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It’s been a successful year for The Electric Company.
The business, located on Depot Street, takes it’s name from the fact that it occupies the building that formerly housed the city’s electric department. Patti Siehien and Al DeWeese purchased the old building in the autumn of 2007, after the electric department moved to new quarters. They opened for business on Jan. 8, 2008.
Siehien and DeWeese maintain the building’s connection to it’s former occupant. The electric department gave them some of its memorabilia, which decorates a wall in the Artisan Café, one of the businesses operating in the building. Another connection with the electric department is visible on the building’s outside. It still has the flavor of the old building and the conduits that, 100 years ago, carried electric lines out of the building to the city are still visible.
Back then, the building’s basement housed the electric department’s generator. Now part of the basement houses Prissy Parrot. Prissy Parrot, an eclectic gift shop, was formerly located on West Main Street. Siehien said that one of the advantages the new location gives Parrot is that the other art-related businesses and the café draw customers. Prissy Parrot, in turn, draws customers to the other businesses.
Since opening, The Electric Company has drawn eight resident artists, working in various media, who have studio space there. Each resident artist has a key to the building which allows them to come in whenever they are inspired.
In addition to the resident artists, 25 others display and sell their work there. Seihien keeps two artists on display on the walls of the cafe´s dinning room.
Rod Adams, a local artist, now gives water color classes twice each day and has taught DeWeese, a former builder, to paint. Adams, by the way, is a former Marine.
Seihien said that Adams has sold his work all over the world.
According to Seihien, The Electric Company is starting to get people coming on day trips from Lynchburg and Roanoke and the Artisan Café has acquired a good reputation. The restaurant is a big draw.
Seihien said that everything is made on premises, including soups, the spread used on sandwiches and salad dressings. They don’t make their own ice cream, but it’s local. It’s Homestead Creamery ice cream from Franklin County. Vegetables are all organically grown.
Future plans include space for 35 shops in the part of the basement, currently a big garage space, not already occupied by the Prissy Parrot. There will be a common check-out space for all. Siehien sees this as a incubator and people who do well there may end up leasing their own store downtown. The space still needs to be renovated and this means that some left-over electrical equipment will need to be removed. Seihien said that they are working with the city electric department to find out what this stuff is connected to, if anything, before moving it.
Seihien expect everything to be ready to go in the mid to late spring time frame.
She’s also thinking of teaching food classes. Seihien said that she took cooking classes in Italy. She said that her mother was Italian and some of the food she serves in the café comes from her mother’s family recipes.
Something that’s coming soon, March 20 through March 22 is “Bedford Bargain Blowout.” Seihien said that this was Judy Sacco’s idea. Sacco owns Prissy Parrot.
The idea is to have a weekend to promote Bedford’s downtown merchants and Sacco has done the footwork to get a number on board. So far, these include the Artisan Café and Art on Depot, Court Street Pizza, Ranch Road BBQ, Ginger Bell’s House of Mini Shops, Bob’s Antiques, Art Upstairs, The Keeping Room, Prissy Parot, Arthur’s Jewelers, Guilded Era Antique Mall and North Bridge Book Store & Antiques, all on Bridge Street. Cup-A-Joe, The Etcetera and Vinos del Zorro, located on South Street are also involved. Sacco hopes to include Washington Street business such as Yarn Theory and Jenny Bug.
Seihien said this will be three days of “merchants on the loose,” an unorganized three days of events. Most will do something in front of their store, each doing what best promotes their business. In addition, there will be face painting and a pet adoption fair.