend up to $20 (of course you may spend more if you wish)
  2. Meet three people you didn’t know before
  3. HAVE FUN!!!

Cash mob rules for coordinator

1). The mob date must be announced at least a week in advance via Twitter. (Follow CMdtblacksburg for our Tweets!)

2). The location at which to meet will be announced, but not the specific business to support until the Mob meets at the arranged time and location.

3). The business owner must give back to the community in some way. (All merchant members of DBI regularly give back to our community through donations of time, goods and money to many causes.)

4) The cash mob will occur during the evening on a weekday or on a weekend.

5) Parking or public transportation must be available. (For parking details visit Downtown Parking, For public transportation options visit Blacksburg Transit)

Source: cashmobs.wordpress.com

Join our Facebook event page

Related articles:

“Cash mobs”. Flash mobs go to bat for small local businesses

Cash Mobs Blog

Cash Mobs to Support Small Businesses

Downtown Blacksburg, Inc. starts a cash mob


18 Feb New bumper sticker

Downtown Blacksburg Inc. (DBI) unveiled the new logo for the “BUY, EAT, LIVE local” campaign on January 27 2012. The logo was displayed on a giant scale adorning the drive side of a Blacksburg Transit bus in front of Burruss Hall on the Virginia Tech campus.

Left: Meaghan Dee, Instructor at FOURDESIGN, Right: Logo Designer, Amelia Liarakos

Proudly standing in front of the bus was designer Amelia Liarakos- a junior visual communication design major, and staff member of FOURDESIGN, a faculty-led, student-run digital and print design agency at Virginia Tech. Amelia designed the logo in two to three hours using Adobe Illustrator and said “It was more concept rather than building”.

The original “buy local. eat local. be local.” campaign ran from approximately 2006- 2011 and proved to be extremely popular throughout Blacksburg and the surrounding area. The DBI Marketing Committee decided it was time to revamp the look of the bumper sticker, to freshen it up, make it more appealing to a younger generation and add a “QR” code that, when scanned by a smartphone, could push traffic to their website. Organizers say the message of supporting the downtown merchants hasn’t changed; it’s just got a new look.

New bumper sticker

“What I wanted to do was to simplify it and give it a bigger impact,”  “I wanted to make it more modern. My initial thought was that the bumper sticker was a little cluttered, there was a lot of text going on,” logo designer Amelia Liarakos said of the old design. “For a bumper sticker you want something that’s simple and bold, so I wanted to simplify it.”

The logo is featured on bumper stickers which are free to customers at most downtown stores and restaurants. It is also displayed on fridge magnets which will be distributed at random during downtown events. T-shirts sporting the logo are available for $15 at Heavener Hardware, Mish Mish, Eats Natural Foods and Greenhouse Board shop. Long-sleeved shirts are available for $18 at High Peak Sportswear, Mish Mish and Heavener Hardware. Proceeds from the sale of the shirts will go towards providing great entertainment for downtown festivals such as Summer Solstice Fest and Steppin’ Out.

Designer Amelia Liarakos, in front of the Blacksburg Transit bus which carries her design

A lost art found in Downtown Blacksburg

13 Jan

Post by Karen Quina- Doyle

A Lost Art Found in Downtown Blacksburg

Faith Capone beams as she extends her free hand in a solid, introductory handshake. The other is firmly grasped around four-month-old Bennett, her first grandson who is hinged to her torso and is also, I surmise, the source of her prevailing glow.

“We were just over in the jewelry studio, and he was mesmerized by the torch.  I think he was taking it all in so he could go on to become the next generation of jewelry-makers,” she prides.  “He was really into it.”

The Path of an Artist/ Jeweler

Faith is the matriarch of the infinitely talented Capone family and owner of Capone’s Fine Jewelry and Design Studio at the corner of Main and Roanoke in Downtown Blacksburg.  Like her grandson, she enjoyed seeing her steelworker father pouring metal from an early age even if her calling wasn’t readily apparent.

“The college I attended in Edinboro, Pennsylvania at that time had 52 art teachers, three of whom taught jewelry, with an enrollment of just 6,000,” she says. “They even had their own jewelry department.”

By her own admission, an artist she was not really a “jewelry person”.  She didn’t enjoy her first jewelry class even though fellow classmates, some of whom offered to buy what she was turning out and others who went so far as to ask her to make their wedding rings, were quick to pick up on her talent.  Coerced by a friend into taking a second class over the summer, she flourished under instructor Roger Armstrong’s tutelage, Majoring in Art with a Minor in Metalsmithing/Goldsmithing.

After graduation and at the urging of husband Truman, teachers, friends and classmates who continued to follow and support her craft, she opened Our Friends Art Shop in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.  It was here that she first officially marketed her own wares in a setting she likens to Downtown Blacksburg’s own Matrix Gallery.

The Move to Blacksburg

Reluctantly leaving that established business in 1973, she and husband Truman moved to Blacksburg where he pursued graduate work in Architecture and completed a Master’s of Science in Education at Virginia Tech. They both went on to teach a jewelry class there, but after three years and many state budget cuts, the jewelry program was phased out despite interest and enrollment that far exceeded capacity. Truman  worked as a  media designer and medical illustrator for the university and in 1993 received his Master of Fine Art degree and then went on to become  a professor of visual communication design, department head  and eventually the  first director of the School of Visual Arts (SOVA), which he helped found.

Last year, he returned to the shop, which he and Faith opened in 1986, with a hand in everything from designing the mixed media paintings, sculpture, and other works of art showcased and sold throughout the store to visual branding and physical space design, repairs, and maintenance.  He also creates the drawings that guide their custom jewelry designs.

Faith had no trouble establishing an equally loyal following in Blacksburg with most of her custom design work coming through referrals and word of mouth.  Over the years, she has adapted and extended her offerings to meet the town’s unique needs.

She has been commissioned to design the Steger Award for Poetry by Distinguished Virginia Tech Professor, the Poet Nikki Giovanni, each semester for the past 5-7 years, as well as a direct commission from President Steger himself, the gift of a lapel pin which he presented to the Queen of England during a recent visit to D. C.

Capone’s Studio create  hundreds of original design pieces each year from design concept to completion, as well as licensed Virginia Tech designs and price points for students, not to mention Capones has a reputation for being “technical repair specialists in the extreme” (think 17th-century silver teapot-leg reproduction, whose beneficiary proceeded to send silver from Jamaica just for polishing, pleased as she was with the mastery behind the repair) or seemingly easier fixes to costume jewelry and eyeglasses prized for their practical or sentimental value.  They are versatile, even going so far as to sell estate jewelry on consignment and appraisals and watch repair.

A Family Affair

Grandson Bennett and Faith’s daughter Harmony, were in town on an extended holiday stay.  She and her husband Will also have a hand in working remotely for the company (she with her  MBA degree and background in Environmental Marketing through photography and web design; he through computer systems/set-up), work from their home in Sausalito but are angling to get back to Blacksburg at their first opportunity.  She is eager to have a more direct hand in the family business similar to 5-year-old Bella, a bichon-frise adept at customer relations, and 28-year-old brother Austin, whose natural finesse and easy command of the jewelry trade are not only his birthright but a well-honed vocation that extends beyond the family fold.

“Austin was 3 years old when he first got involved in the business and worked here all through high school and college,” says Faith.  Austin remembers the jewelry studio in their basement.  “We ate, slept, and drank jewelry,” the two divulge.

After graduating with a Communications Degree from Tech, Austin went to work for a mom-and-pop jewelry store in Philadelphia before moving on to a three-and-a-half year sabbatical with Tiffany & Co. There, he worked on the sales floor, dealing directly with a broad clientele, as many as 30-40 customers per day.

“I learned right away to treat everyone the same, whether I was working with someone looking at a hundred-dollar silver bracelet or a hundred-thousand-dollar diamond ring,” he says. “It also taught me a lot about how to work with high-maintenance customers, not that we have any of those here in Blacksburg.”

That opportunity ultimately took him and his wife Caitlin to Miami, where she earned her Graduate Degree from Florida International University, before returning to Blacksburg a year-and-a-half ago.  He is currently pursuing certification through the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

“My outside experience gave me a different perspective and unique appreciation of what our priorities should be,” says the handsome, urbane businessman who values the family’s reputation for achieving the highest standards in the industry through an unflinching dedication to both quality control and customer service.

“Each of our pieces is Cartíer-caliber,” he continues with a humble confidence that belies his age, “with the obvious distinction that each of our pieces is painstakingly made one by one at the hands of true craftsmen.”

Renaissance Man-part of a Design Team

That craftsman is Kirk Burkett who miraculously appeared in Faith’s doorway the fall she first opened asking if she needed some help.  Save for a brief vagabond stint that took him around the country, he has been with her ever since and is mentoring Austin, who shares his passion for making heirloom pieces from scratch.

“We have collaborated on zillions of pieces,” Faith provides.  “He’s the reason my hands stay cleaner and my fingers are no longer as warped,” she says, in reference to the way the physicality of such work can manifest itself.  “He has been a specialist from day one,” she continues.  “We at Capone’s establish an idea and he is integral  in  getting it done.  If he needs a jig, he makes it.  He’ll sit at the bench sometimes for ten hours perfecting a technique, defecting a finish.

A jeweler by trade since 1975, he was trained by the Lithuanian masters of the House of Fabergé, foremost among them, Bruno Sabonas.  He has gone on to perfect the vanishing, if not singular, craft of shaping raw materials into finished components for each stage of the custom production process.  (I am told there probably isn’t anyone within a thousand miles with his capacity for custom jewelry-making, though I am convinced after hearing more of his story that the range probably extends beyond that.)  His counterparts at Fabergé and Cartíer specialize in just one part of the process, whether that be polishing enamel, soldering shanks, or setting stones.  Kirk does each and then some.

During his years on the road, Kirk would stop in at jewelry stores and was surprised to find that the “jewelers” were mainly salespeople capable only of doing repairs or setting stones…if that.  In contrast, the number of component parts outsourced by Capone’s is negligible; Kirk  and team make nearly all of them (wire, sheet, and other raw materials) by hand based on the unique dictates of each piece.

As you might imagine, the tools of his trade are of equal weight and importance; he sourced each piece of his 100-year-old lathe one-by-one.

Enduring Designs

Faith and her design team are loyal to their reliable vendors, many of whom they have worked with for 15-25 years.  It’s an approach based on high trust, what Faith calls “the honesty factor”.  “We establish a relationship with our friends (she refuses to call them customers).  They trust us to pass along the faith we have entrusted in our vendors every time they choose to do business with us,” she says, citing a 25-year relationship with her diamond supplier; stones collected, sourced, and hand-selected exclusively from local vendors, sapphires from Sri Lanka, aquamarines from Brazil; a former apprentice, Anita Schultz, who honed her craft for 5 years at Capone’s before moving to St. Croix and is now back in the states turning out a line of handmade silver and copper chains and markings that is affordable in this economy.  “We don’t take vendors in from off the street.”

From there, they subscribe to a design philosophy of practical, wearable, durable, an approach that is conveyed through taking time to design things like jump rings thick enough to hold up for a number of years.  They are especially gratified when a customer returns after ten years saying “I still love my ring!” They appreciate being reminded that it is still holding up and that it has been designed well enough to transcend jewelry trends.

Collaboration is Key

Just as location, location, location is the formula for success in real estate, cooperation, communication, and collaboration (with a hint of mind-reading thrown in for good measure) are key to custom jewelry design.

“A piece of jewelry is a personal thing,” says Faith.  “If someone comes in with one idea, they leave with fifteen, without being confused about the choices.  At the same time, customers push us out of our comfort zone into more inventive designs.”

She goes on to relay a story about a woman who brought in three wedding bands from three generations wanting them to design them into something she could wear.  Originally thinking she wanted a ring, they sketched out a series of ideas,  such as taking them apart and linking the thin rings back together as a necklace charm  and ended up with birthstones from each of the three generation represented  suspended from the center.  “We ultimately created something that enhanced its inherent value even more,” Faith allows.

“It’s a long road between what customers envision and how you translate that, especially when the budget factor comes into consideration,” adds Kirk.  ” We at Capones prefer when they come in knowing exactly what they want and  I am satisfied when we nail it!”

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Has the talented design team at Capone’s nailed something for you?

We’d love for you to share your stories in the comments section, below.

a spoonful of paradise!

9 Jan

Post written by Lauryn Tamburello

I hope everyone has had a chance to have Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt (froyo) by now…it has been quite the craze lately and I don’t think it’s going away!

I moved back to Blacksburg over the summer after being in Northern Virginia for about a year and everywhere you looked, you’d find a self-serve froyo joint…I was in heaven. Then I moved back here and my boyfriend and I had to drive 20 minutes to Radford to enjoy the customized good stuff, I didn’t mind, but I’d certainly rather have one 5 minutes away instead!

Oh and now we do! Frosty Parrot has recently opened on Main Street right next to Mish Mish and across from the Post Office, a perfect location in our quaint town. You certainly can’t miss the shop either, with their fire red walls and colorful mascot parrot beaming through the windows!

Father and Son, Roger and Kyle Henderson can often be found at their proud establishment; Roger is in Partnership with longtime friend Randy Dutton and recently decided this would be a good venture. They started from nothing, no franchise guidelines or assistance and have learned the business through trial and error.

Roger has lived in the area for 20 years after bringing his family here on Father’s Day, 1991.  He is an ordained minister and has served as a Baptist Campus Minister at both VT and RU.  He currently serves on Sunday’s at First Christian Church (Disciples) in Newport.  Until this year, he taught Algebra at Blacksburg High School and continues to serve as the girls’ basketball coach.  Rogers wife, Cindy, is owner of Blacksburg Physical Therapy Associates. Roger says “It is my hope that Frosty Parrot Yogurt Creations continues to serve as a great alternative to the traditional bar scene.”

Kyle is a 2009 Blacksburg High School graduate and has been a part-time student at New River Community College.  Kyle serves as an assistant boys’ JV soccer coach at Blacksburg High School in addition to managing the Frosty Parrot. Roger’s daughter, Lindsey, is a freshman at Radford University but helps out with the family business in her spare time!

Like many folks in Blacksburg, Roger says that he always used the parking difficulty as a reason for not coming downtown very frequently.  “I really denied myself a treat.  Downtown Blacksburg is a diamond in the rough.  There is tremendous quality of food and retail shopping within – and just beyond – our 16 squares.  Downtown Blacksburg is more than the sum of its bars – there is great shopping, dining, and entertainment; certainly worth the inconvenience of a few extra steps.”

For those of you who haven’t yet enjoyed their 12 different flavors of froyo (and over 40 different toppings), stop by! You can check their flavors daily on their Facebook Page, where you can also find their hours.

When you first walk into Frosty Parrot, you’ll notice they thrive on cleanliness and a fun atmosphere, then you’ll see the wall of flavors! Grab a cup, choose 1, 2 or 12 flavors of froyo then head over to the dry toppings followed by some hot fudge or caramel and don’t forget to add some fresh fruit (or Reese cups, what New Year’s resolution?).

Looking for a place to get a head start on some fundraisers for your children’s sports, Greek Life, Relay for Life, etc? Look no further, Frosty Parrot offers “percent nights” from 6-9 where a team, organization, etc can come in to raise money and will receive 10% of ticket sales! The shop is also highly involved with the community, over Christmas, 20% of sales on certain nights when to the Montgomery County Christmas Store, a goodwill for the holiday season); also, they sponsor recreational sports such as basketball.

Also, don’t forget to “Like” Frosty Parrot on Facebook to receive frequent specials and look for their ad in The Burgs, the Collegiate Times and Roanoke Times for more discounts as well!

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Now you can sign up for a Parrot Pals Loyalty Card and earn points towards FREE YOGURT! Just ask for a sign up form on your next visit. Tell us about your favorite yogurt and toppings combination in the comments section below.

125 North Main Street
Blacksburg, VA  24060
Mon – Thu: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Fri – Sat: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sun: 1:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Downtown Holiday Shopping Guide

19 Dec bumpersticker

FREE PARKING at all metered spaces now through January 3 makes it even easier to make Downtown Blacksburg your holiday shopping destination this year!

Great gifts for all are available in our downtown stores, so we have put together this brief guide to what you will find, where and when. And if you are still stuck on what to buy the person who has everything you can purchase Downtown Gift Certificates from the downtown branch of National Bank of Blacksburg.Now you can also purchase gift certificates and Blacksburg t-shirts and prints online at:Downtown Merchandise
Gift certificates are redeemable at over 60 participating businesses- you can get everything from a massage to a smart phone; from dinner in one of our many restaurants to a frozen treat in Rita’s or the Frosty Parrot; from shoes to tea services; clothing to snow boards!

Holiday Shopping Specials- Please note- all of our stores are CLOSED on Christmas Day

310 Rosemont- Uggs are in- Uggs slippers and boots make great gifts!
OPEN Mon-Friday- 11am-6pm, Christmas Eve-10am-3pm

Alligator Alley- Buy one get one half off on many items throughout the store
OPEN Mon- Friday- 11am-5pm, Christmas Eve- 11am-4pm

Beaux Arts Galleria- Holiday Sale 30% off online and in store orders
OPEN Monday–Friday 10am–6pm,or by appointment.

Bike Barn-Monday- All 2011 bicycles are 20% off. Emotion Kayaks are being sold AT COST.25% of bikes are Reduced!!
OPEN Tues-Thurs- 10am-5:30pm, Friday- 10am-6:30pm, Christmas Eve- 9:30am-5pm

Blacksburg Pipe and Tobacco- Many specials PLUS the great prices we have on all our products.
OPEN Mon- Friday-10am-6pm, Christmas Eve-10am-4:30pm

Bookholders-20% off all apparel
OPEN Mon- Thurs- 9am-8pm, Friday 10am-8pm, Christmas Eve- CLOSED

Campus Emporium-Sugar Bowl items now in! Special sale prices on many items throughout the store.
OPEN Mon- Friday- 9:30am-7:30pm, Christmas Eve- 9:30pm-3pm

Capone’s Fine Jewelry- 15% off Citizen watches. Holiday Hospitality Room offers a little extra pampering while you shop!
OPEN Mon- Thurs- 10am-6pm, Friday- 10am-6pm, Christmas Eve- 10am-5pm

Clothes Rack-Summer Dresses are on sale!! Buy Local- an eclectic shop for all of your eclectic needs!
OPEN Mon-Friday- 11am-7pm, Christmas Eve- 11am-4pm

Community Arts Information Office (CAIO)- Gifts of Art by Blacksburg Regional Arts Association
OPEN Mon-9am-3pm, Tues- 9am-3pm,& 4pm-6pm, Weds- 9am-3pm & 4pm-6pm,Thursday- 9am-3pm, Friday-4-6pm

Eats Natural Foods- Everyone’s a member on Christmas Eve & will receive 15% off. Live Local t-shirts on sale here!
OPEN Mon- Friday- 10am-8pm, Christmas Eve- 10am-5pm

Fringe Benefit- Follow the sparkles to great deals throughout the store, amazing accessories available!
OPEN Mon- Friday- 10am-8pm, Christmas Eve- 9am-4:30pm

Gourmet Pantry- Wine Tasting on Christmas Eve 12-4pm
OPEN Mon- Friday 10am-8pm, Christmas Eve 10am-5pm

Greenhouse Boardshop- Exclusive VT Flip flops here as well as all your boarding needs! Live Local t-shirts on sale here!
OPEN Mon- Friday- 10am-8pm, Christmas Eve- 10am-6pm

Heavener Hardware- Always great gifts for the home and the tool lover in your life! Live Local & Steppin’ Out t-shirts on sale here!
OPEN Mon-Friday- 7:30am-6pm, Christmas Eve CLOSED

Heirloom Originals-Antiques, gifts and originals- something for everyone!
OPEN Mon-Friday 10:30am to 4:30pm, Christmas Eve- 10:30am to 5:00pm

High Peak Sportswear -Your best source for t-shirts, golf shirts, hats, and all types of imprinted apparel and gift items!
OPEN Mon- Friday- 10am-5pm, Christmas Eve -10am-3pm

Homebody- 20% off all clothing and don’t forget the Elephant Poop Paper!
OPEN Mon-Friday 10:30-7pm, Christmas Eve- 11:30am-2pm

John’s Camera Corner- Always a great deal and if it is still here on Christmas Eve it’s on SALE
OPEN Mon-Friday- 10am-5:30pm, Christmas Eve-10am-2pm

Kent Jewelers-New Pandora Inventory now in!
OPEN Mon- Friday- 10am-7pm, Christmas Eve- 10am-5pm

Mad Dog- Coats 40% off  Sweaters 30% off
OPEN Mon- Friday- 10am-7pm, Christmas Eve- 10am-2pm

Matrix Gallery-A wide variety of pottery, glass, jewelry, wood, leather, candles and more
OPEN Mon- Friday-10:30am-7pm, Christmas Eve- 10:30am-4:30pm

Mish Mish- Many sales including easels, starter kits and paint sets. Live Local t-shirts & George Wills Downtown prints on sale here!
OPEN Mon- Friday- 9am-6pm, Christmas Eve- 10am-4pm

Tech Bookstore-33% off ALL VT clothing and gifts
OPEN Mon-Friday-9am-5pm, Christmas Eve- 10am-5pm

Ten Thousand Villages-Fair trade international craft supplier. Crafts from around the world from an ethical supplier. Located inside Fringe Benefit.
OPEN Mon- Friday- 10am-8pm, Christmas Eve- 9am-4:30pm

The 6 PAK Store at The Cellar- Christmas Ales are now in!
OPEN Mon-Friday- 11am-12midnight, Christmas Eve- CLOSED

Wireless Zone- 25% off all accessories including blue tooth, chargers and more, plus many specials on Christmas items
OPEN Mon- Friday- 10am-7pm, Christmas Eve- 10am-2pm

While you are shopping don’t forget to stop in one of our wonderful restaurants, services or the Lyric Theatre to enjoy the full downtown experience! Full list of downtown businesses may be found at www.downtownblacksburg.com

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Top Ten reasons to shop downtown!

16 Dec

10. Product Diversity- a multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.


8. Protect Local Character and Prosperity. By choosing to support locally owned businesses, you help maintain our diversity and distinctive flavor.

7.The Farmers Market is downtown!

6. Community Well-Being
Locally owned businesses build strong neighborhoods by sustaining communities, linking neighbors, and by contributing more to local causes. When you come downtown you will always bump into friends!

5. Bella,Sapphire, & Bradley the “mascot” dogs resident in Capone’s Fine Jewelry and Mad Dog and Heirloom Originals!

4. Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy
Your dollars spent in locally-owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as dollars spent at national chains. When shopping locally, you simultaneously create jobs, fund more town services through sales tax, invest in neighborhood improvement and promote community development.

3. You can stop and eat in one of the many fabulous restaurants and see a movie in the beautiful Lyric Theatre!

2. Public Benefits and Costs
Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls………..

……and the # 1 reason to shop downtown for the holidays…..

1. FREE PARKING at all metered spaces through January 16!

Watch this video- Shop Downtown for the holidays!

Tell us why you love to shop downtown in the comments section below!

Down on the camera corner….

15 Dec

Post written by Tracy Watson
It is said that every picture has a story.  If that is true, then John Kline can probably tell it.  Ask him about the antique slot machine he traded for photographing a wedding, or about taking pictures of mining equipment seven levels down.  John Kline has seen and documented many changes since he first grabbed a camera so long ago.  Nowhere in Blacksburg will you find a better, more tangible record of the history of photography or of our town.

John has had a camera in his hands for as long as he can remember. His first camera, a Brownie Reflex, was his companion as a boy scout while he learned about the world around him. At Blacksburg High School he spent many late nights in the dark room as the school’s photograph editor. His summers were spent in the Virginia Tech photo lab. Even his years in the Navy were spent with a camera in hand.

John’s Camera Corner/Gentry Studio has been in downtown Blacksburg for more than 35 years. Having occupied many locations along Draper Road through the years, John recently returned to 213 Draper Road, a space he originally occupied when he first stopped working for Ewald Clark and started his own business. With all the extra room John has been able to fully display a remarkable collection of cameras, from vintage Brownies to 35mm cameras to modern digital cameras. While it may feel like a museum of photography, all these fascinating cameras are for sale and can be serviced right here.

John’s most unique camera can’t be found in his store, however. It’s in the restaurant across the street. A 1960’s photo booth. Pay your money, have a seat, flash your smile and take home a strip of four pictures as a souvenir.

John was among the first to offer  color processing in town many years ago and continues to provide film processing and digital photo printing today. He also does passports on site, photo restoration, large format printing and archival printing of your photographs. And if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, John will photograph your wedding, reunion, or other event offering  all types of photography from aerials to wedding photography.

John is a proud supporter of “living local” in downtown Blacksburg stating that ” Survival in downtown Blacksburg comes first.  We adapt to the changes, but still keep the old alive, for example we are just building a Black and White darkroom again. We have added Records to our store to add a little more variety.  I have even sold sleds in the winter so you may never know what to expect.”

Take a look at http://www.johnscam.com/ or better yet, stop by John’s Camera Corner/Gentry Studio at 213 Draper Road and take a look around.

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and always a free cookie with your eye exam!!

14 Dec drjstaff1

Post written by Lauryn Tamburello

Dr. Steve Jacobs, Optometrist

Free cookies to get your eyes checked out? Yes, please! As soon as I walk into Dr. Jacob’s office, I’m greeted by two smiling women, Fran and Darlene, offering me a cookie while I wait to meet with Dr. Jacobs.

These two women (Fran’s the one baking the delicious cookies all the time – special advance requests taken eg. sugarless, nut-free etc…) along with Mechelle, Amanda and Regina, are part of what makes this office so special.  I look around and feel a sense of community and warmth; the office is covered with seasonal decorations as well as a community message board adorned with local business cards.  There’s nothing like a good support system.

No time passes as Dr. Jacobs introduces himself and we walk to the exam room. There I see how the office extends around the corner and comes out into an entire room of eyeglasses, there’s certainly not a lack of options here.

Dr. Jacobs came to the field of optometry in a somewhat roundabout way.  After graduating from Cornell University he received a Master’s Degree in Child Development at Michigan State.   However, due to the early 1980s’ prevailing political and economic winds, he decided another career option might be appropriate.   Following the suggestion of his father, who knew their local OD, he looked into optometry as a career offering involvement with people as well as science, and he hasn’t looked back.   The desire for a more laid back lifestyle, especially with two very young daughters, than one possible in Brooklyn or its environs, fortuitously led to Blacksburg “the U.S.’ best place to raise kids”  in 1988 and work at the newly opened NRV Mall.  Once he and his wife, Cathy, decided after two weeks that this is where they wanted to stay forever, it took two years to gather the courage and finances to open his own office, finding a perfect spot on North Main Street.

One way Dr. Jacobs stands out in the community is the personal service he and his staff offer as well as homemade cookies and the feeling you get as if you’re a part of their extended family. The practice is highly involved in the charity, VICCC, which works to create high-quality, affordable, educational, and nurturing care for very young children (ages 0 -5) of income-eligible working families in the New River Valley AND NRV Cares, which “provides child advocacy, resources, education and services.” For the past four years the office has held a “Trunk Show” in November featuring representatives from three eyewear manufacturers, great sales and great food, as a means to raise funds and awareness for these two organizations.   Patrons are requested to donate a portion of their discount the VICCC and NRV Cares, and Dr. Jacobs matches that amount.   Also for their benefit, the practice is currently holding a “Best of Blacksburg” raffle featuring items from local businesses such as wine sets from Vintage Cellar, Gillie’s gift certificate, jewelry from Capone’s etc…

A piece of advice Dr. Jacobs likes to work and live by and which helps local communities alike, is to be local and stay local.   Yes, the Internet might be convenient, but you’d be surprised at the great deals you can receive at your local shop! Don’t forget to “Like” Dr. Jacob’s on Facebook and stop in to buy a raffle ticket- 1 for $5 or 3 for $10! Drawing is next Monday morning (12/19), so hurry!!

Also, don’t forget to frequently check Dr. Jacob’s website for upcoming news & events and to learn more about his unique and wonderful staff.  The website is a great resource for those with common health concerns such as “What is Lazy Eye?”, “All About Color Blindness” and much more!

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Fran is the frame stylist and cookie cooker extraordinaire in the building and she boast that “she’s not the one with the accent…. you are” For an extra special treat try out Fran’s Recipe of the Month and let us know in the comments below which is your favorite! Happy Holidays!

Dr. Steve Jacob’s Office Location
620 North Main Street
Suite #101
Blacksburg VA 24060
Phone: 540-953-0136
Emergency Contact: In case of emergency, please phone our office at the number listed above and follow the instructions.