Community Members hope to revitalize Route 7


Route 7 Antique Alley and Route 7 Artisan Fellowship are teaming up in eastern Kentucky, working across county lines, and hoping to make change happen in their communities.

With 5,200 plus members — to put it into perspective, Whitesburg had only 2,057 residents in 2013 — Route 7 Antique Alley’s Facebook page has become a resource for local business owners and customers. And the artisan group, Route 7 Artisan Fellowship, has linked arms to push their community’s cultural initiatives and economic survival forward.

Freelance writer Megan Smith recently took a trip along the two-lane road that runs from Jeff in Perry County up to South Shore in Greenup County, making stops at shops and restaurants along the way.

Smith discovered that entrepreneurs and artisans along the route are hoping their interconnected businesses can help breath life back into the rural communities along the highway that have suffered in the wake of the coal industry’s collapse.

And they hope the Artisan Fellowship will be “a call to action among those who believe in the future of their mountain communities.”

“We are trying to realize our potential and put some things in place that will draw people down Route 7 to help bring a little income to our local artists, crafters and musicians,” [Bonita] Adams said. “I hope that opportunities arise for our people. I am not thinking big business; just small ones with big personalities and talents.” (Bonita is owner of Kentucky Proud N&S Farm, and a member of the Route 7 initiatives)

Route 7 Artisan Fellowship was awarded $10,000 last year from the Kentucky Appalachian Regional Commission Flex-E Grant program. The money will be used to offer classes for artisans, establish classrooms and open a store featuring local artist’s work.

This partnership and initiative is another in a long list of bright spots in the region in the wake of coal’s collapse. Local people are working together across county lines and other boundaries to make sure they are rebuilding their communities in their own image and with the posterity of their communities in mind. They have hope for their communities’ future, and that is perhaps the biggest step sometimes.