Music at the Merc

From WVTF.

Listen here.

When the folks at New River Retreat bought the old Draper Mercantile, they thought they were getting more office space for a growing business renting cabins along the New River and Claytor Lake.

But it turns out they were really buying into something much bigger.

Debbie Gardner and her colleagues are turning an old country store back into a centerpiece for the Pulaski County community of Draper.

“Working with the Mercantile and renovating the old building, you start learning a lot of stories about the Mercantile and you really start to realize how important the Mercantile is as far as what it was as the community center, the centerpiece for the community. Through this we gathered a much larger sense of responsibility on what we needed to do here,” she says.

It’s hard to tell the age of the Draper Mercantile. Newspaper stories say it was built in 1885. And 1865. And 1812. The Merc was Draper’s post office and library and soda fountain, but mostly it was the kind of general story that sold everything from coal to coffee to coffins. The new version offers things the old folks probably never thought of, such as kayak rentals and yoga classes. When Gardner met Jim Lloyd, a barber, banjo player and music teacher, they started talking about holding concerts at the Mercantile.

“What we aim for is, say, the best of acoustic music – and we’re not limiting ourselves to bluegrass and old time. We’re going to have some blues. We’re going to have some Celtic. We’re going to mix it around, but it’s going to be acoustic oriented,” says Lloyd.

This year’s monthly concerts include bluegrass and old-time music in October and November, then Celtic tunes during the holiday season. The series begins Saturday, September 3, with National Heritage Award winner Wayne Henderson.

–Tim Thornton

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