Appalachia — Mountain Empire Community College has partnered with the Town of Appalachia and a small business owner to help renovate one of the town's main street storefronts.
The small business, located beside of the famous Peake Building on Appalachia's main street, will soon open as the new Appalachia Mercantile. Owner Tommy Adkins said the business will feature local artisan goods, coffee, and snacks.
MECC's Basic Construction class has spent the last month helping Adkins renovate the interior of the store. MECC Instructor Bryce Shular is leading the class of 15 students teaching local residents basic construction skills with a hands-on, real-world application. The class meets once a week and is based at MECC's Center for Workforce and Innovation in Appalachia.
Shular said students have completed demolition work, painted, practiced woodworking, basic HVAC/ventilation assessment, and basic electrical work. The transformation in the building site has been remarkable. Plaster walls were removed to reveal original brick. Tin tiled high ceilings and a mezzanine space are highlights of the Mercantile.
"These are basic skills. This is stuff you need to know for life, if you own a house or do any type of construction," said student Colby Dillon. "It feels good to do something to help the community."
"It's pretty nice to see something come to Appalachia" added student Aaron Duty.
Most of students are enrolled in MECC's Associate Degree in Energy Technology and are completing the course as part of their degree program.
"I'm trying to get several of our programs involved here," noted Shular. "Our welding fabrication class may work on some of the railing for the stairs. I try to put these students in real-life scenarios. I thought this project was great, and I would love to have many more of these projects."
Adkins said the partnership has helped him complete renovations in a shorter time frame, and hopefully he will be able to open in the spring. "10-15 guys are a lot better than one. They have put in a lot of hours here. They pulled 10,000 nails here in a day's time. It would have taken me forever. This has been a good partnership," Adkins said.
While the town has struggled economically in the last decade due to closer of several mines and businesses, Adkins is hoping for a resurgence in the community. He would recommend other business take advantage of the opportunity and consider investing in Appalachia.
"Our Main Street Association is working hard to get more businesses here. We have a motorcycle route that goes through the town, the Dragon Slayer, and we are getting around 75 motorcycles here on the weekend. We need businesses here to support that and we are trying," said Adkins.
For more information on MECC's Basic Construction program, contact Shular at 276-523-2400 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.