BIG STONE GAP, VA – SEPTEMBER 2, 2021 — Creating an experience for people to remember is one of the primary things Stephen Murray hopes to accomplish as he opens Big Stone Gap Pottery in Big Stone Gap, Va. A grand opening for the new business is set for September 20, 2021.

Murray’s business, Big Stone Gap Pottery Shop LLC, is a recent recipient of a $6,500 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching grant.

The business, located in the Big Stone Gap General Store, is a paint your own pottery studio offering ceramic pieces – from dishes, cups and platters to novelty items, picture frames and more – that customers can paint as they wish, choosing from among a wide variety of paint colors available at the shop. Once they have painted the piece, it is left at the shop to dry and the shop will then fire it in its kiln on-site. Customers may expect to pick their piece back up in the store seven days later ready to be used. In the end, customers have a truly one-of-a-kind item and the experience of creating it.

“VCEDA was pleased to be able to assist Big Stone Gap Pottery as one of its recent seed capital grant recipients,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “The new business projects two full-time and three part-time employees within three years.”

For Murray, receiving the grant, he said, was his “I can do this moment.”

“Penny at the Big Stone Gap General Store encouraged me to do this,” Murray said. The Big Stone Gap General Store is also a prior VCEDA seed capital grant recipient. “The grant provided me with the ability to buy the kiln right off the bat,” Murray said. “Receiving the grant was the final impetus for me, the knowledge that it was time.”

He has also used the funds to purchase inventory and for the electrical work needed to install the kiln in the shop.

Murray noted he comes from an artistic background, predominantly focused in music, however, he said opening the shop gave him an outlet to explore additional creative arts.

“The idea for this project came to me as a solution to the lack of community-based programs/businesses here in Big Stone Gap,” Murray said. “What we are doing here is creating an experience for people to remember. I wanted to do something to encourage people to be together, to slow down, spend some time unplugged and enjoy time with others while exploring their own creativity.”

It’s an activity open to kids and adults alike and offers a fun family activity, a girls’ night out experience, or a fun children’s birthday party celebration, Murray said.

In addition to its regular business hours, Murray said several paint nights are planned throughout the year focusing on themed holiday events like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The new business is on Facebook as the Pottery Shop and may be found at @bsgpottery.

Murray worked with the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College on the development of his business plan and application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Wise County Industrial Development Authority.

“The MECC SBDC enjoyed working with Stephen through the VCEDA application process,” said Becki O’Quinn, director of the SBDC. “Stephen is committed to providing a fun and creative place for family and friends to enjoy. The SBDC looks forward to seeing the pottery studio bring new activities to the community.”

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. or

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.