Admin note: this article was written by the Scoop’s Jaime Gatton and first appeared as a submission in the April edition of Iredell Free News Weekly:
Lightning bugs, collard greens and shelling peas … kudzu, dogwood blossoms and the smell of red dirt and Grandpa’s potting shed …
These are the sights and smells that sunk roots deep in Dave Sopp’s memories when he visited North Carolina as a boy.
Dave was no more than seven years old when he flew from his home on the west coast to his granddad’s childhood home in Morganton. “I had my first peach cobbler on my first flight over here,” Dave said, smiling wistfully — like he took a step back in time.
“Lightning bugs are still my favorite thing.”
Years later, back on the west coast, Dave met and married Kelly and started a family.
Their son, Atticus, was just six years old — the same age as Dave on his first trip to the southeast — when his parents packed him up for the same cross-country trip. A San Francisco real estate agent had told the Sopps about a place called Mooresville, and they wanted to check it out.
“The second home we visited was the Turlington house,” Dave said. The Turlington house, in Mooresville’s historic downtown district — according to the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources — “is associated with longtime owners, Zebulon and Mary Rankin Turlington. Mr. Turlington was town attorney for 60 years, and in 1904 began the first of eight terms as state representative. He was also attorney for the Mooresville school system, a founder of the local Rotary Club, and an elder at First Presbyterian Church.”
After touring the home — and after less than a week in the region — Dave and Kelly found themselves sitting on opposite twin beds in a hotel room off I-77/Exit 33, staring at each other almost in disbelief at what they both were thinking: “Are we gonna do this? Are we gonna move here?” Dave recalled.
The Sopps have now restored the Turlington home and had it locally landmarked as a historic house. “We moved here 17 years ago, intentionally and for a reason — because we wanted to live in a beautiful town with southern charm, excellent schools and adorable people. We’ve never looked back.”
They’re making their mark on the town. With backgrounds in graphic design, writing, marketing and advertising, the Sopps worked on campaigns for Mooresville Downtown Commission and MI-Connection before recently developing the “MVL™” brand.
“A lot of people think MVL means Mooresville, but it actually means ‘meaningful, vibrant life’,” Dave said. “It’s a happy coincidence because that’s what we found when we moved here: a meaningful, vibrant life.”
Perhaps you’ve seen the bright, colorful merchandise in the window of Viki West’s Main Street law office. “It’s the tiniest shop on Main Street,” Dave said. It features merchandise, some of which is created in partnership with other town businesses. Dave hand-cuts felt letters for pennants and picnic-basket liners, and Kelly sews them. They pluck dogwood blossoms from their historic backyard, hand-painting them with resin to transform them into one-of-a-kind, wearable works of art.
The tiny shop operates on the honor system: a digital self-service kiosk offers customers 20 percent off for stopping in and shopping.
Around town, MVL self-service kiosks are popping up for limited periods of time in different businesses. The Sopps also recently worked with D.E. Turner Hardware to develop exclusive Mason jar lightning bug kits. The couple donates a percentage of every sale, no matter where, to select non-profits — specifically “people without a marketing department,” Kelly said. “A little means a lot to them.” Businesses hosting mobile kiosks pick the beneficiary.
Dave calls it “cross-pollination.”
MVL is just getting started, with ambitions of holding canning classes at the Turlington house and adding more pop-ups and partnerships with local businesses, schools and the community.
At the end of the day, MVL has very little to do with merchandise … except for helping people identify one another in public. “We want to create a club of like-minded, positive people,” Dave said. “We’re just trying to create a sense of team spirit and community by celebrating everything that’s great about living here, in a small, southern town.”
“If I see you out and about, wearing an MVL shirt or hat or with one of our cute stickers on your car, I’m going to give you a small gift of appreciation,” Dave said. “Do you remember the days of the Facebook ‘poke’? Kinda like that!”
For more information on MVL, including a calendar of events, a blog on southern life and locals and a link to shop, visit www.yourmvl.com.