Pitching in to keep the vine alive

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 27, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY – Downtown merchants and customers have rallied to keep the Blue Vine open as co-owner Chris Jones battles for his life in the critical care unit at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Jones, who owns the wine shop and cafe at 209 S. Main St. with his wife Rose Meeks Jones, suffered heart failure Sept. 19 and was airlifted to Winston-Salem. He remains in critical condition on a ventilator, family friend Diana Moghrabi said.
With Rose Meeks Jones at her husband’s side, no one was left to run the shop.
After a one-day closure, the community stepped up to keep the Blue Vine – the Jones’ sole source of income – open for business.
New employee Vanessa Martin, who started working two days a week on Aug. 27, now works full-time. Blue Vine fans – including other restaurants – have volunteered their time and talents since Chris’ health crisis.
“Thanks so very much for the overwhelming outpouring of love and support you have extended us,” Rose wrote on her Facebook page. “We couldn’t make it through this difficult time without all of you.
“Many have asked what they can do to help. Right now, just help us keep ‘The Vine’ alive for Chris! Stop in for lunch or a refreshing beverage, pick up a bottle or two of wine to take home, come listen to our music. We love all you folks!”
Founded in 2006, the wine shop has become a popular venue for live music, and local musicians have organized a fundraiser Oct. 5 and 6 to help with medical expenses. Self-employed, neither Rose nor Chris has health insurance, Moghrabi said.
“With the economy the way it is, they just couldn’t afford it,” she said.
The fundraiser at the Blue Vine will feature performances by the Ashley Jo Farmer Band and Divided By Four on Oct. 5. The following night, C.J. Peters and Tripp Edwards will perform, with other musicians expected to be announced in the coming days.
The Blue Vine has been able to fulfill all event commitments, including a weekly wine tasting Tuesday night that attracted 16 people. Cartucci’s zipped around the corner to deliver free food for all guests, and Cam Hall of Piedmont Players Theatre played host for the evening.
“It was amazing,” said Martin, who has been overwhelmed by the community’s generosity.
Jimmy Thompson, who lives nearby in the Kress Building, has been checking on Martin when she closes the store. Tracie Rendleman of Benchwarmers has helped prepare and serve lunch, and Sherry Lowery of Stitchin Post will volunteer as a cocktail waitress this weekend.
“The customers who frequent the Blue Vine are treated like family by Rose and Chris, so it is wonderful to see them show up to help in this time of need,” said Randy Hemann, executive director for Downtown Salisbury Inc.
Rendleman said the response reminds her of the outpouring for Gavin Littleton, the 15-year-old son of Benchwarmers owner Todd Littleton who was paralyzed after a diving accident this summer.
Martin schedules the volunteers for the Blue Vine and said she welcomes additional help.
Former employee Jessica Dewitt will return to help during live entertainment this weekend.
“Salisbury has really stepped up to help their friends in need,” said Moghrabi, who has volunteered at the shop.
Rose and Chris were married in 2004 in Salisbury and celebrated their wedding reception at the Meroney Theatre. Two years later, they opened the Blue Vine, where Chris cooks and Rose hosts wine tastings and books bands.
“The Blue Vine is a valuable part of our downtown and to see it hurt is to see us all hurt,” said Peters, who has been helping organize the fundraiser.
After a robust response to his call for bands and artists to support of Rose and Chris, Peters praised his fellow musicians.
“Salisbury’s heart just grew three sizes,” he said.
The Blue Vine is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and hosts live music Friday and Saturday nights. Wine tastings and dinner begin at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday.
The retail wine shop is also open most afternoons until 5 p.m.
To contact the shop, call 704-797-0093.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.