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Urbanna’s Taylor Building—A Work of Art

By Micki Clay

Urbanna’s handsome, two-story Taylor Building has been a fixture on Cross Street since the early 1900s. Like many old buildings in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, it has housed a succession of businesses over the past century: a general store, a saloon, a hardware store, and now, a shopping arcade that features local artists and fosters their creativity.

When Urbanna businessmen Lawrence Fuccella and Bill Hight bought the building three years ago, they envisioned a place where talented folks could work, interact and sell their creations. They turned to Coastal Design architect Chris Riddick to realize their vision. Chris retained and enhanced the former hardware store’s historic façade and many of its original architectural elements: iconic period windows, a monumental staircase, and well-worn wood floors. He carved cozy offices and studios out of the 6500 square foot building – including one for himself—and flooded the once gloomy structure with natural light. Local artists, artisans and design professionals seeking exposure and space soon joined him.

Art Photographer Hank Trainor Roden was the first. Hank had been working out of his utility room at home and was ready for a change of venue. The Taylor Building’s ambiance and location appealed to him. “The thing about being in a village like Urbanna is how everything is in walking distance. Massage, coffee, a hamburger, the ABC store. It’s out of a book,” says Roden, who’s fairly new to small town life. “It’s fun!”

Hank has been instrumental in attracting tenants, exhibitors and customers to the Taylor Building. He organized a “Meet the Artists” show and sale last spring that drew a crowd of over 400 art lovers. (Check the Calendar of Events for details and updates on this year’s event.) He hung artwork “like breadcrumbs” throughout the Taylor Building to lead folks to artists’ studios. And he urged the owners to open a coffee shop.

“Everyone told me to open a coffee shop,” recalls Lawrence Fuccella. “I just didn’t want to run a coffee shop.” LaJean Browning-Smith didn’t know she wanted to run one either. But one year after signing on as a temporary waitress, she not only manages and co-owns Cross Street Coffee, she exhibits— “and sells!”—her photography there.

Cross Street Coffee has become the hub of the Taylor Building—and the town. “People don’t feel complete until they stop in,” says LaJean. Regulars include The Coffee Club, ten or so local men who convene every morning when the shop opens at 6:30; author Brad Parks, who wrote much of his newly published novel, Faces of the Gone, there; and a VCU video professor who keeps his boat in Urbanna and generously gives LaJean—and anyone else who’s interested—advice on video and still photography.

In the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, folks like Lawrence Fuccella and Bill Hight don’t raze venerable, vacant structures like the Taylor Building, they repurpose and reinvigorate them. That’s what gives Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula towns like Urbanna, Kilmarnock and Mathews their singular charm—and what makes them such popular shopping destinations for locals and tourists alike.

Taylor Building Directory

Ann Meekins Real Estate:
Need a place to showcase your artwork? Stop in and see Realtor Donna Erwin.

Coastal Design
Chris Riddick, Associate AIA Architect, specializes in sustainable, accessible residential and commercial design.

Cross Street Coffee
Barista-brewed coffee and teas accompany homemade scones, muffins, brownies, paninis and soups and fuel creativity and conversation. The shop uses only certified organic beans from Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters in Mathews. Free Wi-Fi. Open 6:30 AM – 3: 00 PM daily.

If It’s Wood and More
Billy and Sandra Rudy started their woodworking business in Richmond over 20 years ago. After building the business by word of mouth, they decided they wanted a central, base location to cater to folks who live in and visit the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. So they opened a shop in the Taylor Building, where they sell handmade furniture and take orders for custom pieces.

L! Marketing and Design
Graphic designer Dave Lipscombe creates websites and marketing materials that “grab attention, make the phone ring, fill the house, prove your point and spread the word.”

Pieces of Peper
Peper Heunemann creates original jewelry in fine silver. Her popular oyster collection features one-of-a-kind pieces cast from real oyster shells. Peper recently doubled the size of her shop to showcase the work of the “amazing number of artists in the area” alongside her own. Precious and semiprecious jewelry from Queen’s Creek Studio and Jacquie Colligan. Katie Lemmon’s handmade clutches with antique button closures. Sarah Kingsley hand-painted silk scarves. Brendan O’Brien’s turned wood writing implements. Doc Hogan’s local photography. Note cards featuring LaJean Browning-Smith’s macro flower images. Wire and semiprecious stone jewelry with a young vibe from Raphaella Desiree. There’s even a kid’s rack with inexpensive beads for pint-size fashionistas.

Posh Salon
Top Richmond stylist Gretchen Straughan also cuts, colors and treats local tresses at her relaxing, “one chair, one stylist” salon.

Trainor Photo Art
Hank Trainor Roden’s painterly photographic images evoke memories, sensations and emotions. “Traditional photographers look for the sharpest possible image,” says Roden. I’m more interested in creating a mood, like peace, drama, or humor.” Hank's award-winning images have appeared in publications, videos, websites, juried art shows, art galleries, and private collections.

Interested in studio or office space in the Taylor Building? Please call 804-758-4192.

Want to exhibit your work in the Taylor Building or participate in the upcoming Meet the Artists show and sale? Contact Cross Street Coffee.

Home Page Image: Taylor Building Rendering by Chris Riddick, Associate AIA, Coastal Design, Urbanna, Virginia

The Local Accent features articles on what’s going on in the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and Virginia.

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