Old Fort has a new place where small business owners can meet, enjoy a cup of delicious coffee and learn how to make their communities better.
Located at 37 W. Main St. in Old Fort, Catawba Vale Business HUB is a meeting place for local and visiting small businesses. It has a coffee shop and offers rooms for meetings and classes. You will find local art on display and books by Maya Angelou and Stacey Abrams for sale.
This historic building in Old Fort was once the home of Chamber Director Kim Effler and former Alderman Jerome Effler. The mural honoring the late civil rights pioneer Albert Joyner and the struggle for racial justice in Old Fort graces an outside wall of the old brick structure.
Catawba Vale Business HUB provides subsidized office and retail lease space and business advisory training. It is a program of the Eagle Market Streets Development Corp. and is the only business of color on Old Fort’s Main Street. This achievement was accomplished through a generous grant from the Dogwood Health Trust in the amount of $280,000, as an investment in the community to provide the opportunity to support and start emerging businesses in the outdoor and trails industry, according to the website for Eagle Market Streets Development Corp.
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Stephanie Swepson-Twitty, CEO of the corporation, said the building was acquired in October and after a renovation. Since Monday of last week, it has been open serving “counter culture” coffee and it is a central gathering place for small business owners. It is a place where meetings can be held and classes on how to grow a business can be taught, said Swepson-Twitty.
“It’s a continuation of our not-for-profit,” she told The McDowell News. “We serve small businesses through business development. If someone wants to open a small business in Old Fort, they can come here to get consulting training and meeting space.”
There can also be classes in outdoor leadership development training.
“It makes an excellent space for meetings, classes and maybe a bridal get-together,” said Swepson-Twitty.
Throughout the interior, beautiful paintings by local artists are on display. So the place functions as an art gallery as well.
“People can come here and enjoy coffee, enjoy music and art,” said Swepson-Twitty. “We are featuring art from western North Carolina, art from McDowell and Buncombe. Anything that you might be wanting in a social setting, the HUB offers .”
In addition, Catawba Vale Business HUB has formed a partnership with Malaprops book store in Asheville. You can find works by Maya Angelou, Stacey Abrams and Audre Lorde in Old Fort and purchase them. The books available there now include poetry, historical subjects, current events and stories for children.
Catawba Vale Business HUB covers around 3,000 square feet at 37 Main St. and has two employees. It is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 am to 2 pm and is available to the general public.
It has a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Catawba-Vale-Business-HUB-111182691678727.
In addition, Eagle Market Streets Development Corp. is taking the lead on another exciting mural project for Old Fort.
A mural is planned for Commerce Street at the corner of Catawba Avenue that will celebrate Old Fort’s evolution into a hub for cycling. It will be painted on one section of the former Parker Hosiery building, which has been adapted to house multiple businesses like Kitsbow and Hillman Beer.
“Commerce Street is being reimagined as a vibrant corridor for the Flora Fonta Trail,” reads a post on Facebook. “Four bike races currently begin in town and two foot races find a finish in town. Streetscape designs are underway for Catawba Avenue and future plans will include Commerce Street. Including murals and street art installations will support our vibrant tourism industry.”
The first six miles of the planned 42 miles of trails in the Pisgah Forest surrounding Old Fort was recently opened. The Fonta Flora State Trail Park is in planning stages. The community park will be located just out of town and will include a splash pad, a bike garden and a playground.
The mural will celebrate what is happening in the town and recognize such key partners as Kitsbow (maker of premium cycling clothing and accessories), Eagle Market Streets Development Corp. (whose mission to is to promote social justice by supporting small business) and People on the Move (a community collaborative dedicated to recognizing diversity and those who have invested heavily in the local community).
Carlos Miles, a professional artist from Marion, has been commissioned to create the 38-foot-wide and 18-foot-tall mural. He painted the “Where Main Street Meets the Mountains” artwork at the Larry D. Miller Business Complex in Marion . This new painting will represent the hard work of the G5 Collective, People on the Move, the McDowell Trails Association, the Forest Service and The Friends of the Fonta Flora State Trail, Eagle Market Streets and the local community in creating new trails and promoting tourism in Old Fort, according to the Facebook post.
Eagle Market Streets Development Corp. is accepting donations to make this planned artwork a reality. Sponsors at the $500 level will be recognized as part of a plaque on the mural wall. Donations are being accepted through PayPal. In addition, checks can be made payable to: EMSDC Community Benefit Partner, 70 S. Market St., Asheville NC 28803. Memo Line is Commerce St. Mural Project Donation.