Consider Frank and Susie Inman and Lynchburg Pottery and Gift Gallery. The building is much the same as it was when it was built in the 1930s by local businesswoman Emma Setliff. It’s spacious, with original tin ceilings, wooden floors and paneled walls lined with wooden shelves. The combination glass and wooden door is also original.
Susie, as she meets customers from all over the world, has noticed the calming effect of the environment. Many comment on how the building reminds them of times past. They mention the smell of the wood, the high ceiling and the sound of their shoes on the wooden floor.
A ball of curly white fur, the 14-year old Bichon Frise that had belonged to Susie’s mother, does her part to slow the pace. Jocie is Susie’s daily companion. She meets every customer from her perch in Susie’s chair. They want to pet her and take her picture. Then, as Susie relates, they are in no hurry to leave, but rather they start sharing stories and showing pictures of their pets.
Frank, the potter, is the son of Martin and June (Tolley) Inman. He grew up in Knoxville where he studied Fine Art at the University of Tennessee. His grandparents were Lem and Ethel Tolley of Lynchburg. Lem is remembered as Jack Daniel’s third Master Distiller. Frank and Susie’s home and pottery studio is on the farm that once belonged to this notable couple.
Susie, the artist, grew up in Tullahoma. She studied art at Kennesaw Junior College and for a time at the University of Georgia. Her parents were Ben and Mildred (Murray) Purnell. Mildred worked for the Moore County News, which was owned by Mildred’s parents, James and Ollie Murray, and later by her brother and his wife, Bobby and Jo Anne Murray (Payne). Mildred also worked for a time in the building that is now the Inman’s shop.
With their mutual family ties to Moore County and their artistic talents, it’s not surprising that eventually Frank and Susie would connect. Frank had been living and making pottery on the Tolley farm since 1988. Susie had traveled the United States with her mother and stepfather, Pete Moore, painting and selling her creations. She had settled back in Tullahoma. They met at a Lynchburg event in 1991. It didn’s take long to discover that they were kindred souls and they were married that year.
Their first business venture on the Square was in 1993, when, at the urging of Tommy Sullenger and Clayton Knight, they rented a space in the building that now houses Tim’s Flies and Lies. It was a combination Welcome Center and retail space where local artists could feature their creations. Frank sold his pottery and Susie sold her artwork.
One of her most popular items was clay ornaments that featured Lynchburg landmarks. She also made and painted small collectible bells.
In 1998, their current store became available. The historic old building has been home to a succession of businesses on the Square. Both Emma Setliff and the next owners, Carl and Evelyn Copeland, had operated it as a dry goods store. Prior to the Inman’s shop, it was The Oak Leaf Emporium owned by Bill Dickey and Gary Smith, selling antiques and flower arrangements.
Because Susie had always wanted a gift shop, they moved and expanded their inventory. Popular items now include colorful songbird pillows, scenic tapestries and Rada Cutlery. The featured items in the store are Frank’s pottery, both porcelain and stoneware. The finish and colors of his work are such that even the untrained eye can appreciate that these are the work of a master craftsman.
Complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis and the care of her elderly mother who died this year at 95 years old, temporarily brought Susie’s painting to a halt. But those creative juices are still simmering and she talks of how she might try painting again while she minds the store.
She dreams of painting Lynchburg’s Gazebo. Her fans — those who have collected her work and those who will enjoy it again — are eagerly waiting.
By JUNE PUGH (June Pugh is an award-winning writer whose More About Moore column is featured in The Moore County News every other week. Write to her at <email@example.com>.)