15 Mar Heartwood Officially Reopened Under New Name, Renewed Focus On Cultural Authenticity
ABINGDON, VA – Today, the ribbon was cut on the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace and the facility reopened to the world. Formerly known as Heartwood, the facility has a refreshed look and renewed focus on telling the culturally authentic story of Southwest Virginia to residents and visitors alike.
Heartwood opened in 2011 as the gateway for the creative economy in Southwest Virginia. The center was conceived to showcase and sell the work of regional artisans and musicians and to interpret Southwest Virginia’s history, heritage, outdoor recreation and scenic beauty via stories and first-person narratives to inspire travel to other parts of the region.
The facility was constructed and has been operated by three joint entities: Friends of Southwest Virginia, a 501c3 community development non-profit; the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation; and ‘Round the Mountain, Southwest Virginia’s 501c3 non-profit artisan network. Following a 9-month exploration and planning process with a professional consultant, the joint boards made the decision to overhaul the facility and programs to better serve the mission.
- The name, Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace, was selected by the boards to better align the facility with regional work and the creative economy movement.
- An expanded focus on the artisans and connecting the facility with them. This includes expanded space for retailing and exhibiting art and craft, increased attention to connecting the facility to other arts facilities through SWVA, and more opportunities for artisans to interact with the public through the facility.
- A commitment to quality service and experience for both artisans and customers. Under the new operational model, the facility, ‘Round the Mountain, and Friends of Southwest Virginia is consolidated and managed by the same staff for the first time in history.
- An expanded visitor center with additional brochure and display space. The centerpiece of the visitor center is a new custom designed map with each city and county formed from historic wood from their communities. A companion guide book details the history of each piece of precious wood and encourages visitors to explore the region.
- An overhaul of The Crooked Road room with a new video theater that allows visitors to experience the music of SWVA any time the facility is open to the public. This space also features new exhibits and displays about music history.
- Incorporation of the Southwest Virginia Outdoors brand, outdoor areas and businesses into the facility through eight new area displays that will be debuting over the next two years.
- A reinvention of the restaurant into the SWVA Café and Mountain Brew Bar and incorporation of regional restaurants, caterers, and food trucks at regular weekly events and special events. The new restaurant model is sourcing 85% of products from Southwest Virginia and retailing a wide selection of regionally made products, wines and beers.
- New hours! To better fit the needs of the traveling and local public, the facility is now open Monday – Saturday from 11am – 7pm and Sundays from 11am – 3pm.
The Center is home to work of over 300+ juried artisans of ‘Round the Mountain and the renovations will aid in putting further emphasis on their work and individual stories. Further, the Center is a major venue on The Crooked Road and the music, musicians and heritage will continue to be impactful to residents and visitors alike.
“We’ve known for a long time that no group took ownership of Heartwood – the artists, the musicians, community leaders – no one called it home,” said Chris Cannon, Executive Director of Friends of Southwest Virginia, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Round the Mountain, the three organizations that jointly operate the Center. “These changes have created a feeling of comfort reflective of the authentic spirit of our region, and we already see the artisans, musicians and regional partners feeling more at home here.”
“The transition of this facility will continue our momentum towards a renewed Southwest Virginia with economic diversity and strength,” said Delegate Will Morefield, Chair of the Foundation. “We are excited to welcome the world to Southwest Virginia.”
“Southwest Virginia has a reputation of excellence for coming together and making incredible projects happen,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “These renovations and improvements to the facility and programming will help expand the brand of Southwest Virginia and build a stronger tourism economy throughout every inch of the region.”
“We’ve done incredible work over the past 8 years, but our new course will support more working artisans, music venues and the small businesses in every small, medium and large town, city and county we have,” said Jim Baldwin, Chair of Friends of Southwest Virginia.
Through the renewed image, programming and brand, the marketing strategy for the Center will be more aligned with the overall Southwest Virginia branding, storytelling and marketing efforts. This will allow the facility to be positioned as the starting point to a trip to experience Southwest Virginia.
All renovations to the new Center were facilitated by ‘Round the Mountain member and artisan, Hunter Dannhardt of Appalachian Reclaimed. Appalachian Reclaimed specializes in custom furniture, home décor, and historic preservation using reclaimed wood from around Southwest Virginia.
Friends of Southwest Virginia invites you to attend one, if not all of the events mentioned below for a unique look at the rebranded storytelling center, devoted to showcase the unique stories and assets of the 19 counties and four cities in our region.
Join us at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace for an evening of old-fashioned square dancing! Tyler Hughes, a renowned regional musician, will lead the evening with his band. No partner or experience necessary – just a desire to have fun!
This dance is free and open to the public. Get your dancing shoes on and spread the word!
‘Round the Mountain Spring Artisan Market
Join us on March 16th for spring shopping from local artisans! Each artisan will be on-site, selling their crafts from 11am-7pm. We are also thrilled open our new grab-and-go restaurant and to have the MountainRose Vineyards on-site to take your shopping experience to the next level!
Sunday Brunch by Pakalachian
Pakalachian will be not be serving out of their food truck for this event, but rather from inside of our facility!
The Pakalachian is a food truck based out of Abingdon, Virginia, that strives to creatively blend the culinary elements of both Southwest Virginia and South Asia to produce unique, vibrant dishes that benefit local Appalachia. Owned and operated by Mohsin and Katlin Kazmi, this food truck is anything but ordinary. Each dish is curated to combine the comforting elements of the foods Katlin and Mohsin grew up with as kids.
The idea for The Pakalachian began with the blending of two cultures in marriage. Katlin and Mohsin met while in college at Virginia Tech. They married and moved to the golden rod and lightning bugs of Abingdon in 2014. Making similar meals for family and friends in their kitchen, the idea to start a food truck began to emerge. After establishing how to share the food with the rest of the region, the Kazmi’s started with an empty 1996 step van and built the food truck from the ground up.
The truck supports many sustainable practices as well. Mohsin and Katlin source all produce locally and have a goal of being 100% locally sourced by 2020. The menu for the truck is subject to change seasonally and from visit to visit, based on availability of ingredients. They serve meals in environmentally friendly containers, compost kitchen waste from food preparation, recycle empty cans and bottles, maintain a “no waste” mentality, and hope to have solar panels powering much of their equipment in the future.
Southwest Virginia Salutes Our Veterans Dedication
Join Friends of Southwest Virginia to dedicate the new I-81 Interstate a Flag and Flagpole that will shine SWVA’s love and respect for America on a daily basis. The support of the Abingdon Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1994 and Auxiliary makes this event possible.
Showcase a comprehensive picture of Southwest Virginia and the creative economy as a gateway to the region and create new economic impact while maintaining financial stability as an organization.
- Heartwood front line and Friends of Southwest Virginia staff are integrated and working toward a single mission.
- Visitors come to Heartwood as the start to a Southwest Virginia trip and are spending more money throughout region as a result of coming to Heartwood.
- The restaurant evolves into a limited service cafe operation to still provide essentials while meeting the bottom line financially.
- Visitors receive a music experience available at all times of operation.
- Arts & Crafts assume primary focus of facility with events to support and engage artisans.
- Retail lines are successful and servicing both the needs of the general public and partners.
- A robust schedule of special events to further the mission and work of the overall organization.
- Heartwood incorporates outdoor recreation into retail and experiential portfolio
- Transition the full-service restaurant into a limited service café and grab and go operation with a focus on locally sourced items.
- Redevelop sales and events plan to focus on facility rentals (sales) and craft sales / promotion (events).
- Evaluate structure of operations (contracted services) to improve management and operations while increasing financial efficiency.
- Simplify facility brand and align with success of the SWVA brand for a renewed public image.
- Overhaul visitors center to be an effective destination marketing tool for the region.
- Partner with local outdoor organizations to show representation in Heartwood and provide an experience resulting in a booking new business for regional partners.
- Activate space and highlight local music through a series of new programming.
- Examine current retail gift shop product lines for profitable segments and components for elimination.
For more information, please contact Jenna Wagner with Friends of Southwest Virginia (276-492-2400 ext. 2422).
About Southwest Virginia:
Tucked in the mountains of Southwest Virginia is a vibrant culture of music, craft and stunning natural beauty. It’s a region of spectacular views and rich natural resources. Time spent in the region adds up to something much more than a simple getaway. A different side of Virginia. And a great place to visit for a week’s vacation – or to make a home for a lifetime. Authentic. Distinctive. Alive.
About the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia:
The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation is the coordinating body for cultural heritage tourism and economic development efforts fostering Southwest Virginia’s creative economy. Through a supporting non-profit, the Friends of Southwest Virginia, the combined entities help localities, businesses, individuals, artists, nonprofits and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed.
A multifaceted plan identifies the cultural and natural assets of the region; coordinates initiatives, organizations and venues engaged in cultural and natural heritage toward more efficient operations for all partner organizations; and develops a comprehensive strategy and capital improvements plan to maximize the impact of state investments in this significant restructuring effort.
Key initiatives include:
- Branding and marketing Southwest Virginia to the world as a distinct culture and destination
- Developing and sustaining the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace
- Expanding outdoor recreation development initiatives and marketing throughout the region
- Planning and implementation of downtown revitalization throughout the region to instill a high quality of life within our communities and promote them to the world for a broad spectrum of economic development opportunities