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Evolve celebrates second anniversary, reopening with open house

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | May 28, 2021

Evolve co-owner Elise Baach, far left, discusses some of the art exhibits that have been held in the business since its founding, on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — A little over two years ago, Shepherdstown residents Jan Hafer and Elise Baach decided to try out a new business model at 106 West German Street — a space dedicated to being to house pop-up shops and small events.

Unfortunately, after a year of successful art gallery pop-ups, product shows and more, the COVID-19 Pandemic hit. The pandemic particularly injured Evolve over the ensuing months, as many would-be renters chose to wait out the pandemic, due to the temporary decrease in local tourism.

In spite of all of those challenges, Evolve survived its second year. And on Saturday and Sunday, the shop officially reopened its doors full-time, with a second anniversary open house celebration. The open house featured exhibits composed of items representing many of the shop’s prior pop-up shops, according to Hafer.

“We just wanted to celebrate this reopening and display our previous renters,” Hafer said, mentioning the shop has already seen a resurgence in renters for the upcoming months of October through December.

One common misconception Hafer hoped the exhibits cleared up, was that of the shop strictly being an art gallery.

Shepherdstown residents John Doyle, right, and Michael Kemp hang out in Evolve’s second anniversary reopening celebration on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“People do think we’re an art gallery, and that’s not accurate. We’re a pop-up gallery!” Hafer said, mentioning the good turnout for the event made her and Baach decide to extend the event over the entire weekend. “We’ve been closed for months, but we want people to know we’re open and booking again. With this end in mind, we want to demonstrate how people who booked us used this space.”

According to new Shepherdstown resident Michael Kemp, attending the event was a way for him to learn more about the shop and meet its owners.

“I love the concept [of this business]! The pop-up shop diversity is just incredible,” Kemp said. “I saw a sign for the opening, and wanted to meet the girls [who own Evolve] and introduce myself. I’ve been in and out of here a few times, but had never met Jan and Elise before.”

Although Shepherdstown resident Ann Christy was in Bethesda, Md. earlier on Saturday, she made a concerted effort to get to the open house by the end of the day.

“I came for this! I came from Bethesda, just making it here at the last minute!” Christy said. “I’m friends with Elise and Jan, but I’ve also been here before [to see some pop-up shops]. They always have wonderful things, interesting things going on here.”

While Evolve’s focus is not on being an art gallery, Christy believes its work as a host for art pop-up shops has filled a previously unmet need in town.

“Evolve offers a venue for art and creative works that is different from any other offerings around here,” Christy said. “It’s a nice complement to the other places here. It’s a help to a community with lots of artists!”