Artist Frances Perry is opening Moon River Gallery in the Gateway Plaza as soon as power is connected this week. Perry has a short-term lease for the shop near Hobby Lobby. Brie Handgraaf | Times
Main Street Minute
Frances Perry has only been painting for about 10 years, but when the opportunity to have a gallery and studio in one of Wilson’s popular shopping centers presented itself, she jumped at the chance.
“I started painting pretty late in life and fell in love with it. I have outgrown my space at home, so I had no place to hang anything else,” Perry said.
Meanwhile, Zack Fisher with property management firm Palisades One has taken up the task of filling the vacancies in Gateway Plaza — the shopping center to the northwest of the intersection of Raleigh Road Parkway with Forest Hills Road — and develop an outparcel. Perry considers Fisher a family friend since he and her son worked together during college in the Triangle, so getting together for a short-term lease to prepare for a show in the fall just made sense.
“We’re trying to promote increased traffic and visibility, but no one likes to see an empty space,” Fisher said. “There is a mutual benefit to having people set up in vacant spaces, even if they are not ready to sign long-term leases. Hopefully it helps her out and attracts more people to the shopping center.”
The 69-year-old artist said she’s thrilled with the chance to spread her wings, sharing her acrylic paintings with the larger community. Moon River Gallery — once power is turned on this week — will be open roughly 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday, but Perry said customers can also call and schedule an appointment outside of regular business hours. Once she is fully moved in, she plans to use the space to make and sell art ranging from abstract to traditional styles in vibrant colors.
“It has been a lot of fun. It is very rewarding to create something that people can enjoy,” she said. “Wilson has a growing art community and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
While Perry is a regular customer at Hobby Lobby, she said she never really paid attention to traffic in the area before she started moving in on Monday. Fisher said two new businesses have signed leases — a taekwando studio and a children’s consignment shop that will be featured in next week’s column — and will open in the coming months, so his focus is on finding a tenant for a 3,000-square-foot space, the outparcel on Forest Hills Road and eventually a long-term lease for Perry’s space.
“If someone goes to see some artwork that Frances has on display, the hope is they’ll get hungry and go to Good Taste Buffet or Buffalo Wild Wings, or maybe buy some supplies at Hobby Lobby,” Fisher said. “If they are dropping their kid off at taekwondo, hopefully they’ll stop in to see Frances, get their nails done or head to Dunham Sport’s for some basketball clothing.”
The Wilson Economic Development Council on Tuesday approved a $701,600 proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-19, which will be sent to the city and county for approval. The budget reflects no increase in expenses despite plans to move into a newly renovated space later this month.
Also at the 8 a.m. meeting, council member and Springfield Middle School Principal Marquis Spell discussed the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology and how popular it is for students and parents alike. Economic development Executive Director Jennifer Lantz said the school — and Wilson County Schools in general — is always a point of pride when talking with potential companies.
“In the STEM economy, there are two sides: the innovation side and the implementers,” she said. “The implementers don’t require college degrees, but are making great money. What we’re trying to do with WAAT is nourish the implementation side of the STEM economy because no one ever pays any attention to that side.”
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