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A dream realized in Lone Leaf Gallery

Neil and Meredith Loughlin, owners of Lone Leaf Gallery in downtown Washington. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

“Shop Local. Buy Handmade. Support Artists.”

The colorful lettering is stenciled across an antique dresser in Lone Leaf Gallery — the dresser serving as the countertop for the cash register; the statement describing Neil and Meredith Loughlins’ philosophy entirely.

The Loughlins’ Lone Leaf Gallery sits on the corner of Main and Market streets in Washington, a corner store carved out of an old downtown building. The store is small, but the available space is impeccably segmented: the gallery here, where works of art fill shelving and hang on walls; the frame shop there, sample frames, ornate, plain, weathered, marching up the wall space.

“It’s always been our dream to open a small gallery,” said Meredith Loughlin.

The Loughlins’ dream came true in 2009, when the two were visiting Washington and saw the space for rent. They decided to take a leap and open a store that combines the design skills they developed in art school and honed in their careers that followed.

Their history as a couple, and as business owners, is mired in art.

The Loughlins were majoring art, both concentrating in photography, when they met at East Carolina University. Neil Loughlin supported himself during art school working for a framing shop in Tarboro; and after graduation, Meredith Loughlin did a work/study stint at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where she learned metalwork and textiles.

Eventually, they landed in Greensboro, where both began working in commercial photography studios — Neil Loughlin doing national work with the High Point furniture companies, and Meredith, as studio manager of Mark Wagoner Productions.

But they fell in love with the idea of a small business in an older downtown area, and when the recession hit 2008, the two decided they’d take a chance on fulfilling their dream, rather than rely on freelance photography work.

The Loughlins still take on freelance photography jobs, but now they have a gallery offering handmade goods from artists they’ve met through the years, like Heather Muise’s crocheted stuffed animals and ornaments, and local wood-turner Steve Ainsworth’s handcrafted bowls. Resting along the walls toward the back of the store are framed photographs and artwork waiting for pickup by their owners.

“We keep busy,” said Meredith Loughlin of the framing business. “It’s steady” — like the steady stream of art and artists that make up the quarterly exhibits on display at the gallery.

“The gallery’s fun because it allows us to show our own work, and the work of artists we’ve met and admired,” explained Neil Loughlin. “It’s a great way to support other artists.”

Shop local. Buy handmade. Support artists. The Loughlins are living, and selling, their philosophy at Lone Leaf Gallery.