City Views – Nurturing Small Sparks into Big Flames in the City of Arts & Innovation

by Emily Alphin

On a warm spring day in March, I was walking around exploring treasures at Hoots Flea. Located in the heart of an evolving microcosm that is slowly and surely blossoming as the West End Mill Works neighborhood, I marveled at the progress being made to build up the Roller Mill. Once a lilting and decrepit memory of a long-neglected piece of history, it was now upright, polished, and proud.

In front of one of the entrances was a simple folding table with a striking banner bearing the logo boldly proclaiming that it was now The Roller Mill Events. Behind the table stood a striking and poised couple who introduced themselves as Jennifer & Jonjo Evans. After Jonjo opened the nearby Woodshed and saw the potential of the area, together with Jennifer they decided to undertake the extensive task of helping to restore the Mill and turn the upper level into an event space.

Instantly I was drawn to Jonjo and Jennifer’s open and earnest nature and I offered to help them with their marketing after finding out both had full-time jobs on top of growing their event venue business. I’m sure they thought I wasn’t serious until a few days later when I visited Jonjo’s woodworking shop. Somehow I managed to convince him and Jennifer to let me work for free to help get my freelance career rolling with some real-world experience.

the mill
the mill

During the months that followed, the work both in and around the Mill turned West End Mill Works into an anchor for a pocket of small businesses and non-profits that directly contributed to each other’s success. I was so inspired by what I was watching evolve that I now have office space in the bright blue building right next to the Mill, right in the middle of all the action.

What’s happening in the West End is also happening all over the city. I have lived in Winston-Salem on and off for over 20 years and have seen the ebb and flow cycles of regeneration, rebuilding, and rebirth that has been happening for 2 decades. We’re on the verge of something amazing and I’m so thrilled to be on the sidelines watching and cheering for our collective progress.

I’ll be writing articles for Camel City Dispatch under the title “City Views” where I hope to offer an inside look at the people all around the city who are nurturing a small spark and fanning them into big flames. This is a city steeped in “arts & innovation” and I’m surrounded by makers, doers, artists, and creators – all of whom are entrepreneurial in spirit and working towards helping Winston-Salem live up to its burgeoning reputation.

Some stories have been told before and some you’ll read for the first time. I promise you’ll learn something new with every story, and I hope you’ll take a closer look at the inspiration that surrounds us all.


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