If genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, members of Ocean Drive Presbyterian Church in North Myrtle Beach have confirmed the maxim.
It took eight months for Kenny and Leslie Gore of Little River, Scott Estep of North Myrtle Beach and a handful of other congregants to transform the children’s educational building into nine “Shops on Westminster Lane.” Westminster is the name of the preschool program at the church.
They dedicated their Saturdays to designing, painting, building and installing the shops. Leslie’s mother, Debbie Hicks, painted all of the murals. Kenny designed every one of the windows and doors, and Karen Davis, director of the preschool program, decorated the windows.
“We wanted all the shops to reflect stories from the Bible,” Kenny said, the primary sweat-equity force behind the project. He bought several items from eBay, built display cases, installed paneling and painted it. Materials and supplies cost around $5,000.
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“Before we did this it was all tan and awful,” Kenny said. “It was cement blocks.”
Joseph’s Tailor Shop has a colorful awning over the door to signify Joseph’s coat of many colors. A mural of red flowers and a flower box filled with artificial blooms highlight The Eden Garden Shop. Samson’s Barber Shop is complete with a twirling red and white barber pole, which he bought on eBay, Kenny explained.
“We want to show that children and families are important to us,” said Kelly Gabriele, worship leader. “[Westminster Lane] is fun and it’s whimsical, but it’s also thoughtful.”
About a year ago she said she had seen something similar in a church in Atlanta and explained it to Leslie, director of children’s programs at the time.
“Leslie had the idea [for the shops with a biblical theme] and ran with it,” Gabriele said. “I had the seed for doing this, but Leslie sowed it, planted it, tilled it and watered it and it grew. We have the biblical-themed shops to teach the kids stories through these shops.”
“I loved the whole idea,” said lead pastor The Rev. Daryle Bush. “Our vision was to be family oriented.”
In December 2012 the Gores initiated the process necessary to go forward with the project. When it was approved, Amy and Kristof De Proft organized a Christmas program as a fundraiser. Leslie and Davis picked the names of Biblical figures first then chose the shop names to correlate with Bible stories. The Shops of Westminster include Eden’s Garden Shop, Esther’s Boutique, Hannah’s Nursery, Joseph’s Tailor Shop, Samson’s Barber Shop, Ruth’s Café, Peter’s Fish and Tackle, Noah’s Pet Shop and King David’s Theater.
On Sept. 15 the church held an Open House to show the congregation and visitors the Shops on Westminster Lane. Davis welcomed everyone and told them to come back every month because all the items in the display cases will change to highlight the events of the month and the seasons.
“This is magnificent because kids are going to want to come here,” said Karen Gyolai of Bel Air, Md. She and her husband Jim have been coming to North Myrtle Beach for the past 10 years and attend Ocean Drive Presbyterian Church while in town. “We always come here. Always,” she said. “The music is fabulous, and the church is welcoming.”
Beverly Petro of Calabash, N.C., pointed to an antique-like sign outside Ruth’s Café.
“I love all the little touches. Really clever, and I’m a sucker for old things,” she said.
“I like all the colors, and the way they designed it for the children,” added her husband Michael.
“We tried to put insects as frequently as possible, so we could teach the kids,” Hicks said, and pointed to some ants at the bottom of a mural she had painted outside Ruth’s Café.
About 50 preschoolers and up to 75 Sunday school students attend the classes at the church. The De Profts daughter, Adira, 4, is a student, and she said her favorite shop is Esther’s Boutique.
“She’s my favorite queen,” she said.
Leslie, former director of the children’s programs, said her favorite shop is Samson’s Barber Shop, possibly because her mother was a cosmetologist. Chuck Ramsey, a church elder and co-chair of the property committee, said his favorite is Peter’s Fish and Tackle, probably because it’s associated with men’s interests. Kenny explained that the fish net is an actual remnant from his childhood.
Davis said her favorite shop is Joseph’s Tailor shop because she likes the awning of many colors and the little suits for children in the showcase.
When asked if enrollment in the programs will increase, Leslie said, “That’s the whole purpose of this. Environment is so important.”
“We kind of have seen growth already,” Kenny added.
“This is a teachable place,” Gabriele said.