Cliff Miller IV, owner of the Sperryville Schoolhouse, has notified three retail tenants in the complex’s main building that starting early next month he will be taking over the entire building, primarily for what he says is expansion of his burgeoning antiques business.
Schoolhouse Antiques, which occupies the building’s largest space — the old school’s gymnasium — has “turned into a very good business” in the year it’s been open, Miller said Monday, speaking from the Headmaster’s Pub, his other retail presence in the building. (And, in the open fields just east of the building, Miller is also building Rappahannock County’s first golf course — a nine-hole public course he hopes to open by July 2015.)
The owners of Antics and Antiques, Knit Wit Yarn Shop and the fair-trade gift and clothing store Comfort, none of which have apparently had current leases for some time, received 30-day notices on Aug. 9 to move out. The artisan-centric gift store Coterie and the Heritage Hollow Farm Store, which share the complex’s smaller annex next door, are apparently welcome to stay.
Fawn Evenson, owner of Antics and Antiques, said she is moving her already small operation to the Ginger Hill antiques market on U.S. 211 near Washington, where she’ll be renting a 10-by-10 booth space from owners Berni Olson and Dan Lewis.
“It’s a mixed blessing,” said Evenson, who says the new space will be staffed mostly by Olson and Lewis, as they do for all their current vendors. “I have loved being there, making new friends, and all the camaraderie among the tenants — it’s just been a nice group of people . . . but it’s time I pared down anyway.
“All of this is not to say a antiques market in that building can’t be a good thing,” she said, speaking of Miller’s plan, which Miller said mostly involves more antique furniture, accessories, carpets, and, he said, a possible toy store — to offer something to “the many families who come in here every week.”
Susan McCarthy, who co-owns Comfort with Rebecca Abecassis (who herself owns the third business in the main building, Knit Wit Yarn Shop), said Monday she and Abecassis are still looking for “the right space.”
“We’d like to stay in Sperryville. We’d like to stay in Rappahannock,” she said. “We will absolutely let everyone know where we end up — and we’ve had amazing, amazing support from members of the community to help us find a new space.”
Evenson said though she was initially “taken aback” by the notice to vacate, she thinks Miller is doing the sensible thing. “The truth is,” she said, “it’s an expensive building to maintain, and he believes, based on his experience with Schoolhouse Antiques, and the antique lighting store he started with a couple of years before that, that he can make more by selling his own stuff than renting to us. And he’s probably right.”
Abecassis didn’t respond to messages asking for comment.