by Patty H. LePage | Photography by Diana Matthews
Once upon a time…that’s how fairly-tale love stories begin, right?
The hero and heroine of our story are Hank and Diane Parfitt, the owners of City Center Gallery & Books at 112 Hay Street, Fayetteville.
Diane and Hank’s love story began in 1968 when, as a young college student, Diane walked down the hall of her dormitory and knocked on Hank Parfitt’s door to borrow a pencil. A year later, the two were married. Diane, the daughter of a soldier who served in WWII and later worked in politics in Washington, D.C., became a nurse. Her new husband, a native of Durham, attended medical school and served in the military as the two crisscrossed the country pursing their passion for helping others and their medical careers. As their lives unfolded and they started their own family, Hank and Diane asked themselves where they wanted to end up; which place would they they call home? Diane’s parents had met and fallen in love in North Carolina, when her father was stationed at Ft. Bragg, and Hank’s hometown roots in Durham made North Carolina an appealing choice. When Hank was offered a partnership with a medical practice in Fayetteville, the choice seemed like destiny.
North Carolina was calling, and the Parfitts answered.
Hank and Diane quickly fell in love with the area and became entrenched in the history and art of old-town Fayetteville. The revitalization of the area had begun, and they were both strong supporters of the effort. The Parfitts resolved to invest their money, in addition to their time, and purchased their historic building on Hay Street in 1999. The building, which was built circa 1890, had been owned by the same family since it had been built until it was purchased by Hank and Diane. The couple set about renovating the location that would later become the home to the gallery and book store. Their efforts earned them the Gertrude S. Caraway Award of Merit for historic preservation for their renovation of this beautiful historic building.
In 1999, while renovating the Hay Street building, Hank and Diane opened City Center Gallery on Maxwell Street. Inspired by a talented young artist name Bob Rector, whom they had met in 1995 at a local coffee shop, a new adventure began. The gallery moved to the Hay Street building in 2003 and expanded its artistic selection to include literature.
City Center Gallery & Books is a lovely gem, filled with breathtaking art and a breadth of literature.
The shop carries art from local artists whose work inspires their passions for the local area. They carry a variety of art ranging from paintings, photography, paper cutting art (Scherenschnitte), quilt art and more. They are still the exclusive agent of Bob Rector’s work, carrying reproductions as well as a few of his original pieces, along with numerous other local talents such as Cindy Burnham, Johnny Horne, and Caroline Merino.
Diane also curates art for local businesses and medical facilities. Over the past 15 years, she has placed collections ranging in size from six to 300 pieces. Taking into account budget and medium, she provides clients with selections from various local artists with the goal of incorporating the history, culture and diversity of the local community into the design of every building.
The addition of books to the gallery fulfills a lifelong dream for Diane. She and Hank share a mutual passion for literature. The books for sale may be used, but their value is timeless. Diane believes that books are making a comeback. People want to be able to touch the pages, something they can’t get from electronic books. Diane prides herself on carrying an eclectic array of literature emphasizing the classics and books about the local area. She carries thousands of books including selections from fiction, military history, mysteries, and an assortment of children’s books. If they don’t have the book you are looking for, City Center Gallery & Books’ highly knowledgeable staff will help you select a different book you might find interesting, or they will help to locate the book you want. They specialize in finding out-of-print and hard-to-find books. You may even find yourself drawn to a book you would have never thought of reading before your adventure into the shop.
Diane’s philosophy is that instilling a love of reading and literature is the greatest thing you can do for a child, and it shows. As soon as you enter the shop, it is clear that children are cherished and very welcome in the gallery. There is a very child-friendly atmosphere including a wonderful little corner, created just for the little ones in mind. Decorated with adorable, oversized stuffed animals and a cute table and benches rescued from a local shop, the corner is set up to entice the young reader to enjoy the books and toys while their parents shop.
The shop also hosts two book clubs for those interested in becoming a part of the adventure: The Directions Book Club and The Other Book Club. Diane and Hank also share their expertise and can help you to establish your own book club if you are so inclined. They offer informational sessions to teach you how to start a book club and will assist you in choosing a book list and acquiring your selections.
Hank and Diane continue to support the revitalization and patronage of the downtown area through the Gallery and volunteering in the community. Hank is the President of the Lafayette Society, a local non-profit, named after the marquis de Lafayette, a French hero of the American Revolution for which Fayetteville is named. Diane is also very active in the community and the state, volunteering with the Loft Tours, the Garden Club, the Art Walkabout, and serving as a board member for Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund.
Diane also served our fair state as a member of the General Assembly, District 44, from 2010 through 2012. She used her background in nursing, along with her passion for helping others to make an impact in North Carolina. From advocating on behalf of women and children to supporting legislation to protect military service members, Diane got back to the political roots of her childhood to make a positive impact within her community.
They are now both retired from the medical field and dedicate their lives to championing the spread of joy through the arts. Diane and Hank’s love story continues to be written in the pages of historic downtown Fayetteville. The couple recently celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary, a milestone Diane attributes to their ability to compromise. The one most important piece of advice she would give young married couples is to never draw a line in the sand and always try to see the other’s side and compromise.
If you would like to learn more about their story or join them in their adventures, please visit this piece of history at City Center Gallery & Books on Hay Street. You can also check out their website for more information at www.citycentergallery.com/. Diane can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 910-678-8899.