For nearly four decades, Seven Sisters Craft Gallery, opened in 1981 by Sara Marcia Rafter and Kaye Greene, was a mainstay of the Cherry Street business district of downtown Black Mountain. Since 2002, it has been under the direction of owner Andrea McNair, who rented the retail space.
“It has always been my goal to have my own building,” says McNair. “At one point, I bought a vacant lot with the intention of building a new gallery with apartments above it. But it became more complicated and financially challenging. I kept redesigning it smaller and smaller, until one day I noticed a building on Broadway Avenue was available for rent. It occurred to me that it would make a great gallery.”
Then the pandemic came into play. “It made me question whether it was the right decision … to move away from my already established location. But towards the end of 2020, it looked like business was progressing. People are still coming to our town. I feel confident about the future.”
McNair approached the owner and asked if he would consider selling it to her instead of renting, and he said he would. “We both agreed that spreading out small businesses beyond Cherry Street would benefit a lot more people,” notes McNair. “Hopefully, expanding the downtown district will provide more opportunities for other small-business owners.”
Once she decided to buy the building at 119 Broadway Avenue, just around the corner from Seven Sisters’ original location, she says everything else quickly fell into place. “We were able to close on it within six weeks.” But before moving in, some restorative work needed to be done, including painting and putting down new hardwood flooring.
“We moved in February 5th and opened one week later. It was a huge job,” says McNair, crediting her “wonderful staff” who “dove in and got everything done in a short time.” (The shout-outs go to Arlene Martine, Elly Davall, Lauren Wright, Chloe Munn, June Hewett, and McNair’s fiancé Shaun Beals.)
The process of moving from one location to another, she adds, created the opportunity to purge a lot of items and display pieces that had remained unused in storage at the previous site. “My new space is a light and open area, so I can see everything that is going on,” adds McNair.
The building on Broadway effectively doubles Seven Sisters’ retail floor from a little more than 2,000 square feet to approximately 4,000 square feet. She says the increased space will allow her to better showcase signature items from the gallery’s represented artists working in jewelry, glass, pottery, metal, wood, and paint, around 60% of them regional. McNair names photographer John Smith of Hendersonville, plein-air painter Cheryl Keefer of Asheville, and artisan woodworker Bruce Grob of Black Mountain as three of her mainstay local makers — although the venue carries work from 250 artists in total.
The move from Cherry Street to Broadway Avenue also marks an important anniversary for Seven Sisters Gallery, named after the seven scenic peaks that give Black Mountain its rugged charm.
“Forty years,” says McNair, “and 100 percent woman-owned.”
Seven Sisters Craft Gallery, 119 Broadway Ave., downtown Black Mountain. Hours are 10am-6pm Monday through Saturday and 12-5pm on Sunday. For more information, call 828-669-5107 or go to sevensistersgallery.com.