FORT MILL — Olive’s Mud Puddle is moving out of Indian Land and making a new home for on Main Street in Fort Mill.
Owner Debbie Whitsett moved from Charlotte nearly two years ago hoping to find a spot for the business in downtown Fort Mill, but couldn’t find the right place. Instead, she opened the clay studio in a small space on Barberville Road in September 2012.
Recently, a Main Street shop became available and Whitsett jumped on the opportunity. Her studio is named after Whitsett’s favorite – and smartest, she says – pet duck, Olive.
“I’ve always wanted to be on Main Street. That was my whole plan,” she said.
“I bought a house near Main Street so I could walk to work but it just didn’t happen quickly so I found the other space, and then when this came available I was so excited. I just cried, actually.”
Whitsett is one of a growing number of retailers in the downtown area. Local Dish and Pucker Butt Pepper Co. are among the newest. Both opened in mid-2012. Her business will be the third art-oriented shop on Main Street, joining The Painted Parrot and United Artisans.
At the Indian Land studio, Whitsett taught clay classes and held parties but the Main Street location will give her room to expand. The new shop is more than four times larger than her first location.
Whitsett will continue to offer clay and ceramic classes and space for parties but will grow to include a gift shop where she can showcase local artists as well as her own painted clay pieces.
The new location of Olive’s Mud Puddle will also house a gallery.
“It’s been my dream to have this place with a little retail and handmade stuff to help artists in the area get their name out. Not a snobby gallery but a laid back gallery,” Whitsett said.
Artists will still have to be juried to be allowed into the gallery, she said, but she hopes the atmosphere is friendly, relaxed, and more accessible than the average gallery.
Olive’s Mud Puddle is scheduled to open in early September. The first gallery exhibit, “Farm and Rural Life,” is already being planned, Whitsett said, with a date to be announced soon. It will feature artists from the Carolinas, including Steven Mills, a Fort Mill photographer, Dottie Leatherwood, a Charlotte painter, and Annie Hartline, a painter from Asheville.
As Whitsett has begun moving into her Main Street shop, she already thinking about a gallery crawl or similar event to “liven it up” around downtown, she said.
“I’ve been there when most of the places weren’t open and it’s very frustrating,” Whitsett said.
But the slow pace of the downtown area doesn’t concern her, she said.
“I’m not in it to get rich. I’m in it because I enjoy it. I’m not worried,” Whitsett said.
“Now that I’m in it there are a lot of people that want to know what it is and are ready to come in and are excited. It feels like it’s going to be a good place for me and as long as I have people come in to say hello and buy a couple of things, I’ll be happy.”
Amanda Phipps contributed to this story.