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Village charm

State Street Station still drawing a crowd

by Danielle Jackson


Built in the 1920s as a shopping center for nearby Cone Mill Corp. employees, Greensboro’s State Street Station had experienced waves of both activity and inactivity over the years. But since building contractor John Harmon and mortgage financier Len White breathed new life into the space during the 1980s, State Street Station has become one of the Triad’s most popular shopping destinations.


Often compared to places like San Francisco’s Union Street and Boston’s Newbury Street, the six-block, 65,000-square-foot center now houses 32 locally owned retail and service businesses. Its nine buildings, all constructed between the 1920s and 1980s, offer an eclectic look, with a similar green and white color scheme to tie it all together.


“Something we’ve worked really hard on is getting the mix more oriented toward retail shops to bring back more of the shopping crowd,” says Scott Kutos, operations manager for Alliance Commercial Property Management, which purchased State Street Station in 2005.


“It’s more of a community village, which makes it warm, friendly and inviting not only for customers but also for tenants,” he adds. “It goes back to the old days of shopping.”


A community feel

John and Suzan Magee know State Street Station’s community feel better than most people. The couple, who purchased The Secret Tea Room earlier this year, also live in the neighborhood. Their restaurant is a popular spot for bridal luncheons, baby showers and birthday parties.


“The residents and neighborhood are warm and friendly,” John Magee says. “We just love the atmosphere.”


Earnhardt Optical has been located at the same spot along State Street for the past 14 years. Owner Bill Fonner chose the site for its distinctive, upscale nature.


“We were looking for a smaller location but wanted something that was a bit more unique,” he says. “It’s quaint, upscale shopping with a history.”


Mechelle Lindenberg opened Mechelle’s Resale Shoppe, which sells both new and consigned items, a little over a year ago for similar reasons.


“We’re like a little community,” she says. “So far, it’s been a wonderful experience.”


After having her business in High Point for seven years, Joyce Darr decided it was time to make a change. The aesthetician and owner of The Skin Care Center finally decided to open the State Street Center for Renewal — a community of independent holistic practitioners — there “because it was the perfect location for me to move my business,” she says.


Kathy Flack, owner of Kathy & Associates, had a 3,800-square-foot space elsewhere but decided to pare down the services she offered and focus exclusively on what she does best: hair.

“I wanted a simple situation and liked the fact that people are always out walking on State Street,” she says. “It’s homey, and everyone chats with everyone else.”


Jody Martin, owner of plus-size sister shops Linnea’s Boutique and Rubenesque for Less, considered several areas before relocating from Battleground Avenue earlier this year. She chose State Street Station for its diversity of offerings.


“Each business brings its own unique energy to the street,” Martin says.


“Together, we create a wonderful feeling of community among residents, shop owners and customers.”


James Hogan, a specialty fine women’s apparel shop, is one of State Street’s newest tenants. The shop, which opened in April, has other locations in Boston and Savannah.


“The ambience and charm were paramount, and it reminded us of our other stores,” says Michael Hammon, general manager and buyer for the shop.


“The easy parking and close proximity to our existing clientele also was important.”


A focus on local

Lillo Bella, a shoe boutique specializing in both established and up-and-coming brands, opened for business at State Street Station two years ago. Owner Emem Ikon believes that the spirit of each shop owner is at the heart of the district.


“All of the shops are locally owned and operated, allowing for more emphasis on customer service,” she says.


“As small-business owners, we come together to support and encourage each other, especially in these difficult economic times.”


Many of State Street Station’s businesses — including Lillo Bella and Mechelle’s Resale Shoppe — are members of Buy Triad First and Local Triad First, organizations that encourage residents to shop at locally owned, independent businesses. Monthly Ladies Night Out events round out the shopping district’s hometown community feel.


“We love to have area women come enjoy an appetizer and drink during Ladies Night Out,” says Diana Carl, owner of Southwyck Antiques and Gifts.


“It’s a lot of fun walking store to store,” Lindenberg says of both the monthly events and the shopping district as a whole.


“It’s different from anything else in Greensboro.”


Danielle Jackson is editor of Triad Living, Wake Living and Fifteen501 magazines.

Main street mentality

Jamestown thriving through small-town living


The drive through Jamestown is short but scenic. From bucolic pastures to small-town storefronts, it makes up for in charm what it lacks in size. Should you decide to spend a day — or even a weekend — in this little Triad town, then you’ll find one-of-a-kind retail shops, upscale dining, outdoor adventure and colonial history, all within a few square miles.


Bridging the Triad

Head down High Point Road in southwest Greensboro and you’ll notice that the traffic-prone commercial district slowly begins blending into a relaxing drive past white-fenced pastures with grazing horses. On your drive, you’ll pass through a haunted underpass beneath the Southern Railway. Soon after, you’ll cross over from High Point Road onto Jamestown’s Main Street.


Continue your journey, and you’ll come upon quaint antiques shops and flag-lined brick sidewalks. Be sure not to blink, because Main Street quickly fades into High Point’s Greensboro Road shortly after passing Jamestown’s historic Mendenhall Plantation.


If it were any other town, it might simply be a provincial blip in a primarily urban county, but Jamestown offers a unique combination of history, beauty, and location that makes it a desirable place to live, visit, and do business.


Aanessa Reeves, owner of Faux Bella Inc., made her home in Jamestown and eventually set up shop there as well. The New York native says she loves the spot for her design studio, located just off Main Street downtown, because of its charm and convenience, since many of her clients come from throughout the Triad.


“Jamestown is centrally located, which is great for me,” Reeves says. “I can easily get to Winston, Burlington or High Rock Lake. It’s right in the middle of it all.”


Matthew Johnson, the town’s planning director, acknowledges this unique combination as well.


“Jamestown holds great promise in promoting its unique small-town charm amidst the convenience of the city,” he says.


“We are well known as a great bedroom community with access to good schools, an attractive tax rate and great public services,” Johnson adds. “Our location near major thoroughfares, interstates, and airports allows for rapid and easy access to the Piedmont Triad region.”


Culture and collectibles

While Jamestown certainly is convenient to Triad hot spots, it also has a lot to offer on its own terms. For example, it’s recently become a go-to destination for antiques and home décor collectables. Stores like River Twist, a home and garden store located in a renovated early 20th century gas station, and Beverly’s Down the Hill, an antique and consignment furniture store that formerly was called Beverly Hills on Main, offer unique collectables and décor that can’t be found at big-box stores.


“We have vintage furniture, jewelry and décor, and we have consignment furniture of all kinds,” says Beverly Foster, owner of Beverly’s Down the Hill.


Park your car anywhere along the town’s small Main Street district and you can easily walk from store to store, picking up fun, beautiful, unique treasures along the way.


If you get hungry on your shopping hunt, then make a stop at Southern Roots, a foodie’s delight that originally opened in downtown High Point. When owners Lisa Hawley and Mary Ragsdale decided to move the restaurant, they chose Jamestown. They’re also planning a coffee shop down the street.


A storied suburb

In the early 18th century, Keyauwee Indians roamed and hunted the area that’s now Jamestown. Visitors can explore these same grounds by way of the city’s many hiking trails — whether it’s through Gibson Park’s wooded paths or the paved greenway that meanders through Jamestown on its route across Guilford County.


For something more, visit City Lake Park, where you can rent canoes, pedal boats and fishing equipment. If you’d rather be in the water than on the water, take a walk up the hill to the public swimming pool and waterslides. There’s also a playground, merry-go-round and miniature train track.


There are several old buildings on City Lake Park’s grounds that make up a former Quaker meeting house and general store that was owned by Richard Mendenhall, a member of one of Jamestown’s first families.


Quakers began settling Jamestown just before the Revolutionary War. During the antebellum era, they were part of the Underground Railroad, providing several stops and wagons to the cause. Mendenhall Plantation — located across from City Lake Park — offers tours of one of these stops. At the plantation, visitors also can view restored false-bottom wagons that were used to transport slaves to safety in the early to mid-19th century.


Jamestown has quite a bit of history packed into its modest borders. It is home to the Jamestown Rifle, a 19th-century muzzle-loading gun now famous among collectors; Tabitha Ann Holton, North Carolina’s first female attorney; and Oakdale Cotton Mills, the longest continually operating cotton mill in the U.S.


Great things to come

While this town has quite a past, it also has a hopeful future. According to Johnson, commercial and residential development has continued despite the national economic downturn. The town also soon will begin work on a new park across the street from the town hall that’ll include gardens, trails, and play areas and host concerts and outdoor performances. Other enhancements to the town include new pedestrian and cycling facilities, as well as a paddle trail that will connect a kayak and canoe trail on the Deep River with other communities throughout the state.


This revitalization of Jamestown’s public spaces — as well as its booming downtown business district — fit the community’s character and heritage while attracting a diversity of jobs, Johnson says.


“Jamestown is located between two large cities in one of the state’s largest metro regions, yet it retains the character of a small town,” he says.


“Neighbors still know other neighbors, people smile and wave when they pass, citizens can recall several generations of families who have lived here, and folks are always ready to lend a hand to others in need,” Johnson adds. “This small-town charm is something I find inspiring in light of the fact that we are part of a larger region of more than 1.5 million people.”


Jennifer Sellers is a freelance writer based in Greensboro.