Kentucky Treasure Hunting

The charming college town of Berea lures shoppers looking for beautiful handmade arts and crafts.
Karen Lingo

A Shaker table is calling my name. So is the sturdy sea grass stool, which would look perfect in my family room. With a sigh of regret, I turn away from the table ($950) but mentally add the stool ($75) to my wish list.

I'm browsing the Log House Craft Gallery, operated by Berea College and filled with student-made goods. It's just one of many places to shop in the town that calls itself the folk arts-and-crafts capital of Kentucky.

My trek through Berea begins in the Old Town area at the L&N Railroad Depot-turned-Welcome Center, where I'm greeted by Tux, the town cat. She lives at the Welcome Center but makes rounds to nearby businesses.

It's an easy stroll through Old Town, with lots of shops to browse. The jewelry in Dragonfly Gallery is tempting, as are the quilted items in the Family Tree. In Honeysuckle Vine II, there's a nice selection of Bybee Pottery, as well as artist Jimmy Lou Jackson creating her handmade glass beads. Lunchtime finds me down the street at Hogg Heaven Cafe, trying to decide between a burger and the pulled pork barbecue.

Leaving the Old Town area, I stop by The Mitchell Tolle Studio & Gallery on Chestnut Street. The gallery features the artist's original works and prints that depict such images as clapboard houses and bearded old men.

Next, I drive to Churchill Weavers, which has been producing handwoven pieces since 1922. The jewel-toned scarves (from $80) and soft throws (from $104) draw me like a magnet. Happily, I find the bargain room, filled with shelves of discounted irregulars.

 

It's College Square, though, that hooks me on Berea. I check in to the Boone Tavern Hotel and head straight for the hotel gift shop, which has a good selection of articles made by the students at Berea College. Then I set out to explore other shops nearby.

Appalachian Fireside Gallery is a crafts lover's dream, with quilts, pottery, woodcarvings, and jewelry. Pamela Corley Upstairs Gallery features a collection of original paintings and photography. In Warren A. May, Woodworker, I find customers listening to the shop's namesake playing one of his beautifully crafted dulcimers.

The Log House Craft Gallery sits on a triangle of land near College Square. Upon entering, I sign up for a tour. Watching the students creating the crafts will probably only make it harder to decide what to take home. I really do have to have that sea grass stool though.

This article is from the August 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.