Art classes lure crowds to Trenton's buildings of yesteryear


Stephanie Metts holds a piece of stained glass Thursday at the Suwannee Valley Glassworks and Artisans Gallery in Trenton. Metts, who opened her quilt shop and stained glass workshop in an old Coca-Cola bottling plant in September 2003, has expanded to this building and is helping the city revitalize.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 1:18 a.m.
A year and a half ago, Stephanie Metts was wondering - would anyone drive all the way to Trenton to learn to quilt or work with stained glass or have something framed?
Now that Metts has the answer to that question - a nearly overwhelming yes - she is wondering how long it will be before she needs even more floor space for her enterprises. She has already moved to a second building and is eyeing other vacant spaces.
Her quandary is exactly the kind of problem Mayor Pete Randolph wants to see more businesses wrestle with in his town.
"This (growth) is not stopping here," Randolph said. "We're going to carry on. We are about ready to sign a lease with the state for the old train depot and we are developing a farmers market and we have lots of empty buildings available for other new businesses."
The epicenter of the growth in downtown Trenton is the Suwannee Valley Quilt Shoppe, which Metts opened with her husband, Paul, and their close friend Joyce Lottinville in July 2003. They renovated a building originally constructed in 1925 as a Coca-Cola bottling plant on U. S. 129 just north of the city's train depot.
The renovated building also housed what were supposed to be small, secondary businesses - a stained glass workshop, framing services, an outlet for a nationally recognized Gainesville-based cross-stitch shop and the Cypress Swamp Cafe, where bakery items would be the nearly exclusive menu items.
"We knew that we were in the middle of nowhere on the way to everywhere," Metts said. "Now we know that we are a destination business," a place that people will specifically plan to drive to.
"We had quilters from all over and Red Hat (a women's organization) groups and people from everywhere. We had to expand," Lottinville said. Signatures in the quilt shop guestbook include visitors from 30 states and more than 130 cities.
Metts did not have to look far for additional space. Next door was the old train depot that the state owns and where the city is hoping to develop a farmers market. On the other side of the depot was a single-story, brick building that had been built in 1910 as a mercantile or general store.
"This was so perfect for us," Metts said. "It is exactly right for what we want to do and we could do it while preserving this building like we did with the Coke plant."
To be able to double the size of the Cypress Swamp Cafe to about 50 seats and provide more space for quilting classes, fabric displays and the cross-stitch shop, Metts moved the stained glass workshop and class space as well as the frame shop out of the quilt shop and into the building down the street. The new space has become the Suwannee Valley Glass Works and Artisan's Gallery.
"We also wanted a space to be able to display work by the best local artists that involve local subjects," Metts said. "We have a lot of people in this area who are very talented and this is a place for us to be able to display that work."
Ceramic lizard houses by Lenore Nichols occupy a window space beneath photographs of local landscapes by Lois Fletcher that are hanging near the pen and ink work by Mark Gluckman. The nationally recognized Bell Wood Turners have their own display space for unique wooden objects, while bead work by a local teenager glistens from a glass-fronted display case.
While the idea of a quilt shop has evolved into so much more for Metts, it has also helped propel local residents in other directions. Sharon Bard took her visiting sister-in-law to the quilt shop to look at the fabric and wound up buying a book on how to pound flowers into fabric. This week Bard dropped off another framed set of flowers from her yard that had been pounded into bleached muslin to create vivid wallhangings.
During his tours of the gallery, Mayor Randolph especially enjoys pointing out the graphic work that pokes fun at the fact that his town houses the only stoplight in Gilchrist County. Randolph in turn enjoys teasing Metts by telling her that the increase in traffic - first when the original quilt shop opened and now that the gallery is open - is so noticeable the county may eventually have to install another stoplight.
"This is where we need to be heading - more businesses that bring people into Trenton but don't take away from what I guess you would call our city's charm or character," Randolph said.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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