City Portrait

Group de ‘Ville

Five residents turning this former mill town into a hotbed of Southern culture

Lily Wikoff
Design Star

Twenty-seven-year-old potter and jewelry designer Lily Wikoff expected to spend just four short years in Greenville, getting her degree in studio art at Bob Jones University before heading to New York, where she had the occasional modeling gig. But sometimes smaller really is better. “I just love this city,” Wikoff says. “It’s a smaller city, but it’s such a melting pot. I’ve been able to surround myself with so many other creative types.” From her Pendleton Street studio, Lily Pottery, Wikoff crafts ceramic jewelry painted in vibrant hues and stamped with her intricate organic designs. But it’s her housewares that have lately caught the eye of national purveyors. She’s in talks with the Urban Outfitters–owned Terrain and with home-goods company Shabby Chic to create outdoor and home lines. “I could not have made all this happen as quickly in another city,” Wikoff says. “The support in Greenville is just amazing.”

Joe and Darlene Clarke
Farmers’ Friends

Though husband and wife Joe and Darlene Clarke struck out for Hollywood and careers in the movie biz, they could not shake their early passions for food and wine, or their love of the South. So the pair eventually left California behind to follow their dream of owning a restaurant. “We had always planned on moving back to the South, but Greenville wasn’t even on the radar,” Joe says. After culinary school for Joe and sommelier certification for Darlene, a fortuitously timed visit to Darlene’s parents landed the couple in the emergent West End neighborhood, where in 2007 they opened American Grocery Restaurant. “We were able to find an old building with good bones,” Joe says. “It just seemed right.” American Grocery became the city’s first dedicated farm-to-table restaurant, and it continues to lead the way in highlighting the region’s bounty.

Diane Kilgore Condon
Art Visionary

Leave it to an artist to see the beauty in a crumbling, century-old, ten-thousand-square-foot former general store on “the wrong side of the tracks.” When a friend sneaked painter Diane Kilgore Condon inside the West Greenville building (hoping it wasn’t trespassing, since the door was kicked in), she knew she had found the space she was searching for. “Our original goal with the Art Bomb Studios was simple,” she says, “to provide affordable studio space for anyone who was really serious about creating great work.” A decade later, the nonprofit Art Bomb is home to fifteen artists—metalsmiths, potters, painters, and printmakers—and has been a keystone for West Greenville’s transformation from an abandoned mill village to a thriving artists’ colony chock-full of galleries and studios. “Looking back, I have no idea how it came together,” Kilgore Condon says. “But at the time it made perfect sense.”

Edwin McCain
Hometown Voice

Never completely comfortable
in the high-profile music world that accompanied his late-’90s breakout (spawned by the megahit “I’ll Be”), singer/songwriter Edwin McCain chose to remain in his native Greenville over the big-city lights. “I was really impressed with how much the city was changing,” he says. “When I was in high school, the rule was I could have the keys to the car, but I better not go downtown. Now downtown has just exploded.” And McCain has done his part to help it along. In 2006, he cofounded the annual Euphoria festival (this year September 22­–25), a celebration of food, wine, and music that underscores the depth and breadth of the city’s revitalization. McCain puts on an outdoor concert in downtown’s revamped riverside amphitheater, and venues that once sat boarded up now host chef’s dinners and wine pairings. “Being home where everyone knows me for me,” he says, “that’s where I want to be.”