BEDFORD – A new business in downtown Bedford is giving customers a triple deal, with shopping, art and food.
ElectricCoArt owns three businesses: ElectricCoMarket, ElectricCoBistro, and ElectricCoGallery, all of which operate out of the city’s former electrical facility on East Depot Street.
Co-owner and local realtor Wendy Witt, said the 10,000-square-foot building housed the power company from 1895 until around 2000. Since then, it’s been a space for art and creation in a way or another.
Witt and his partner, Bill Mauser, purchased the building in January 2021 and are the third owners of the space. They opened the market last summer and the gallery opened in the fall. The newest, the bistro, opened about two months ago.
Of the approximately 10,000 square foot space, half is the market, with approximately 2,000 square feet each given over to the bistro and art gallery. The remaining 1,200 square foot space is Mauser’s blacksmith and carpentry shop.
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“It’s a three-part business,” Mauser said. “It’s not just a bistro, not just an art gallery, not just a retail space. It’s very community-based and we try to do it for the community but also for the tourists… who come to town. The Bistro itself offers very good food. We have very good art. And then we have the shopping experience down below.
The market operates with 20 to 25 local vendors who set up stalls of varying sizes and pay monthly rent plus 15% commission, Witt said.
“I felt the risk of opening a business here, and we get a lot of support from our friends and people from Bedford who are here, but I knew Bedford had a lot of tourism with the lake and D-Day and the Parkway she said, referring to the National D-Day Memorial and the Blue Ridge Parkway. “We have people from all over the United States coming here.”
Mauser and Witt renovated the building to open up the space and make it brighter and airier.
“We removed a bunch of drywall and discovered original brickwork and old original windows. We ripped out concrete walls, fabricated windows and doors, painted the whole exterior and interior,” Witt said. “We gutted the kitchen and installed a brand new commercial kitchen, which was a lot of work.”
She wanted to put this job together after hearing from several real estate clients about what they wanted from where they live.
“You get a lot of inside information about why people want to move here and why people don’t move here,” she said. “It largely depends on what there is to do and the quality of life. Unfortunately, there’s been this mentality that if you want to do something, you go to Roanoke or Lynchburg or you go to Charlottesville or Richmond.
She and Mauser are working to change that mindset.
“We are surrounded by some of the most beautiful places on the planet with the mountains and the lake. And our question to ourselves was, what is there to do? Because people kept asking us that question and we thought about what we like to do when we leave town and why do we have to leave town to do it? And so, provide that to the community,” Witt said.
Sheryl Murphy, owner of plant and vegetable Wipledale Farm Greenhouse, Inc. in Bedford, opened a booth at ElectricCoMarket last summer and said the business allows her to have a year-round presence outside of its main location, which is only open seasonally.
“I love the concept of multiple local vendors represented in a central location right in the heart of Bedford that’s open daily,” she said. “The market concept is also great as their staff know the products and can answer questions if needed.”
She said having her booth there allows her to reach customers who may not be familiar with her business.
“The large, bright, open building is unique and also has plenty of on-site parking, which is a bonus,” she said. “With the addition of the art gallery and the bistro, it adds to the traffic that visits the market.”
The market features local photography, soaps, CBD oils, art, stained glass, vintage items, lotions, furniture, jewelry, and a wine and beer shop.
“So we strongly believe in the synergy of other stores,” Witt said. “I think we fit in well with nearby consignment and antique shops.”
Eventually, she and Mauser plan to build ElectricCoShow – a beer and wine garden with music.
The bistro offers a robust wine selection and menu items such as prosciutto risotto balls, Reuben sandwich, pork cutlet and salmon salad with pineapple ginger compote.
Over long military careers, Bedford locals Barry Slaughter and his wife, Martie, have been stationed in towns they say have spectacular cuisine like Chicago; Washington D.C.; Norfolk; and San Antonio. They said they had also dined at many wonderful restaurants around the world and recognized and appreciated the excellent food.
“We’ve eaten six or seven meals at ElectricCoBistro over the past two months and found the food to be fabulous,” Slaughter said. “The decor is beautiful. The welcome and the service were excellent. We ate a number of their starters, as well as starters and desserts. Everything was delicious.
The bistro is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for dinner as well as from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday for lunch to dinner and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Sunday brunch. It also offers wine tastings on Wednesdays.
“It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen in Bedford,” Witt said. “And in fact, we kind of looked for this model very far and we can’t find this commercial model anywhere else in town. It’s kind of a unique place to discover.”