By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Arts, crafts and coveted goods.
Full-service interior design.
Custom framing and needlework.
Three businesses — two new and one longstanding — have turned the 100 block of West Fisher Street into a destination for people who want to make their homes more interesting, beautiful and unique.
The trio represents a “one-stop-shop for everything you need for your home,” said Missie Alcorn, who recently opened Fisher Street Interiors, nestled between the new One-O-Nine Gallery and the well-established Spring Robin.
Anchored on the east by Caniche, also owned by Alcorn, and on the west by the soon-to-open expansion of First United Methodist Church, the 100 block of West Fisher could enjoy more foot traffic as shoppers venture off the beaten path to see what the burgeoning area has to offer.
“It’s a nice little design cluster,” said Randy Hemann, executive director for Downtown Salisbury Inc. “I’m excited about the high quality.”
Although the restaurant space — formerly Carousel Cafe — remains vacant, the block has a vibrant appeal with fresh awnings and intriguing window displays, sometimes including Pedro the dog at One-O-Nine, perched on a table with his named spelled out in bottlecaps.
The entrepreneurs have become friends and are working together to market their location.
One-O-Nine owner Tommy Thomason constructed a crafty sign topped with a wooden fish (for the “fish” in “West Fisher”) that will appear at the corner, directing potential customers and clients to the cluster.
Robin Hager, who opened the Spring Robin in 2008, said she’s happy to have neighbors.
“I was sort of lonely down here,” she said.
What’s the former owner of Village Grocery and Garden Shop on U.S. 601 doing opening an art shop?
Having a lot of fun, that’s what.
The first thing you notice when you step inside Thomason’s eclectic art and crafts gallery are the items hanging from the ceiling.
A teddy bear pilots the 1930s Buddy L biplane pedal toy that graces the center of the ceiling. A bright yellow BMX bike emblazoned with a Mello Yellow sticker hangs nearby.
A makeshift wall divides the gallery from Thomason’s office and workbench. He crafted the funky divider from four columns and a dozen pieces of tin ceiling he found when he bought the building.
Bamboo harvested from his neighbor’s yard serves as a curtain.
“I like to work with what materials I have in front of me, and try to make something out of it,” said Thomason, 69.
While the plane, bike and divider are not for sale, they set the tone for a shop that’s both beautiful and quirky. Thomason carries items from 10,000 Villages, as well as pieces by 10 potters and four jewelry designers.
He features work by five artists, including his son, Matthew Thomason.
Tommy Thomason makes some of the coveted goods himself, including frames and mirrors using recycled tin and barn wood.
He covered the table for Pedro, a stray who showed up at Thomason’s High Rock Lake house, with carpet salvaged from Wachovia’s trash across the street.
Initially looking for a second home in downtown Salisbury, Thomason bought the two-story brick building to live upstairs. He decided to turn the first floor into retail space and started creating.
Although never a professional artist himself, Thomason comes from a long line of creative people. His father was a sign painter for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company on South Main Street, and his aunts and uncles all were artistic, Thomason said.
Retired since 2000, Thomason said the new shop has restored some structure to his life and forced him to be “a little more productive.”
Opening an art gallery in today’s economy and expecting it to make a lot of money would be stupid, he said.
“At this age, there are more important things than money,” Thomason said.
Missie Alcorn swears this is her last one.
Already partial owner of Caniche and The Lettered Lily, Alcorn has opened a third business.
She’d been working in interior design for 20 years when the Great Recession hit and “everything got very quiet,” Alcorn said.
Then in January, interest began picking up. Alcorn went to dinner with friend Debi Lyerly, who owns the Painted Polka Dot with Carol McNeely.
Lyerly also had seen a resurgence and was preparing for a direct-mail advertising campaign. So was Alcorn.
The two decided to join forces.
“The second we partnered, it just exploded,” Alcorn said.
The team — with Alcorn at the helm and Lyerly and McNeely as design consultants — has 12 current jobs, including four in the mountains. Their distinctive van, as well as stylish yard signs, have generated buzz and several clients.
From one bookshelf to an entire house, Fisher Street Interiors offers full-service design including floor and window coverings, furniture, cabinets, accessories and lighting.
“We can do everything, including putting the mattress pad and sheets on the bed and the glasses in the cupboard, if that’s what the client wants,” Lyerly said.
Any budget is welcome, and no job’s too small.
Offering what they dub a “quick redesign,” the team in one day will take down all photos, books and accessories from a mantle or bookshelf.
“We use some of their treasured pieces and infuse them with something new to come up with a fresh arrangement,” Lyerly said.
Using inventory from the High Point and Atlanta furniture markets, Fisher Street Interiors works with design warehouses in the Charlotte region. Each member of the team brings a different talent. Alcorn and McNeely are “absolutely fabulous space planners,” said Lyerly, who has an eye for color and fabric.
They also offer high-end custom wall treatments. These elaborate faux finishes are far from sponge painting.
The holidays are fast approaching.
“If you are going to entertain this season,” Alcorn said, “let us spruce up your home with a quick redesign and a fresh eye.”
Originally Rhonda’s Picture Place, the Spring Robin hatched in 2008 when Robin Hager, Rhonda’s longtime manager, bought the business with Janice Hancock and added needlework.
“She has excellent taste and creativity,” longtime customer Rita Kotarsky said recently as Hager helped her pick out tiny buttons for a needlework project.
The Spring Robin offers a modern twist on the age-old hobby, selling embellishments like buttons, seed beads, metallic and textured thread and charms to decorate the needlework.
“This isn’t your grandmother’s counted cross-stitch,” Hager said. “It’s more creative than it used to be.”
With materials and custom framing, a small needlework project like Hager’s Halloween witch juggling pumpkin buttons runs about $50.
Located in the same building where the Carolina Watchman newspaper was printed in the 1800s, the Spring Robin sometimes has friendly visitors from the past, Hager said.
Unexplained knocks, music and mischief happen occasionally at the Spring Robin, and the Carolina Association for Paranormal Studies in Rockwell has completed three investigations of the building. Videos show energy orbs and recordings offer a female voice and something that sounds like machinery.
A printing press, perhaps?
Hager said she’s never felt afraid in the building, which has been considered “haunted” for years.
Hager remains steadfastly optimistic about the economy.
“There have been some very rough months,” she said. “But things are slowly picking up.”
Like most small business owners, Hager said “I’m not ever planning on being rich. But I hope I will have something my customers want and offer them a good service.”
When her husband Wayne suffered from congestive heart failure and eventually had a heart transplant, Hager said needlework kept her sane.
“I tell you what, it’s better than valium,” she said.
The Spring Robin now shares its nest with two newcomers. And Hager couldn’t be more pleased.
“Even though our businesses are entirely different, we all have the same goals,” she said. “We all three love to create.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
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