AMHERST - Nearing its five-year anniversary since beginning its lease of a former church from Amherst County, Second Stage Amherst has its sights set on achieving historic designation status.
John Patteson of the nonprofit’s board of directors said Second Stage needs the county’s permission as the building’s owner to apply for a historic designation from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The hope for making the building formerly owned and operated by Amherst Baptist Church into an official historic landmark is to make it easier for the nonprofit to secure grant money, Patteson said.
“We have some needs that we’ve been unable to address through grants,” Patteson told the Amherst County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 4. “… We believe if you let us [seek a historic designation] … that might open some doors for us.”
Patteson said the building has gone from potential liability to community asset since the nonprofit began its lease with the county in spring 2015.
“We have things that satisfy a lot of needs in this community and we’re happy to have had the opportunity to do it,” he said of the venue’s many tenants and activities. “It’s been a pretty fulfilling thing for us.”
The Second Stage organization formed in 2012 as a grassroots effort aimed at keeping the former church building at 194 Second St. in operation after the church closed and the structure was discussed for possible demolition.
Patteson said the nonprofit also plans to seek a grant to repair and restore historic windows for the purpose of maintenance and energy efficiency. It also plans to hire a professional to assess the site’s exterior and give direction on preservation and possible landscaping, including a potential patio area for Baine’s Books and Coffee, which opened its doors there in 2019.
He said the organization has been good stewards of money it receives from public and private donors. The venue’s roof needs attention — the nonprofit anticipates it could require a fix of $50,000 to $75,000 — and Second Stage intends to apply for grant money.
The nonprofit has done its best patching up leaks from the roof. “At some point we’re fighting a losing battle,” Patteson said. “We’ve found it’s beyond our capabilities.”
Patteson said he went to church there for several decades and knows the site well. “I love that old building,” he said of helping keep it going. “It’s been our pleasure.”
In 2019, the venue hosted 27 performances and special events, 37 lectures and meetings and drew 12,220 visitors as customers, clients and guests, according to a report submitted to supervisors. It has 10 full-time tenants. Its farmers market concluded its seventh season last year, facilitating more than $30,000 in sales by local farmers and artisans and providing $6,000 worth of produce to food-insecure neighbors, according to the report.
Over the nearly five years of the lease, the nonprofit’s board has authorized more than $75,000 to preserve and improve the facility, including the replacement of the entire heating and cooling system and upgrade of its electrical service.
Overall activity sponsored by Second Stage, which as a nonprofit is in its seventh year, since 2014 has generated more than a half million dollars, the report states. Second Stage last year had 73 rentals to outside individuals and groups, which Suny Monk, the nonprofit’s president, said was almost doubled from the previous year.
“There’s a lot of activity in the building,” Monk said to supervisors. “From a strategic planning perspective we have decided to reduce those events that can happen anywhere in Amherst.”
John Kortmulder, who has operated Mindful Mountain Yoga at Second Stage since 2015, said the nonprofit is wonderful to lease from and its summer camp and other activities are a draw for the community.
“It keeps expanding little by little,” he said of the site’s outreach.
He said the coffee shop has been a nice addition and the facility draws local residents from various age groups. “It’s a little family,” Kortmulder, Mindful Mountain Yoga’s instructor, said of the studio.
The roof repair project is certainly needed and worthwhile, he added.
“The future is full of fun and we hope we are continuing to offer the kinds of things that will invite so many kinds of people into the building,” Monk said. “It remains such a beautiful space.”
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Claudia Tucker said the facility is certainly better off since the nonprofit has run it. Tucker said Baines Books and Coffee, in addition to providing great beverages, has excellent food as well.
“I encourage you to go over there and spend your money,” Tucker said.