WOMEN ABOUT (down)TOWN: Part 1

October 10, 2014

Story by: Helen McLaughlin

For as long as I've lived in Charlottesville, the Downtown Mall has been my home.

It's also been my office, my playground, my gym and my church. I've fallen in love on the Mall, I've cried with a friend on the Mall, and I've had too much to drink on the Mall. The barista at Cafe Cubano knows I like my latte hot, even throughout the summer. The Tibetan woman who sells beaded necklaces, wispy scarves and sundresses knows that my daily jog will begin just after I pass her table. After all these years, the busker with the harmonica who sits on an overturned bucket still won't smile at me when I pass, but I think of him as a neighbor anyway. My longest Charlottesville relationship is with this special, eight-block stretch of brick and concrete.

In the wake of Hannah Graham's abduction, the Downtown Mall -- my Downtown Mall -- has felt significantly less like home.

WOMEN ABOUT (down)TOWN is a new blog series on Iris, focused on reclaiming our perception of Downtown Charlottesville as a community of and for women. Small business owners, restaurateurs, independent artists and artisans alike -- our Mall is a place where women are making significant contributions to Charlottesville's culture, commerce and culinary diversity. It's a place many

women have called "home" and will, with our support, continue to call "home."

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Part 1 of WOMAN ABOUT (down)TOWN Series:

JACQUI BAY SLUSHER

Photo courtesy of Will Slusher
Jacqui Bay Slusher works from her home studio in the early morning and late at night when her 16-month-old is sleeping.

A resident of the community for the past six years, Jacqui Bay Slusher knows how to strike a balance between work and play in Charlottesville.

Currently, she is a child and adolescent case manager for a local government agency called Region Ten, which means she works with families to attain access to mental health supports in the community. This includes linking families to medical, psychiatric, therapeutic, social and educational supports, along with services that meet their basic needs. In addition to carrying a mental health case load, she works as a secondary therapeutic behavioral specialist and is the case manager for many consumers with intellectual disabilities. Once a youth counselor for Community Attention and, later, a support coordinator for the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, social work has always been Jacqui's calling.

Photo courtesy of Jacqui Bay Slusher
A sampling of I Wear Blue Tights clothespin people: Elvis Presley, Frida Kahlo, Buzz Aldrin, and William Shakespeare.

By night, however, she has an entirely different calling: I Wear Blue Tights, her line of one-of-a-kind crafts that are making their way into a slew of gift boutiques throughout the state; on the Downtown Mall, they can be found at O'Suzannah.

"I really, really, REALLY enjoy making things. My husband and I crafted for a year [in preparation] for our wedding. We started planning our wedding during the formation of Pinterest, and I guess I just decided that I needed to make all the things. It got out of hand, but I would not change a thing."

Specializing in the whimsical, Jacqui creates hand-painted wooden bead necklaces, exquisitely detailed clothespin people, dinosaur head trophies (cruelty-free!) mounted on small log cross-sections, and more.

"I let that love of creating move in a more profitable direction and now I am, what I consider to be, kind of successful. Which, for me, means that I really enjoy doing it, I make a bit of money, and I have joined a wonderful maker community here in Central Virginia!"

One Saturday in late September, I visited Jacqui's booth at fleaVILLE, a new pop-up flea market at the IX building off the Mall, to find out what she recommends for the U.Va. Woman hoping to discover what Downtown Charlottesville has to offer.

Photo by Helen McLaughlin
The IWBT booth at fleaVILLE is always abuzz!

Helen McLaughlin: What upcoming event(s) should she put in her smartphone?

Jacqui Bay Slusher:

  • October 10- The Paramount is doing a 10th Anniversary Tour, which should be a lovely celebration of the amazing restoration of this gorgeous venue.
  • October 18- The Live Arts Gala. For the BEST after party (Afterglow) in the land, I highly suggest snatching up tickets immediately.
  • And, of course, all of October, you can go up to Carter Mountain, have a wine slushie (if you're 21!), and score a prize pumpkin.

HM:Best Downtown selfie location?

JS:You and your bestie noshing passionately on a cupcake from Cappellino's Crazy Cakes.

HM: It's Saturday afternoon on the Mall. You step off the free trolley as a Wahoo with $20, comfortable (but cute!) shoes, and a few hours before you're meeting a friend for coffee. Ideal itinerary?

JS:

  1. Get cucumber lemonade at Commonwealth Restaurant (sometimes, if you are lucky, it is only about $2).
  2. Go write something on The Free Speech Monument and Instagram that jazz.
  3. Walk down to Urban Outfitters and see if they have any good T-shirts on sale (usually $5.99). Size up and consider yourself the owner of new PJs.
  4. Head over to the library and get a new card (free). They have them on key chains now! Look and see what you can download to your tablet. They have many options.
  5. Watch out for runners! There is probably a race of some sort happening.
  6. Head over to Lee Park to see whatever is being protested/supported by some festival or another. Hopefully, it's chocolate. Yes, there is a festival JUST FOR CHOCOLATE.
  7. Go to O'Suzannah and buy a nice card for your mom ($4-6) and caramels ($2 for 3). Save one for lunch and your friend.
  8. Pick up some lunch! Run into the Market Street Market and snag a slider (JUST $1!!) and a San Pellegrino Blood Orange Drink ($1.15).
  9. Rest! Have a seat in the shade of the Pavilion, bust out your tablet, and fire up your new library card. Eat your lunch and wait for your friend to join you.

Extra credit

HM: What percent Wahoo are you?

JS: Well, this is a tough one. I am 100 percent Auburn Tiger, but I really like U.Va. because my darling went there. I'd say a good 50 percent at LEAST.

Thanks for sharing, Jacqui!

Read about more women business owners in this blog series:

Elizabeth Steel of Darling

Kelly Cox and Merrill Woodriff of bend Yoga

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