Meet the makers of Washington, NC

Posted January 4, 2021 5:00 a.m. EST

This article was written by our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

There's something special about the craftsmanship of a product made and sourced locally or regionally. North Carolina is known for food, furniture, fish and many other things that speak of heritage, family, hometown pride and individual commitment. Washington, N.C. is no exception. From amazing art to decadent desserts, this quaint river town boasts some of the most exquisite creations found in the U.S., or in the world for that matter.

Meg Howdy, director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance, agrees.

"Originally we had an outside farmers market in the spring and summer. We realized we had an opportunity with a historic building downtown to renovate it and have a farmers' and artisans' market all year round," Howdy said

Little Washington : Spotlight : Harbor District Market

Thus, the Harbor District Market was born. You can find all kinds of handmade treasures in the market. Wood products, masks, bird feeders, hats, baby clothes, pottery and so much more can be found here, all handmade. Howdy says there are also several farms that sell their locally grown produce.

"We like to say this is where agriculture meets community," Howdy said.

Little Washington : Spotlight : Petals & Produce

Agriculture has always played a major role in Washington. Petals & Produce, a grower that started in 2000, is a family business that started with a mention from husband Tom Van Stallduinen to his wife, Heather, "Hun, we can grow these great vegetables and make a living at it."

Tom spent two years as a horticultural student of his uncle in Holland when he was in his early 20s. Tom's and Heather's business has expanded to two locations in Washington and Pantego, N.C.

"Many customers tell us that we are their garden and that makes us work that much harder. It's all about community, connection and compassion." She says she considers their farming the art of life.

Speaking of art, Washington is rich with art. Painters, sculptors and a plethora of performance artists. With over half a dozen art galleries, you can find paintings, handmade jewelry, scarves and more.

Little Washington : Spotlight : Marketplace at Olive's

If you're looking for a variety of artisans in one place, visit the Marketplace at Olive's. Established in 2016, owner Janice Chesson wanted to give female artists a place to create and sell their wares without the high cost of renting a space.

Moving back into the home that she grew up in, she did just that. When the Market Place started, it housed 26 artisans, crafting and selling everything from quilts, cakes, stained glass, distressed vintage furniture, jams and much more. While many of these artists remain, Chesson says the Market Place is quickly becoming a packaged specialty food haven, making and selling baked goods, fudge, peanuts (just to name a few).

"Most of our artisans are retired teachers, and many are still imparting their skills [at area community colleges and schools]."

Little Washington : Spotlight : Hackney Distillery

Washington is also home to The Hackney Distillery which produces 1000 Piers Gin. Owner Nick Sanders wanted to create a quality crafted gin like those in his native country of England.

"We use juniper berries and twenty-one other botanicals [in 1000 Piers]." The result is a unique, superior flavor profile.

When the COVID pandemic hit in spring 2020, Sanders did what any Good Samaritan distiller would do; he started making hand sanitizer for distribution to healthcare professionals and first responders. That kind of dedication and sense of community is evident in the complex taste of 1000 Piers.

The gin is available for purchase at the distillery (next door to Sanders' restaurant, The Hackney), and at liquor stores throughout the country.

Little Washington : Spotlight : Historic Turnage Theatre

When Val and Arthur Jackson started Val's Gourmet Baked Goods in 2016, it was at booths in local farmers' markets. With 60 years of experience in the restaurant and catering industry, their business quickly grew to a presence at the Harbor District Market, then to a cafe inside the Arts of the Pamlico's Historic Turnage Theatre, where it resides today.

Val's makes all kinds of baked goods, including cakes, cookies, and the Southern classic, tomato pie. They also take custom orders. Known for their unusual and delicious 'cheesecake cakes,' Jackson and her husband like to think of their customers as family.

"We want to be there for family. Whether it's a cookie that grandma gets for her little ones as a treat, or a take home dessert that your family enjoys together."

Little Washington : Spotlight : Locovore

Angela DeCuzzi, owner of Locovore Farms and Kitchen, knew her family has farmed since the late 1700s. After all, her folks had the first pick-your-own strawberry farm in Pitt County. Little did she realize, though, when she completed her Masters degree in Sociology at East Carolina University that she and her future husband (also an ECU alumni), would be embarking on a business (ad)venture in agriculture.

"We saw a need in the area for healthier options for prepared foods."

Locovore specializes in growing microgreens, root vegetables, Asian turnips and greens. "As we researched, we found that Japan's climate is very similar to Eastern N.C. So those crops do very well here."

Her husband has recently taken a job at Montessori School teaching horticulture. The DeCuzzis will move the microgreens operations to the school so the students can be involved and have a hands on approach to learning. "The agriculture scene in this area is amazing."

Produce and prepared foods can be purchased at the Locovore booth at the Harbor District Market.

The 'makers' of Washington put their heart and soul into their creations, all while keeping community spirit alive. They invite you to come to this artisan paradise and explore for yourself.

This article was written by our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

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