BY VENI FIELDS
PUNGO — Niche filled.
The owners of the Tar Roof in Pungo didn’t plan it that way. But since the three Beach photographers opened the doors of the former Burroughs family farmhouse as a gallery and small event venue on Dec. 19, they and a lot of locals found that’s exactly what it did.
“It’s all fallen into place so perfectly,” said Kristine Compo, co-owner with her husband, Eddie Compo, and their partner, Anthony Pakingan. “It’s like magic how it’s all come together. We are so excited.”
As are the artists and artisans whose work is represented in the gallery – and the dozens of visitors who have stopped in for a peek, a chat, or a coffee since the trio received the keys and started renovations in late October.
The walls here talk – and the floors, and ceilings, the three or so acres surrounding the old homestead, and the roof the place was named after.
Over painted wood mermaids, a couple of driftwood whales, finished seahorses, glass and beaded sun catchers, and two hand-painted signs, 30-by-40-inch canvas photographs above the fireplace and between the windows spill colorful waves above the dark leather sofa and green chenille wing chairs that face each other on an Asian rug in the main front room.
At least a few days a week, Joseph Burroughs is seated on that sofa. He talks about life before development in Pungo, when laborers were brought in by the busload to help farmers work the land, and few vehicles passed by on Princess Anne Road out front, when it was composed of pea gravel and tar.
During one of those visits on a recent Saturday, he pointed up the stairs. “I was born in that room right up there,” he said. “I have a lot of stories.” He smiled. And he shared some of those stories.
The room where he was born is now a photography bridal suite. It is outfitted with special photographic lighting and a white reproduction wrought-iron day bed covered in a white quilted bedspread. Dainty antique furniture and a tan vintage utility cart with a cocktail service on the top shelf fit between windows framed in filmy white curtains. The first bridal shots were taken here a few weeks ago.
It was one of those unplanned but perfect occurrences that are becoming familiar to the owners.
Eddie and Kristine Compo are wedding photographers now. Neither started out that way. When they met eleven years ago, Eddie Compo was about a year into adding underwater and surf photography to his lifelong passion for the sport. As he developed a name for himself with magazines and commercial work, shooting weddings was sort of a side thing. When Kristine started accompanying him, they discovered how her eye for detail complemented his work.
A team was born.
By the time they were looking for a better place to meet with clients, the Burroughs farmhouse was being listed online, seeking new business tenants. It had always been “a little antiquey,” after being zoned for commercial enterprises in the 1990s, said Tammy Burroughs Hindle, the landlord. It had housed a family construction contracting company, an antique store, a barber shop, and a boutique in subsequent years.
Now she wanted something with a “village concept,” she said, that would bring something new and fresh to the corner of Princess Anne and Indian River roads but would also fit the rural vibe of Pungo.
When the Compos saw the listing and showed it to Pakingan, they never thought they’d get it, Pakingan said. Pakingan, another surfing enthusiast, is also a wedding photographer, in addition to being a sculptor and woodworker whose work is exhibited throughout the gallery. He has been heavily involved in the Oceanfront arts district, and he has known the Compos since 2008.
But “I mean an art gallery in Pungo?” he said. “We just didn’t know how that might work for people there.”
Turns out it was precisely the kind of thing Burroughs Hindle was looking for. And when the Compos and Pakingan saw the property, ideas for what they could do with the place were ignited. The photographers all have restaurant backgrounds and saw the potential for events, which Burroughs Hindle enthusiastically supports.
“I’m lucky to have them,” she said. “They could be anywhere. They’re young, they’re driven, they’re creative, and they care about Pungo and its history. It’s perfect.”
That’s what Amanda Vazquez thought, too, when she stumbled on the Tar Roof as a potential place for some wedding day getting-ready photos and booked the room a few weeks into the gallery’s opening.
“It couldn’t have been better,” Eddie Compo said. “It was really fun, and it highlights the kind of things we want to do here.”
Those will include small catered occasions, fundraisers, and musical events, he said, some indoors, many outdoors as the weather permits and improvements continue.
For now, strings of clear lighting in a side yard have overseen Pungo’s first sample of the new venue’s future. Two white rocking chairs and a hammock chair on the front porch across from benches between the porch’s columns set the tone of “a place to hang out and relax” that Pakingan said the owners want guests to feel.
Inside, amid 25 gallons of fresh white paint, refinished original floors and track lighting Compo affixed to pipes he installed in the ceiling in the 100-plus-year-old building, the feel is a blend of rural and coastal – a little steampunk, a little country.
In rooms that housed the wives of World War II Navy flyers from the air base down the road in decades past, matted prints are now arranged in stands. Paintings, ink drawings and pastels by new and well known area artists adorn walls beside thick, wood-framed windows. Among other items, the checkout area is dotted with jewelry, handmade knickknacks, and wood crafted items. Smaller photos taken by the Compos and Pakingan are clipped to strings of twine. Most everything is sold on consignment.
And the front door opens often, to friends, to artists seeking a venue, and locals who usually promise to come back – and do.
“We had no idea we were filling a need when we came here,” Eddie Compo said, “but we’re really glad we did.”
The Tar Roof is located at 1791 Princess Anne Road. Call (757) 655-5005 or find them on Facebook for information.
© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC