We love Harrisonburg downtown

We love Harrisonburg downtown

Recently Harrisonburg has been getting national press for what we already know about our community: it’s an amazing place to live, work, and play. We love Harrisonburg, we absolutely love Harrisonburg downtown, and we know that you will too. As hype for ESPN College Game Day at JMU covers the town this weekend due to an undefeated JMU Dukes football team (we are also celebrating JMU’s #24 in the country basketball team), we are seeing so much hype for our friendly city. Recently, Southern Living Magazine wrote a love letter about the place where author Tara Massouleh McCay says “she could live.”
Duke dog holding gaines group t-shirt.
JMU football stadium.
The beauty of our city is that we know each other and want to see each other do well, thrive, have fun. We are the Friendly City in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, surrounded by nature’s beauty and close enough to the bigger cities that we have access to what we don’t have in just a short drive (and still the ability to come back home the same day). If you have not visited our city, whether you are here for football, hiking, food, or just fun – here are some of the places and things you should know about that the national magazines and out of towner reports have not told you.
Visit the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning, ask David Sutton with Port Farm about his plants, cutting boards, and rolling pins. Mention that you would love to hear more about his Dad and the Chesapeake Western Depot. Go see Nico at Mill Song Bakery and get a lunchbox loaf (maybe get two because it will not last long once you taste it). If you want the bread to disappear even faster, stop by to see Mike at Hott Apiary for some local honey. Pick up some flowers from Mary Jo’s Flowers and give them to someone you love – they will love them.
Love Sculpture.
We have the best Children’s museum, Explore More Discovery Museum, for young innovators, creators, and investigators. You can be a news reporter, car mechanic, doctor, dentist, scientist, actor. veterinarian, farmer, or builder. There is a maker space, airplane, ambulance, and stock market all inside the building. There are scheduled activities, classes, and even a Lego league available. The work that Lisa, Melanie, Marcia, Caroline, Kelly and their team do to make this the best museum possible is inspiring. Visit and see this amazing facility when you are downtown – shop in their store to help support them or just make a donation online to allow them to continue to grow this amazing community resource.
A must visit is to go see Mira at Rocktown Kitchen for lunch. Get the Fried Chicken sandwich (or the wedge salmon salad, or the burger, or the BBQ – everything that Chef Kristo creates is amazing). If you decide that you must return for dinner, you will probably need to reserve a seat while you are there for lunch. Word is out about how good it is to eat there. If Rocktown is too busy or not on your way, stop at Texas Inn for a Cheesy and say hi to Angie or pop across the street to one of Aaron’s places and get some fried mac and cheese at Billy Jack’s or Jack Brown’s for an Elvis (one of the best burgers you will ever experience).
You don’t want to miss Ten Thousand Villages for their amazing creations from around the world and stop in Agora Market to see what Heartworn Vintage has found that will have your vintage heart thumping.
Love Sculpture in front of Court Square
If you have someone that likes stickers, keychains, wall hangings, pens, candles, or jewelry, you have to stop by The Lady Jane to see what Sara has stocked for the holidays. The store is FULL of amazing finds. I always stuff the stockings at Christmas with the awesome things she has procured for the shop. This is also the shop where I find Ros O’Brien’s natured inspired ceramics. Her creations are beautiful and always a popular gift from Christmas ornaments to coffee cups.
As you continue up main street, drop in Oasis Fine Art and Craft to talk with Barbara and the other artists about their creations. You will want to see what Delaney has painted and let your young artists make something in the Kid’s Corner.
Old Harrisonburg building.
Now that you have made it to the historic Court Square you will want to take some time to enjoy the architecture of our courthouse, read about Charlotte Harris’s fate in 1878 on one of our local historic markers, and find out more about the springhouse.
Go visit Glen’s Fair Price Store – Harrisonburg’s most Unusual Store – to find rare and not rare toys, games, costumes, pranks and other fun things you did not know you needed.
That is a full day of fun and I did not even mention The Golden Pony pizza, Clementine’s Concerts, Kline’s ice cream, the shows at Court Square Theater, the games at Horizon gifts, the Massanutten Regional Library, The Lo (get the small) at Lola’s Deli, the murals throughout, the duck scavenger hunt, the buenos dias at Cuban burger, salmon at Beyond, the records you can find at Wonder Skate shop, or stopping in to talk to Mike at Water Street Vintage.
Then there is north downtown and all the shops and restaurants you should visit, the amazing team at HDR that works on programs and events for downtown, and of course my favorite place in all of downtown – The Depot. Come visit, see our art gallery, explore our historic artifacts, or get a building designed.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Luncheon 2023: “It Takes Little to Be Big”

Big Brothers Big Sisters Luncheon 2023: “It Takes Little to Be Big”

Last Thursday our Harrisonburg team attended the Big Brothers Big Sisters luncheon, “Bigger Together: A Community Celebration of Mentoring.” It was a wonderful time to meet other leaders in the community and hear from Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) mentors. Speakers shared about their time mentoring youth in the community, and a theme that came through was that mentors were pleasantly surprised to be greatly impacted by the youth that they were paired with. Often, their relationships last past the program with a great respect for each other and a want to continue making meaningful connections. 

Harrisonburg team members at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Luncheon.
Big Brothers Big Sisters sponsorship sign at the luncheon.

A central theme of the luncheon was “It Takes Little to Be Big.” This simple fact was a good reminder and impactful to our team members. The speaker emphasized that it’s often not the grandiose or “big” moments that are impactful, but the seemingly small actions. A high-five, laugh together, 15 minutes supporting studying, cheering each other on, providing a listening ear, and the list goes on. Asha reflected, “I am often surprised to be going about my day and have a little voice of something someone said once go through my head. These small things impact me greatly, sometimes in negative ways, but often in positive ways. Or at least they provide me with a laugh. I was glad to be reminded of all the small things that we do that we may never know positively impact each other.”

It is always a pleasure to support such an incredible organization, and we are so grateful for all that they do to bring the community together and support youth. Consider joining the mentorship program or volunteering in other ways. Remember that you don’t have to commit to doing something huge, because sometimes it only takes a little to be big. To read more about the programs through BBBS, visit: https://www.bbbshr.org/programs/.

Massanutten Technical Center Summer Camp – Architecture

Massanutten Technical Center Summer Camp – Architecture

This summer I taught a class for Massanutten Technical Center Summer Camp in Architecture. This was my third time teaching the course and it was as rewarding as ever.

Massanutten Technical Center


One of the greatest gifts I have ever been given in life was finding my passion. I love serving others and it feeds my soul. One of the ways I am able to do this is by sharing my knowledge about architecture with others. I do this in blogs, on social media, lectures, and recently through a week long summer camp at Massanutten Technical Center. I had a class of 11 middle school students that signed up (most of them) or were signed up for my course because architecture sounded interesting. This week was a chance to explore a future career option, flex some design muscles, stretch their comfort zone, and get exposed to the built environment in a new way.

Massanutten Technical Center

The main project I used for this week long course was designing a floorplan. In just 20 hours it is hard to do more than conceptualize a familiar kind of space. We talk about styles of architecture, scale, famous works of architecture, famous architects, color, light, and more. It’s a fun week for me to share something I love – the process of creating design.

The students take on the challenges along the way with a tower building challenge using marshmallows and toothpicks and a bridge challenge using one sheet of paper. We watch a variety of videos on sketching to learn different techniques and talk about how to sculpt space. We investigate room sizes and learn about architectural scales as a way to convey information to others.

Massanutten Technical Center
Massanutten Technical Center

Each day has a new challenge and by the end, each student has a floorplan designed for a family they have imagined. Some of the students get to the point of building a 3D version of their floorplan so they can better see the spaces. This allows them to think about a roof and vertical form of their creation.

Massanutten Technical Center
Massanutten Technical Center
Massanutten Technical Center

Taking on this summer camp while keeping up at work is a challenge each time I have done it. However, it is so worth it to see these students grow. Over just a week, I could see them becoming more confident in their abilities to design and think through spatial design problems. If you have the opportunity to share your passion with others, in a summer camp or just a conversation, I encourage you to take the chance to share.

Harrisonburg headquarters

Harrisonburg headquarters

We have been so busy over the last month we failed to post photos from our big party! Here is the press release and some photos from the event.

Gaines Group Architects moves firm headquarters to renovated historic Harrisonburg train station.

The Gaines Group, PLC, Architects is pleased to announce the relocation of its firm headquarters to the historic Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot in the heart of Harrisonburg, Virginia. This milestone marks multiple points of celebration for the firm. Over the last 37 years this business has grown from a one-person operation to a thriving two-location small architectural firm serving communities across four states including Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. In the last 15 years it has experienced a substantial increase in the number and average size of projects and has doubled the size of the firm. This year Raymond Gaines and Charles Hendricks were joined by Paul Tassell, Adrienne Stronge, Deborah Smith, and James Halstead as principals, thus increasing the businesses’ resilience. The firm is celebrating six new hires who bring a diverse set of talents to the organization. Providing architectural services for a project base that includes custom residential, multi-family residential, industrial, educational, commercial, renovation, child care, and more has allowed the firm to continue to grow in spite of the COVID pandemic.

Charles attributes the firm’s growth to its focus on design that creates a better future for all. He says, “Our focus is to find ways to build a stronger community for everyone. We do this through our projects, designing sustainable solutions into every project. We use design strategies that are durable, energy-efficient, and healthy that not only benefit our client, but the community as a whole. We also seek out organizations in our communities that we can partner with and support through volunteer efforts to further this goal. From our work on boards and commissions, to giving our time and skills, we want our legacy to be one of caring for others, the environment, and our collective future.“

Celebrations and a Site Visit

Celebrations and a Site Visit

We’ve had a lot to celebrate recently, from a ribbon cutting to graduations to many new people joining our team to a new arrival soon joining the family of one of our team members. This has given our offices chances to celebrate and get to know each other in this transition time of our company. Thank you to everyone who has celebrated these milestones and changes with us.

Below is a glimpse into some of these celebrations.

On Friday, June 2nd, we had a large party at the Chesapeake Western Depot that combined our ribbon cutting ceremony with our monthly First Friday celebration, this time featuring three artists (Veronica, Asha, and the Clymer & Kurtz band)!

Photos of speeches and the Clymer & Kurtz band by Tony DiStefano

At the ceremony, Deborah Smith, Mayor Deanna Reed, Charles Hendricks, Raymond Gaines, and Rockingham County Circuit Court Clerk Chaz Haywood spoke about the importance of community. It really was a community event, and we felt the love and support. Thank you to everyone who came out to join us in this celebration!


Yesterday we celebrated our team members and their accomplishments: new family additions, graduation from three universities (UVA, JMU, and Liberty), and welcoming the hiring of six new staff members in the past year!

Team Lunch

Myles takes a selfie with the staff at the Timberville Taphouse.

Site visit to 5|Row Apartments, a project that Paul, Ray, and Adrienne are working on, to see up-close what the process looks like.

We are so excited for all of the additions to the team and perspectives and skills that they bring. There’s surely a lot to celebrate.

First Lego League Jr. at Explore More

First Lego League Jr. at Explore More

Explore More Discovery Museum brings so many exciting opportunities for families to our community. We were able to partner with them again this year to support First Lego League Jr. This event brings teams of budding architects and engineers together to solve problems, learn teamwork, learn programming, overcome obstacles, and tackle design challenges.

First Lego League Jr. is built on 6 core values, Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Inclusion, Teamwork, and FUN!!! By embracing the core values, participants learn that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals, and that helping one another is the foundation of teamwork.

Meeting with these teams and hearing about their design solutions was inspiring and exciting. These 6 – 10-year-olds learned about solar photovoltaic energy and wind energy, designed inclusive spaces, and explored their own creativity.

We love partnering with Explore More Discovery Museum and supporting all the amazing programs and services they provide in our community. They are just one of the many ways that our community creates such an incredible quality of life of families attracting so many to live, work, and play in our community. Charles also serves on the Explore More Discovery Museum board of directors and their building committee.