CHARLESTON, W.Va. (BP) – When Resurrection Church found its present home in downtown Charleston, members Cleve and Katie Persinger offered to lease the church’s storefront to help fulfill a personal dream.
Years earlier the Persingers, together with Katie’s sister Laura Jewell, started nursing an idea to open a small store and name it after Cleve’s late grandparents Buck and Bette, pronounced Betty.
“We want to spread Gospel hospitality and want anyone who walks in our store to feel known, welcomed and loved,” Katie said. “And that’s the way the community kind of made us feel, is welcomed and loved, from day one.”
The editors of Southern Living Magazine caught the vibe, giving the boutique a spot on the magazine’s 2021 listing of “The South’s Best” things.
“We were just absolutely humbled,” Katie said. “We felt undeserving.”
The Persingers are active in Southern Baptist life and have ties to The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, where Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear is senior pastor. Cleve heads communications and partnerships for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, and previously worked for The Summit Church and Lifeway Christian Resources. Katie, in addition to running the store part-time with Laura, is communications and operations director at Resurrection Church and continues to work as a producer with J.D. Greear Ministries.
Buck & Bette is marketed as a source of “fancy and staple goods for Appalachian life,” with an eclectic mix of apparel, accessories, home and bath items, and art and paper goods. Buck and Bette lived in Pendleton County, W.Va., about 200 miles east of Charleston .
“Bette was a bit more sophisticated. She liked finer things in life,” Katie said. “Where, Buck was just a mountain man, born in the West Virginia mountains.”
Shoppers find such things as a chair reminiscent of the seat Buck often took to read his Bible, Katie said, and photos on the wall spotlight various scenes from the late couple’s life. Shoppers buy Pattywax candles made in Nashville, Tenn., and Moser glass from Cambridge, Ohio.
The Persingers opened the store with co-owners Laura and her husband Cass in 2018, a couple of years after the Persingers moved to West Virginia. The move followed years of prayer emanating from Cleve’s West Virginia roots.
“We moved to West Virginia because for most of our marriage, this is where Cleve’s heart was to be,” she said. “We would get the (West Virginia) newspaper wherever we lived, whether we were in Nashville or North Carolina … and almost every week we’d see a church closing, or something like that.
“And so he just had a strong desire to be part of the community. He prayed for many years about opportunities and open doors, and in 2016 we finally moved here.”
They took time to learn the community and establish relationships with the residents. The store was designed to offer products that residents couldn’t easily find nearby, and to also spotlight local craftspeople and artists.
“Since we opened the shop, it’s actually that feeling of being part of something,” Katie said. While she closed the store for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic, she was able to recover somewhat during holiday sales. She doesn’t consider earning money the store’s main objective.
“We’re thankful to be part of the community. … The area (of the business) that’s grown the most over the past three years is selling local vendors, local artists and local makers’ items in the shop. That’s probably the biggest community impact we’ve had over the past year, has been increasing the footprint for other West Virginia makers.”