Should I Stay or Should I Go: Shawn Peters

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Shawn Peters lived in Asheville and Boston before coming back home to Winston-Salem.
Shawn Peters lived in Asheville and Boston before coming back home to Winston-Salem.

by Eric Ginsburg

One of Winston-Salem’s strongest assets, and really the whole Triad’s, is the abundance of empty spaces that can be transformed into something new and at a comparatively affordable price. Shawn Peters knows this well, and it’s a primary reason he is still here.

A Winston-Salem native, Peters left the area to go to college, landing in Asheville after a stint at East Carolina University. He worked in Asheville briefly after school, making a poorly timed decision to move to Boston as the economy bottomed out in 2008. Freelance work as a web designer “vaguely kept me afloat,” but New England still seemed a little repressed, he said.

So Peters did what a lot of his peers were doing at the time: moved back in with his parents. It was supposed to be a short guest appearance in Winston-Salem, a mere pit stop to recharge and recoup finances on the road back to Asheville. But after finding quick employment at Hatch, an early-childhood development company with offices in the Winston Tower, Peters started to reconsider.

For one, he enjoyed the job, where he’s continued to work for the past five years. Projects happening around downtown also piqued his interest. Seeing people around his age opening cool spaces, including Single Brothers and PS 211, the precursor to Krankie’s, helped inspire him to jump in.

Now Peters spends a considerable amount of time working on and running Reanimator — a venue with beer, records, art and music shows. And by the end of the month he hopes to have the groundwork down for a new artist space. Krankie’s is expanding, displacing his current studio, and Peters hopes to establish a new location to create and display art with his friends.

He’s on the board of Phuzz Phest, too. It sounds like a lot, but staying busy and involved is part of what keeps Peters fulfilled.

“If I’m going to be here I’m going to be working on making it cooler,” Peters said.

In a way, downtown feels up for grabs right now, with empty spaces that will likely be occupied in the next few years, and staking claim to as much of it for cool cultural “clubhouses” as possible feels like a worthy pursuit, he said. That goes for projects like Reanimator and the artist space as well as other venues, including a bar his friends plan to open around the corner from Reanimator, Peters said.

It helps that the city of Winston-Salem has been supportive, making processes that might have been a nightmare — such as obtaining permitting for sidewalk café seats outside Reanimator and zoning requirements — easy. Another perk is the city’s relatively small size, which allows people to create a bigger impact or play a more defining role in the city, he said.

Reanimator is looking to expand, and after a grassroots funding campaign that wrapped up on Monday, the goal will be more attainable. That’s another perk of Winston-Salem, Peters said: People are generally interested in innovation and arts, and they’re willing to coalesce to support both.