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A Denney for Your Thoughts – Downtown Erwin is RISEing

By Connie Denney

You may have enjoyed seeing the vintage station wagon with a Christmas tree tied on top in Erwin’s Christmas Parade.  Or, you may have noticed it parked afterward in front of The Bramble, the event space located at 206 Gay Street, referred to locally as the A.R. Brown building.

As I met a week later with Jamie Rice, co-owner along with Kristin Anders, of The Bramble, she laughed easily as she reached back a year to remember how the vehicle with woodgrain panels entered their life. (It reminded me of a Christmas Past, when all ended well—but only after a breakdown in a station wagon loaded with wrapped gifts!)

Excited about their first Christmas in the building, Kristin and Jamie had wanted the tallest tree that would fit.  It was 16 feet tall, which reminded Jamie of the Griswolds’ adventures (think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation).  A friend had the old station wagon.  The rest is history.

As we talked, this year’s tree stood in the corner of the large room, which would welcome a party in a few hours.  It may serve as a venue for someone else’s event or The Bramble may host its own. The business directs efforts toward drawing attention to the importance of “shop local” to the local economy.  An extension of that goal is giving artists and craftsmen “a place to create a name for themselves,” then hopefully, over time these people will fill empty storefronts with “unique boutique shops.”

Such vendors had filled the space a week earlier as The Bramble hosted its second Shop Small Market following the Christmas Parade the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Keyword:  Variety.  One vendor with ornaments made from an antique quilt gave background.  Her grandmother lived in The Laurels community in the early 1900s, raised sheep, sheared sheep and spun wool to make batting for quilts she made.

Others offered truffles, baked goods, pickles, home décor items, jewelry, essential oils and other lavender-based products, metal art and more. Local students representing FFA sold Christmas trees and made wreaths on-site.

The involvement of students was no coincidence.  Agriculture and culinary arts students, along with those from the drama department and others who promote through video production and social media have supported efforts of RISE (Rejuvenate, Invest, Support and Energize), an organization made up of folks, including Kristin and Jamie, interested in Downtown Erwin. The relationship with educators and students has evolved as they have taken part in RISE projects.

Christmas events coming up include A Handmade Holiday Market, “a collection of local makers, artists and small businesses,” scheduled for Saturday, December 17, at The Bramble. Jewelry artist Angelica Markland, a vendor at the Shop Small event, is organizing this one.

Then, on Wednesday, December 21, the public is encouraged to join a Candlelight Nativity Parade that will make its way on Main Street from the Post Office to First Baptist Church. Dressing as shepherds or angels is fine but it is optional. Just meet at the Post Office at 6:30 p.m. for the procession to the church steps.  A live nativity, singing carols and hot chocolate will warm body and soul.  Churches are encouraged to participate.  For more information call Jamie, 220-7624.