Two Kinds of Work: Business and Art at Creature and Santangelo


Trey Rayborn makes buttons in Santangelo

Trey Rayborn makes buttons in Santangelo

Art is all around us in Thomas, from public murals to bathroom installations. With five different galleries on Front Street, many of which display the work of folks working right in town, artists in Thomas are not just eking out a living but thriving. But what goes on behind the scenes that make this possible?


“Most of the artists that exist inside of the galleries are running their own businesses outside of that, which is something that I don’t think is super apparent to people,” says artist Seth Pitt.


Pitt either owns or co-owns three of the galleries on Front Street, one of which, Creature, serves as a showroom for his illustrations. For Pitt, separating being an artist from being a small business owner is extremely important, a sentiment that he feels that many of his fellow artists can relate to.


“One of the big challenges is realizing that you are running a business and also keeping that very separate from your creative output…. You don’t get to draw and then check your email and then draw again. I think most all [the artists] on the street do that. That’s a necessity for several reasons.”


Each day, Pitt makes a clear divide between the time he’s working on selling his art and the time he spends creating it. When he’s working at Creature, he focuses on answering emails, looking at orders that need to get filled and making the Instagram and Facebook posts needed to promote his brand. By six at the latest, most of the times even if there’s still office work to be done, he switches gears and heads to the studio. The divide isn’t only about maximizing creativity. It’s also about maintaining creative integrity, essentially making sure that business trends don’t influence the direction of Pitt’s art.


While most artists in Thomas sell their works exclusively out of galleries in town, Pitt uses a different approach. Because his work is easily reproducible and can be put on a variety of products, such as posters, pins and cards, Pitt is able to place his work in galleries and venues around the country. Each gallery places a monthly order for Pitt and his team to fill. Many of his prints are also available online.


None of this part of the process is possible without Pitt’s two business managers, who work on promoting Pitt’s work and coordinating getting it into galleries across the country. Without them, Pitt feels that the rest of his business model would not be possible. Pitt also called hiring business managers “smart business,” because it allows him to spend more time in the studio, and thus create more art.  


In addition to assistance with the overall business of running an art gallery, Pitt gets a boost in the actual production of art. Once Pitt has made an original design, the job of reproducing it often falls to someone else on staff. Trey Rayborn works in Creature and Santangelo and often spends his spare time reproducing prints when he’s not talking to customers.


“When I’m working at Santangelo sometimes I’ll take materials from Creature, or prints or buttons or whatever needs to be made, and I’ll sit on Santangelo and I’ll work on that,” said Rayborn. 


Pitt’s nationwide approach to selling art has not just benefitted him but also other artists.


“I was in Kalamazoo [Michigan] and Seth had a good number of his prints in a gallery there and there was also art there from people we had featured in Santangelo. So Seth brought his work and then brought his peers,” said Rayborn.


Despite the national reach, however, the majority of business for Pitt and other artists still comes out of the galleries right here in Thomas. Whether it’s tourists stopping in on the way to Blackwater Falls or a neighbor in town who is “looking for gifts…or has been eyeballing something for a really long time,” art-related business in Thomas has been steadily increasing. The influx in tourism over the last few years in particular has created a cyclical effect. As being an artist in Thomas has become more financially viable and more galleries have opened, more people are coming to Thomas to look at, and buy, art.


“At this point, there are people who come through our doors primarily to come to our art galleries, which is a change that’s happened over the last two or three years. That’s a huge deal… That didn’t start happening until there was a critical mass of artists working here and art galleries to show it,” said Pitt.


That’s not to say that tourism alone is driving business.


 “It’s important to acknowledge that aside from tourists coming here we have a really, really strong local support base… I don’t think that’s as common to have that kind of support in areas this size. I think a lot of other places would be a lot more reliant on tourists. Not that we aren’t reliant on tourists.”


While Pitt knows that his business process is a bit different from some of his peers, putting the time into being both an entrepreneur and an artist is something he sees others working hard oat as well. Watching his friends succeed in doing both is something that he says inspires him. 


“Most of the artists here spend a portion of their day trying to be a small business owner and then they get off work and go and work.” 

December Calendar

Dec 1  Caroline Cotter - 1:00 PM    @Purple Fiddle

Dec 1  The Judy Chops - 8:30 PM   @Purple Fiddle

Dec 2  Caroline Cotter - 1:00 PM    @Purple Fiddle

Dec 7  ArtSpring Local Music Showcase - 7:00 PM           @Purple Fiddle

Dec 8  Alex Brubaker - 1:00 PM     @Purple Fiddle

Dec 8  The Parachute Brigade - 8:30 PM  @Purple Fiddle

Dec 9  Alex Brubaker - 1:00 PM     @Purple Fiddle

Dec 9  Dale's Trail Ribbon Cutting Ceremony - 1:00 PM @Thomas City Park

Dec 11            Open Mic - Host EMay - 8:00 PM   @Purple Fiddle

Dec 14            Kaleta & Super Yamba Band - 8:30 PM    @Purple Fiddle

Dec 15            Tom Smith - 1:00 PM          @Purple Fiddle

Dec 15            The Company Stores - A Christmas Show - 8:30 PM       @Purple Fiddle

Dec 16            Tom Smith - 1:00 PM          @Purple Fiddle

Dec 21            Chaga Tea Project - 8:30 PM          @Purple Fiddle

Dec 22            Elonzo Wesley - 1:00 PM    @Purple Fiddle

Dec 22            Haint Blue - 8:30 PM           @Purple Fiddle

Dec 23            Elonzo Wesley - 1:00 PM    @Purple Fiddle

Dec 23            The Jack Dunlap Band - 8:00 PM   @Purple Fiddle

Dec 25            Groundhog Gravy - 8:00 PM           @Purple Fiddle

Dec 26            The Hillbilly Gypsies            - 8:30 PM      @Purple Fiddle

Dec 27            Yarn - 8:30 PM         @Purple Fiddle

Dec 28            Zach Deputy - 8:30 PM       @Purple Fiddle

Dec 29            Jason Ring - 1:00 PM           @Purple Fiddle

Dec 29            The David Mayfield Parade - 8:30 PM      @Purple Fiddle

Dec 30            Jason Ring - 1:00 PM           @Purple Fiddle

Dec 30            Hackensaw Boys - 8:30 PM @Purple Fiddle

Dec 31            Jason Ring - 1:00 PM           @Purple Fiddle

Dec 31            New Years Eve with Davis Wax Museum - 9:00 PM        @Purple Fiddle

A (Brief) Guide to the Trails of Thomas

While it may be across the bridge from the rest of town, the Thomas City Park Trails are undeniably a Thomas gem. Whether you’re a serious mountain biker, a beginner or just looking for nice spot to walk the dog or go on a nature walk, Thomas City Park has the trail for you:


Dale’s Trail: The newest addition to the family. Dale’s Trail, at less than two miles long and featuring a smooth path, is designed specifically for the newest and youngest riders in town.


Jr. Davis Trail: There’s nothing “Jr.” about this one. The outermost loop of the system features some tough climbs and goes all the way from the banks of the river to the top of the park.


Bear Bone Trail: The Bear Bone Trail connects to Jr. Davis by the river and up the ridge. Either a challenging ride up or fast one down.   


Quattro Cutover: Short and sweet. A rock and dirt filled tribute to our own mayor, Matt Quattro.  


Dottie Smith Trail: Another hilly connector that will get you from the river to the ridge in no time.

People of Thomas: Gary Riggs


When Gary Riggs looks around the interior of County Roads Saloon, the town watering hole that he and his wife Vicki have owned since 2015, he doesn’t just see a bar; he sees Thomas’ history.

“That doorway was the Davis Coal & Gas Company Gas Station…I think in the sixties the addition was added on and it an Exxon Gas Station…It was turned into a restaurant and then a bar. The previous leasers did the woodlork,” says Riggs, giving a tour of the premises.

“The bar top was originally part of the old Thomas bowling alley. And then it was repurposed for the sportsman’s club… So this bar top is easily 125 years old.”

While Riggs may have the knowledge and community pride of a longtime local, he’s actually a relative newcomer to Thomas. A native Floridian, Riggs spent more than two decades working for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Despite a lifelong “heart-link” with the mountains, it took until 2015 to make the move. Vicki’s class reunion in Oakland proved to be the unlikely inspiration.      

“We came up in 2015 for her 50th class reunion. We came up through the mountains here and she put a CD in the player and it was Steve Earle playing “The Mountain.” And that moved me…I wasn’t born in the mountains but I was reborn here.”

After returning to Jacksonville, Gary and Vicky found the building that would become Country Roads and drove up to Thomas with all of their belongings. The pair didn’t even come up with the name for their bar until they were already on the road. By the following year they had bought the building. While a health crisis kept them in Florida for some of the time since then, they are now back in Thomas to stay.

For Riggs, life in Thomas is all about community. Throughout our talk, Riggs went out of his way to credit his and Vicki’s success to the support of neighbors, friends, and even “rival” businesses like the Purple Fiddle; the two establishments frequently direct customers each other’s way. Riggs wants this community-first approach to show in the atmosphere at Country Roads, which he says is modeled on the English idea of a pub as a town-meeting house.

“[It’s] where you make friends, where you discuss the news and what’s going on in the town.”

The rules, he says, are simple.

“There’s no subject that’s off limits. In my experience you can talk about religion, you can talk about politics, if you start out with the basic concept of respect… You’re a human being and you are welcome here.”

To Gary Riggs, Country Roads is more than just a bar. It’s a slice of Thomas’ history and meeting place for its present. It’s his “retirement,” the culmination of a lifetime of work. And it’ll be forever entwined in his and Vicki’s story.  You can see it all on the walls.  

Walk into Country Roads, through that gas station doorway, and look around the corner from the century old bar. Two of the wood panels there are painted gold. They mark the spots on stage where the couple stood on their wedding day. In the bar.


Dear Thomas


It is hard to believe almost one year has come and gone since I moved to Thomas to begin my service year. When I first came here I had no idea what was in store for me during my year in West Virginia. I had limited to no knowledge about this beautiful, wild and wonderful state, and came in with preconceived notions about what life in WV would be like, and boy was I wrong. I found a community here in Tucker County that I never expected to find. My year living in serving in Thomas has allowed me to not only grow personally, but also professionally and it is all thanks to you all! This community has allowed me to work on projects that I never anticipated. I was able to help put in a trail that I have come to love, learned what it takes to write a comprehensive plan, write this incredible newsletter for you all, and advertise for all of the amazing events that make our town unique. Above all the things I have accomplished during my year of service, the thing that I am the most grateful for is being welcomed into your community with open arms. I have considered it an absolute honor to be able to get to know each and every one of you. Whether we danced together at the Purple Fiddle, attended a yoga class, or even just said hello on Front Street, your kindness in welcoming me into the community is one that I won't soon forget.

My time in Thomas has provided me with some incredible memories. From discovering all of the amazing hikes that lead to the most beautiful views to trying something new like cross country skiing and mountain biking, my time here has definitely not been boring. I have continued to discover my love for all things outdoors. I have learned to love the mountains even though I'm a self described coastal gal. I have learned to take challenges head on. I have learned to be patient with city projects, which tend to take a long time. I have learned to work with all sorts of people, and have come to realize that almost everyone who calls Thomas home are incredibly proud of this small town. I am so incredibly grateful for each and every person I have come to know during my time in Thomas. Though I am sad to say goodbye, I know I can always come back and visit. Thank you to everyone who has made my time here so special. Know that this isn't goodbye, it is just see ya later. As I hand the torch over to the AmeriCorps taking my place in September I am excited to see the amazing work he will do during his service year! I hope you welcome him as graciously as you welcomed me! 

Thomas Veterans Memorial Garden

For years there have been plans to install a Veterans Memorial Garden on Front Street. Over time the plans evolved and motivation ebbed and flowed. This year, however, we finally were able to start putting a plan in motion to get our Veterans Memorial installed. Coming into this AmeriCorps year it was important to me to leave a lasting impact on the Thomas community. One that would remain long after I am gone. I wanted to work on a project that would bring something positive and much needed in the Thomas community. This memorial seemed like the perfect project. After many hours of trying to figure out the best way to implement this memorial garden, I decided to go with something simple. A little garden full of bright colors and a plaque to honor not only the veterans but also the coal miners. After speaking with Mayor Matt and learning about previous plans for the green space that would eventually become the memorial, I was so excited to finally get started. Though it is only the beginning, I am glad I can leave Thomas with a place to pay their respects to those who served their country and the community. 

After months of planning and attempting to find funding for this project, I was awarded a grant through the Tucker County Cultural District Authority, thanks to them it was possible to get this project off the ground. I worked alongside NHT board members, Christine Kozan and Alyssa Hanna to dig out the space that would eventually become the garden. After a few hours and hitting literally the old brick road (I wish I was kidding) we finally had the base of the garden. After picking out a variety of flowers that would not only provide amazing color for most of the year, but would also do well is the area. With the help of the Tucker County Girls Scouts and the two days they were able to help us make the space look more like a garden. Soon we'll be installing a flagpole donated to us by the West Virginia Gold Star Mothers and a plaque honoring the veterans and coal miners from Thomas. In the future, as funding allows we are hoping to be able to add a simple walkway as well as benches that will allow people to sit slightly away from the hustle of Front Street. We would like to thank everyone who aided in the creation of the Veterans Memorial Garden whether you contributed to the original design plan, helped with the purchasing of plants, edited the grant proposal that allowed this project to be funded, or helped put the physical plants in the ground, a project that has been years in the making is finally underway. It is my hope that this memorial garden will serve as a place of gratitude, a place where people can honor those who served.

What's Happening in Thomas- August 2018

Community Meetings:

8/13: Thomas/Davis Planning Commission- 6pm @ TEC

Live Music:

8/1: The Bees Trees- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/2: fort Defiance- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/3: Driftwood- 8:30pm  @ Purple Fiddle

8/4: Jeremy Rodgers- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/4: Belle of the Fall- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/4: Ally Norris- 6pm @ Mountain State

8/4: Driftwood- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/5: Jeremy Rodgers- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/5: Belle of the Fall- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/5: South Hill Banks- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/6: The Wildmans- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/7: Robert Kuhn- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/8: Circa 62- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/9: Kara Grainger- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/10: The Essex Green- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/11: Donna Frost- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/11: Dylan Jane- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/11: The Terah Crawford Band- 6pm @ Mountain State

8/11: The Big Takeover- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/12: Donna Frost- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/12: Dylan Jane- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/12: Qiet- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/13: Hay Fever- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/14: Open Mic with EMay- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/15: Conor & The Wild Hunt- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/16: Stable Shakers ft Brechyn Chace- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle 

8/17: Sol Driven Train- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/18: Kevin Hamric- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/18: Scott Alexander- 6pm @ Mountain State

8/18: The Jack Dunlap Band- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/19: Kevin Hamric- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/19: Jeff German & The Blankety Blanks

8/20: The Fly Birds- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/21: June Star- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8.22: Alash- 8pm@ Purple Fiddle

8/23: The Misty Mountain String Band- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/24: Jakob's Ferry Stragglers- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/25: Brandon S Bowker- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/25: Jason McDonald- 6pm @ Mountain State

8/25: The Dirty Grass Players- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/26: Brandon S Bowker- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/26: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

8/31 Dangermuffin- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

Regular Happenings:

Morning Monday Yoga with Mountain Yoga- 9am @ Allegheny Holistic

Mindful Monday Early Evening with Mountain Yoga- 5:30pm @ Allegheny Holistic

Monday Evening Ying with Mountain Yoga- 7pm @ Allegheny Holistic

Monday Burger Night @ Country Roads 

Tuesday Yoga with Kelly- 9am@ Allegheny Holistic

Tuesday Taco Night @ Country Roads

Wednesday Community Yoga with Mountain Yoga- 6pm @ Blackwater Falls Lodge

Wednesday Women's Drink Special @ Country Roads

Thursday Chef's Specials @ Country Roads

Friday Happy Hour Yoga with Mountain Yoga- 5pm @ Allegheny Holistic

Friday Burger Night- 6pm @ Tip Top

Friday Dinner- 5pm @ Front St Grocers

Friday Seafood Night @ Country Roads

Saturday Dinner -5pm @ Front St Grocers

Saturday Dinner- Farm Up Truck @ Tip Top

Sunday Brunch- Farm Up Truck @ Tip Top 

What's Happening in Thomas- July 2018

City Meetings:

7/9: Thomas Comprehensive Planning Meeting- 6pm @ TEC

7/10: Thomas City Council- 6:30pm @ City Hall

Live Music and Local Happenings

7/1: Bob Keel- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/1: Anna p.s.- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/1: Serenity Fisher and the Cardboard Hears- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/2: Mountain Music Mondays with the Wildmans- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/3: Oak Hill Drifters- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/4: Woody Pines- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/5: Jack Grace Band- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/6: Suitcase Junket- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/7: Caleb Ryan Martin- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/7: Cradle and Grave- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/7: Annie Neeley- 6pm @ Mountain State Brewing

7/7: The Hillbilly Gypsies- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/8: Caleb Ryan Martin- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/8: Cradle and Grave- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/8: Meadow Mountain- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/10: Eilen Jewell- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle 

7/11: Daddy Longleg's Homegrown Revival- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/12: Theory Expats- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/13: My Son the Hurricane- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/14: Mike Gentry- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/14: Mike Vial- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/14: Michelle Anne Fincham- 6pm @ Mountain State Brewing

7/14: Hurricane Hoss and the Perfect Storm- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/15: Mike Gentry- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/15: Mike Vial- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/15: Erica Russo duo- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/16: Mountain Music Mondays with Emmy and Jesse- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/17: Open Mic with EMay- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/18: Emily Mure- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/20: Dana Louise and the Glorious Birds- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/21: Marc Delgado- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/21: Alexa Rose- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/21: Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/22: Marc Delgado- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/22: Alexa Rose- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/22: Buffalo Roase- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/23: Mountain Music Mondays with Jack Dunlap Band- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/27: Darin & Brooke Aldridge- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/28: DePollo Brothers- 12pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/28: Juels Bland- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/28: Day Old News- 6pm @ Mountain State Brewing

7/28: Mountain Heart- 8:30pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/29: Juels Bland- 1pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/29: Bess Greenberg- 3pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/29: The Maggie Valley Band- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/30: Mountain Music Mondays with Crandall Creek- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

7/31: Added Color- 8pm @ Purple Fiddle

Regular Happenings:

Morning Monday Yoga with Mountain Yoga- 9am @ Allegheny Holistic

Mindful Monday Early Evening with Mountain Yoga- 5:30pm @ Allegheny Holistic

Monday Evening Ying with Mountain Yoga- 7pm @ Allegheny Holistic

Monday Burger Night @ Country Roads 

Tuesday Yoga with Kelly- 9am@ Allegheny Holistic

Tuesday Taco Night @ Country Roads

Wednesday Community Yoga with Mountain Yoga- 6pm @ Blackwater Falls Lodge

Wednesday Women's Drink Special @ Country Roads

Thursday Chef's Specials @ Country Roads

Friday Happy Hour Yoga with Mountain Yoga- 5pm @ Allegheny Holistic

Friday Burger Night- 6pm @ Tip Top

Friday Dinner- 5pm @ Front St Grocers

Friday Seafood Night @ Country Roads

Saturday Dinner -5pm @ Front St Grocers

Saturday Dinner- Farm Up Truck @ Tip Top

Sunday Brunch- 11am @ Front St Grocers

Sunday Brunch- Farm Up Truck @ Tip Top