Efforts to preserve older buildings are “what makes Capon Bridge memorable, distinctive and real,” says developer Tim Reese.
Other small-town business districts may see buildings sitting empty, but Capon Bridge’s main street is full of thriving locally owned businesses, several in formerly abandoned buildings Reese has renovated.
With the opening of Dakota Karper’s Cat and The Fiddle school of music on Capon School Street Saturday, Reese just needs to complete work on the building next door, which will house for Jenn Lockwood’s School Street Studios, to finish his latest project.
Others have done this sort of thing before him, he points out - going back at least to B. A. Giffin’s choice of a building to house his funeral home in the 1950s, and Steve Morse’s renovation of a deteriorating art deco building auto in the 1980s.
Reese adds praise of Cruz Alvarado for his “constant renovation and upgrading” of El Puente.
His own involvement began in 2014, when his daughter Kate and her husband Pete Pacelli were planning to move to Asheville, N.C., to open a butcher shop.
Reese, who once was a contractor, and then a real estate broker working with developers, saw an opportunity in a vacant building in the center of town.
“The building had languished with a ‘Call Bob’ sign for many years,” he says, and after the closing of Jude’s Farm Market had left Capon Bridge “kind of a food desert.”
He and his wife, Beth, proposed the Pacellis instead consider opening a store in Capon Bridge, and found them enthusiastic about the idea of a butcher/grocer shop selling produce from local farmers.
The whole family worked at the project over one winter — doing demolition, drywall and painting themselves with help from a carpenter, and hiring others as needed.
When they were done, Reese handed the business over to Kate and Pete, “letting the young people take over,” as something he has done each time when the building is ready.
“Running a business is every day, 6 days a week. It takes creativity and stamina — something that young people bring,” he explains.
Each project has raised funding through a Kickstarter campaign. It’s something he knows troubles some people, “always putting your hand out for money.”
Reese sees Kickstarter differently.
“It gives the community an opportunity to invest in its young people,” he says. People vote with their dollars on what they want.
Projects not drawing enough support are not funded. Kickstarter requires the project’s funding goals to be met within the time allotted.
For the Farmer’s Daughter, 196 people contributed to the Pacellis’ Kickstarter campaign, setting a new record for food-related projects in West Virginia.
When the Farmers Daughter opened in 2017, “I was exhausted,” Reese says, but he had been driving by a “really cool” building by the bridge for years.
He didn’t really have a plan for it, but he had time, and his son Allen to help. The 2 spent 6 months working on the building themselves, with some help from friends and volunteers.
Looking for a use, he thought that given Capon Bridge’s community and culture, the town needed a showcase for local musical talent, as well as public access to the river that runs through town but is surrounded by private land.
The Reeses took Mike and Jo Everson, 2 energetic volunteers (WWOOFers) who had worked on the Reese’s Taproot Farm, to meet with the state department of art and culture and visit places including Tamarack, Mountain Stage and the Purple Fiddle.
Again, the ideas came from the young people who now run the River House.. The community gave strong support, with 209 contributing to a Kickstarter campaign, and others volunteering or helping in other ways.
When it was done, Reese was “tapped out.” He lacked manpower for another project even if he wanted since, after his son Allen had moved to Asheville.
When Danny Riggleman tried to get him interested in a property on Capon School Street, he looked just to be polite, he says — then “Wow. I could see something there.”
He approached one person about a “school-type concept.” They weren’t interested.
He attributes the project to Dakota Karper’s enthusiasm; “so brave, and so much energy,” he says.
She wanted to open a music school with a place to live on the 2nd floor.
Reese worked with Travis Delaplain and FNB Bank on the financing, and the town council allowed him to subdivide the property — half for Karper and half for Lockwood’s art studios.
Karper’s Kickstarter campaign drew support from 181 people.
With his latest project almost finished, Reese thinks he is done — and besides, he says, “there really aren’t that many dilapidated buildings left in Capon Bridge.
He would like to turn Capon School Street into a more appropriate approach to the county schools, but beyond that, he thinks that this time he is done.