Vikki Roberts loves to renovate old buildings. Her love for bringing beauty and dignity back to beaten down structures has led her and her husband, Allan, to renovate two downtown Gate City buildings and locate businesses in each.
The Roberts first renovated a structure at the corner of Jackson and King Streets and turned it into one of the area’s finest bakeries—The Family Bakery. Vikki’s latest venture, Roberts & Jones gift shop, was once home to a bank and a longtime dress shop, called the Style Shop.
During the 17-month renovation of the former Style Shop, the Roberts completely gutted the building. “The building has great bones,” Vikki said. “You just couldn’t see them.”
Today Roberts & Jones Gift Shop is an open, airy store lighted by two massive chandeliers that were rescued from an old Washington, D.C. waterfront restaurant. The chandeliers hang from a bead-board ceiling that Vikki painstakingly stained by hand while standing on gigantic scaffolding.
A wall of exposed brick and rough edged Depression-era wallpaper and horsehair plaster complete store’s entrance. On the other side of the room stands an ornate antique cast-iron fireplace surround shanked by a cozy overstuffed chair that beckons you to come on in and sit a spell.
The Roberts initially looked at the former Style Shop as a home for the Family Bakery. At the time, a price could not be negotiated but the Roberts never lost hope of someday owning the building. Four years after the Roberts opened the Family Bakery, the owner of the Style Shop, Walter Rhoton, came to the couple and asked if they were still interested in the Style Shop.
“Mr. Rhoton said he appreciated our vision,” she said. Unfortunately, Mr. Rhoton passed away right before the property closed. “I think he would have been proud of the renovation. We wanted to showcase the historic building in a way that made the community proud.”
Aside from bringing an old building back to life, Vikki wanted to open a gift shop that catered to personal service. “You can call us and tell us the gift occasion and your price-point. Then we will pick out something, wrap it up and have it ready for you.”
Since opening Roberts & Jones on Small Business Saturday in December, business has been great. The Christmas season was phenomenal—of the 500 Christmas ornaments Vikki ordered, she only had about 100 left.
The Roberts have found downtown Gate City to be a good market. “There are a lot of people who work in or near downtown Gate City and don’t have time to drive to Kingsport for a gift, plus Gate City sees a lot of tourists who want to take a memento home to remember their trip.”
Vikki is quick to point out that Gate City is a good market not just for them, but for anybody. “Other businesses could also thrive here. It would be great to see downtown Gate City full of shops. That would make more people come. We don’t want to be the only show in town.”
Roberts & Jones offers items with a price point ranging from $1.95 to $295.00. The majority of the stock is sold exclusively by Robert & Jones. The store sells “Simply Southern T-shirts” and carries its own line of T-shirts, called “My Part of Virginia.” There is also a women’s clothing line called “Lost Petal Linens” that is designed and made in Nashville.
They offer jewelry that is handmade by local artists. A mother and daughter team make the “Sticks and Stones” bangle bracelets and Alicia White Gilreath of Gate City fashions beautiful gemstone jewelry.
You can find a gift for any occasion at Roberts & Jones. There are baby gifts, a huge bridal selection, pottery, dishes, pieces for entertaining, men’s gifts including fly fishing equipment, books of local interest, Bates’ Family Farm Goat’s Milk lotions, Virginia Diner peanuts which are also suitable for corporate gifts, handmade signs, local art and a host of other items.
Renovation of the former Style Shop is not complete—there is an upstairs loft and basement that will be refurbished in time. The basement will be turned into office space and the loft an apartment. Vikki already has visions for the upstairs loft.
It will have an open floorplan, a similar look to downstairs, with a lot of open space that complements the antique bead-board and outside back view of the mountains in the distance. Truth be told, Vikki just likes to renovate. “I wanted to redo the buildings…I want these buildings to be beautiful. But I have to have a business in here to pay for the renovations,” she laughed.
As for the store’s name—Robert & Jones—it took Vikki a long time to come up with just the right name for her new venture. Then one day, she was rummaging around and found an old sign that said “Dick Jones, Proprietor.”
Dick Jones was her grandfather and the Jones family’s first entrepreneur. The sign came from an old service station that Mr. Jones owned in the Bloomingdale community of Kingsport. That wasn’t Mr. Jones first business though.
According to Vikki, her grandfather had his first business when he was just 14-years-old. “He and his older brother made crates to put caskets in that were taken to Knoxville. They rode their bicycles 12 miles one way each time to make the crates. And they turned out to be very successful with that little business.”
Even though Vikki’s real love is the rehabilitation of old buildings, the seeds of entrepreneurship were planted many years ago by Dick Jones. In homage to her grandfather, she named the store Roberts & Jones.
Roberts & Jones is located at 165 W. Jackson St., Gate City, Va. Hours of operation are Mon.—Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Telephone number is 276-690-2531. You can find Roberts & Jones on Facebook and Instagram. If you want a real feel for this wonderful store, drop in and browse.