A Monongalia County staple since the 1980s, Appalachian Gallery has provided the area with an eclectic collection of pottery, glass, photography, textiles and more.
“The cool part about this is that it is all local,” owner Penelyn VanOrange said. She and Laurie Nugent bought the business in 2004 and set about adding their own personal touches, such as expanding their inventory with handblown glassware by Blenko and Ron Hinkle Glass.
“I just adore this business and I have since I started here as a framer more than 20 years ago,” she said, adding that she considers herself more of a caretaker than owner. “It has a life of its own and with each new artist the business grows a little bit more.”
Like all businesses, Appalachian Gallery has faced some challenges, first with the COVID-19 pandemic and then in the spring of 2022 when VanOrange’s business partner passed away.
“We did very different things for the business so I had to kind of get up to speed with a lot of things that she did for the business.”
Throughout the years, VanOrange has relied on the West Virginia Small Business Development Center for assistance in weathering the challenges.
“[Business coaches] Frank Goldsborough and Sharon Stratton have been helpful in providing direction and moral support,” she said. “It’s so important when you don’t know the answers that you know who you can ask.”
Stratton provided marketing and social media assistance and assisted with applying for COVID funding. Meanwhile, Goldsborough provided assistance with Quickbooks, application for an ARPA grant, and answered accounting questions.
“I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve helped eliminate is to boost her confidence in the way she runs the business and give her more confidence in her decision making, Goldsborough said.
The business coaches enjoy learning new things from their client as well.
“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Penelyn the artist,” Stratton said. “I’ve gotten to see different projects from start to finish and that has been very cool and educational for me.
She’s a very creative person and it’s always interesting to walk around the shop and see the latest things that she has.”
WV SBDC is an accredited member of America’s SBDC, a federal partner with the SBA and a state partner with the WV Department of Economic Development.
WV SBDC business coaches have professional certifications ranging from exporting, innovation, technology and economic development, to finance, management, marketing and entrepreneurship.
For information about starting a small business in WV and resources for entrepreneurs, visit wvsbdc.com.