Town still buzzing about this summer’s ‘Tin Lizzie’ invasion  October 16, 2008

For many here in Hagerstown, July 22, 2008, will always be an extraordinary day. After all, you know it’s not a typical Tuesday when more than 500 Model T Fords chug along the town’s streets. The arrival of the Tin Lizzies and their owners – part of the Richmond area’s summertime celebration of the historic vehicle’s 100th birthday – had been highly touted and much anticipated, particularly by local merchants.

Click here to see a slideshow of the event! (opens in a pop-up window)


model t

Denny Burns, a local business owner who supervised a massive organizing effort for the party, said the day was everything he hoped it would be – and more. “We were absolutely prepared,” Burns said. “More than 150 volunteers were helping out, and we had about 100 law-enforcement people on hand from nine different agencies in this area. They all did a great job.”


igloo Heidi Hauke, Owner, Across the Street Antiques Mall

Not only did hundreds of Model T aficionados flood the town’s shops and restaurants that July day, Burns said, they also flocked that afternoon to the Hagerstown Airport, where 22 vintage aircraft – including World War I fighters, pre-1930 planes, and stunt biplanes – took wing for an air show.

“We had more than 4,000 people out at the airport, along with 600 Model Ts and about 1,000 other vehicles,” Burns recalled, pointing out that the guest list also included some 50 news media representatives from organizations all over the world, including the BBC, ESPN and France’s largest newspaper, Le Monde.


igloo Shirley Rueter, Owner, The Logo Shoppe

“Oh, it was a big day for us,” Burns said, adding that Hagerstown’s hospitality made a huge impression on visitors.

“Everyone was raving about that,” Burns said. “One man told me: ‘You guys are the nicest people I’ve ever met – and I’m from Iowa!’ And another lady asked: ‘Do you people take nice lessons, or is this natural?’”

And with so many first-time visitors in town, local entrepreneurs say, opportunities for niceness came one after the other.

Visitors came from California, Minnesota, Canada – even as far away as Australia, recalled Shirley Rueter, co-owner of the Logo Shoppe. “We’d never done anything like this before, so we really didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But it turned out to be a phenomenal day. The weather was perfect, the crowds were great, the people were so friendly. It just couldn’t have been any better.”

“I couldn’t actually be here that day, but I heard business was just great,” said Heidi Hauck of the Across the Street Antique Mall.

“Oh, it was nonstop,” interjected Mary Thalls, a local potter who volunteers at the mall and experienced the rush first hand. “We don’t normally even open on Tuesdays, but we were there all day that day, and it was one of the best days we ever had.”

And the payoff went further than mere cash register receipts. “It was just such a fun day,” Thalls said. “The people who visited were in such a good mood and so excited to be here. They all kept saying how nice the town was and how welcomed they all felt.”

According to Hauck and Thalls, those good feelings may bring lasting benefits. “We’ve already had several people come back to the store and make some purchases,” Thalls said. “A lot of those folks live fairly close by, but just never knew about us before,” she pointed out, adding that some of those new customers plan to return on October 11, when the antique mall will hold a special, fall-themed event.

For Rueter, though, Hagertstown’s “T party” was a unique and bittersweet event – one that will always be with her.

“I’ll never forget standing on the street and just watching all those cars come into town,” Rueter recalled. “It was an experience I never had before and probably won’t ever have again.

“My uncle had a Model T, and I was very close with my uncle and aunt. Seeing those cars just really took me back to those days.”


Downtown landmark to be a mecca for art and artists   October 16, 2008

Songwriter Peter Allen said it years ago: “Dreams can come true again, when everything old is new again…”

Right here on Main Street – in a late-19th-century landmark – a pair of local art lovers are working in someplace old to create something new: a place where area artists can show their work, and where Hagerstown residents and visitors can discover a pool of talent that has too long been hidden.

The three-story brick building at 96½ Main Street – built in 1880 as the local IOOF hall – is now home to the Nettle Creek Cultural Center. Next spring, thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers led by Hagerstown native Jeff Thalls and his wife Mary, that building will house a newly renovated first-floor gallery that will display the work of local artists who have banded together to form a cooperative.


igloo Jeff Thalls, Nettle Creek Cultural Center

“We have a group of about 10 artists who are committed to the project,” said Thalls, a local glass-blower. “And the Cultural Center board is committed to it, too.” The board has set aside money to convert the space, Thalls explained, and the artists will all pay a monthly fee to support it going forward.

The Cultural Center has already been the site of three local shows, Thalls said, and their success has helped sell the concept of creating a more suitable, permanent gallery there.

“We have a show in there right now of 10 or 12 local artists,” Thalls said. “And in recent months we’ve had a real nice mix of different items. We’ve had pottery, photography, paintings, beaded jewelry, fused-glass jewelry, fine wood-turnings, wood sculpture and furniture, blown glass, graphic arts.”

But with a better space, he said, artists will be able to show more and show it better. Hence the renovation plan. The building will close from January through March, as always, Thalls said. During that time, Thalls and his group will work to convert the space into a more art-friendly environment. In addition to fresh paint and new flooring, “we’ll have to come up with some sort of central kiosk arrangement.” Thalls said, “some type of free-standing units to create a vertical space in the middle of the gallery.”

Creating space for cultural projects is nothing new to Jeff Thalls and wife Mary, a local potter who and displays her wares here and in Indianapolis. The pair also helped found the Across the Street Antique Mall. “We have a small gallery upstairs there,” Thalls said, “a place where we show and sell antique Indiana art. I set up that gallery, and it’s doing well.”

Even before those projects, though, Thalls created “space” in his own life for creative pursuits, leaving a successful dental practice to follow his heart to art.

“I was born and raised here in Hagerstown, but went away for 10 years,” Thalls said, “first to college at Ball State, and then to the IU dental school in Indianapolis. I came back in 1989 and set up my practice here in town.”

Five years ago, worn from the stress of his work as a health professional and seeking a quieter, more fulfilling lifestyle, Thalls sold his dental practice and signed up for a glass-blowing class at the Indianapolis Art Center (IAC). “I really enjoyed it,” Thalls said. “It’s something that demands your attention, but not in a stressful way. It occupies the hands and the mind, but it’s something you can do without your mind racing.”

Since that first class, Thalls has continued his studies, working steadily under Lisa Pelo-McNiese, director of the IAC’s glass program, to hone his skills. In the IAC’s studio, Thalls creates both functional items (such as paperweights) and those that are purely decorative.

Having improved his skills, he now hopes to bring his work closer to home. “Right now I’m working to open by own glass-blowing studio here in Hagerstown,” he said. “It would be the only studio between Indy and Columbus, Ohio, which means it’d be a great draw for people in this area who love glass art.”

When Thalls is asked to describe his hopes for Hagerstown’s arts scene, the glass-blowing studio is one he mentions, but it’s not at the top of his list. The Cultural Center and its artists’ co-op occupy that space.

Thalls says that, at this time next year: “I’d just like to see 12 to 15 local artists with their work in there, giving the public a chance to see it and buy it. People need to know that we really have talented people in this area. Their work deserves to be seen.”

In fact, Thalls urges anyone who wants more information about becoming involved with the Cultural Center – especially those who feel they may have works that might merit a public viewing – to e-mail him at jctmk555@aol.com.

“It’s important for me to encourage others in art,” he added. “It’s been such a wonderful road for me in the last five years, and I just hope I can help open that avenue for others. Art is so important.”


Hagerstown’s town manager engineers a meaningful life  October 16, 2008

After less than a year on the job, Town Manager Bob Warner has pretty much seen it all.

“It really has been an eventful year,” said Warner, who was hired by the town council in November 2007 to keep Hagerstown’s basic services running smoothly. “We had a big ice storm in early March, floods in early June, we had the big Model T event in July (which was a challenge for different reasons), and just last week we had hurricane-like winds knocking out power.

“We’ve been busy, no doubt about it.”

As supervisor of the town’s utility crews, Warner is the man responsible for managing the eight-person team that provides the town’s residents with critical services such as electricity, water and sewer service, street repair, and snow and leaf removal.


Town Manager, Bob Warner

That role presents obvious challenges – in part because the work is often dictated, not by Warner, but by Mother Nature. For example, Warner says: “I started last November. You would’ve thought leaf removal wouldn’t have been a problem, that most of the leaves would be gone by then,” Warner said. “But we wound up picking up leaves all the way into January – so you just never know.”

The reactive aspect of his work – hauling away leaves, clearing snow-covered roadways, restoring electric power after outages, etc. – is important to Warner. “I really do like helping people, and that part of the job lets me do that,” he said. But the job also encompasses a proactive role that is just as meaningful.

“The other side of the job is keeping the infrastructure of the town upgraded and improving the town’s image and future prospects. It’s planning and foresight as well as maintenance and repair,” he said. “My background is in engineering, so I’ve always enjoyed that.”

In fact, it was his penchant for planning that attracted Warner to the job in the first place. After a 25-year career as a structural engineer with firms in Connersville, Richmond, Lynn (and even a yearlong stint with a company in Pittsburgh, Pa.), Warner decided to take on the role of town manager.

“I’d been on the planning commission for about 10 years, and as an engineer, I really liked that work,” Warner recalled. “I like looking forward, trying to prepare for the future of the town. So when the job came open, I just decided to go for it.”

Except for that one year in Pennsylvania, Warner and his wife Lisa (a nurse for the Nettle Creek Schools) have lived in Hagerstown since 1982 and raised three sons here. With deep ties to the community, Warner’s decision to serve the town full-time was no real surprise.

When asked about his hopes for Hagerstown’s future, Warner cited ideas both bold and conservative – again, no surprise, given his engineer’s penchant for combining creativity with down-to-earth practicality.

“Well, we’re working now to develop a sustainable, ‘green’ office park near I-70, and that’s exciting,” Warner said. “It’s got me thinking that I’d like us to try some more environmentally friendly ideas – maybe some kind of wind-power option. I know those kinds of things are extremely costly right now, but it’s certainly something I’m interested in looking at.”

The key, he said, is to take a balanced approach – a concept he also applies when considering business and commercial ideas for the area: balancing the need for economic development with an ongoing desire to preserve the town’s quality of life.

“Hagerstown is a quiet, quaint community, and we certainly want to hang on to that,” he said. “But at the same time, we need to make sure that we keep employment going and bring more jobs to the area.”


Service isn’t just a buzzword, it’s his business model  October 16, 2008

Local hardware store owner Gary Schuette isn’t just trained to do what he does; in a sense, he was born to do it. Even more than that, he is absolutelywired to do it.

Schuette, 40, grew up in Hagerstown, graduating from Hagerstown High School in 1986.

“My family has always been in retail – some sort of business where we work directly with the customer,” said Schuette, owner of Nettle Creek Ace Hardware, 485 East Main Street. “When I was growing up, my folks rain the local grain elevator, so we were always serving customers. And that’s what retail is all about,” Schuette added. “It’s not about selling stuff. It’s about meeting the needs of the customers.”


igloo Penny Shoemaker, Gary Schuette, Carla Bruns

Those early lessons went with Schuette when he left home to attend Purdue University. Working in the local hardware store during the summers to help pay his way, Schuette finished college in 1990, having earned a degree in (what else?) retail management.

“And then I worked in a few different places around the state,” he recalled, “always in retail hardware or in retail or wholesale lawn and garden. What can I say? I just always loved hardware.”

In 1996, Schuette followed his love and opened an Ace Hardware franchise here in Hagerstown. That business served him well enough that, by 2000, he had bought out his local competitor, a TrueValue franchise housed in what soon became Schuette’s current location on Main: a 16,000-square-foot structure that had once served as a bowling alley.

Without doubt and without apology, Schuette is still doing a labor of love.

“We’re open 70 hours per week, and I’m here virtually every hour we’re open,” he said.

Rex Bell, an area builder and a longtime customer of Schuette’s, is quick to verify that claim. “Oh, Gary’s always there.” And even when he’s not there, Bell says, Schuette is still eager to serve. “If you call him after hours on a Sunday, he’ll go out of his way to get you what you need. His work ethic is unbelievable.”

“Gary is one of a kind,” agreed Rhonda Cornils, another longtime patron. “Number one, he has just about everything you could ever need in that store; we probably go in there at least once a week. But more than that, he is just extremely helpful,” Cornils added. “His service is awesome. I can’t say enough about it.”

For Schuette, service isn’t just a way to conduct business; it’s a calling – one he says he is can properly answer only in a setting such as the one Hagerstown provides.

“Again, we’re not selling just a product,” he said. “We’re selling our service and our knowledge. And I love doing that in a small-town, hometown business.”

In fact, Schuette insisted: “You couldn’t give me a store in a big town like Richmond or Indianapolis. In those places, it’s all going to be about price; it’s not about helping the customer. That’s just not me. I am not a sit-in-an-office person. I have to be hands-on.

“It’s like I tell people: In a ‘big-box’ store they usually just give you the finger – you know, just point you to the paint department or to lawn and garden or whatever you’re looking for. That’s not what we do. We’re actually here to help people.”

For Rex Bell and Schuette’s legions of other loyal customers, such help is a rare and valuable commodity.

“I’m glad he’s here in town, I’ll tell you that,” Bell said. “And I hope he stays here as long as I’m in business.”


Vintage fly-in highlights Hagerstown's "T" party  June 25, 2008

model t logo Hagerstown's Main Street was transformed into "memory lane" this past July as thousands of Model T enthusiasts – and hundreds of the historic vehicles – chugged into town to mark the iconic Ford's 100th birthday.

model t

See the slideshow!


"There's lot of buzz about this around town, and it's going to be a great day – a one-of-a-kind event," says Denny Burns, a local business owner who is leading a massive organizing effort for the party, scheduled for July 22. That midsummer Tuesday will be Hagerstown's big day in a weeklong festival that is being billed as "the party of the century for the car of the century."

From 9 that morning until early afternoon, as many as 500 Model Ts are expected to roll into Hagerstown, parking along Main Street and several other downtown thoroughfares. Visitors can expect to see any number of rare and unique variations – from the classic Tin Lizzie (first built in 1908) to ambulances, campers, delivery wagons and trucks manufactured around 1917, to a sporty roadster built in 1927 – the last year of production for the "T."

In addition to ogling the historic autos owned by others, visiting Model T mavens can enjoy lunch at local restaurants, search for bargains in downtown shops and tour historic homes owned by the Teetor family. They can also golf at Hartley Hills Country Club or visit the Ruth Dutro Community Pool.

In the afternoon, the action shifts south of town to the Hagerstown Airport (view air field) where fair-type food and old-time jazz and oldies music will create the perfect setting for a summer evening of aerial acrobatics. Approximately 50 vintage aircraft – including World War I fighters, pre-1930 planes, and stunt biplanes – will take wing that afternoon and evening, flown by the pilots who helped make the 2006 movie Flyboys.

According to Burns, these modern-day air aces are thrilled by the prospect of using the Hagerstown Airport's 4,000-foot grass-strip runway. "They told me that our airport is the longest, flattest, smoothest grass runway in the United States," Burns said.

A shuttle service will be in operation between 8:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. to transport visitors between the airport and the downtown area.

Hagerstown's July 22 celebration represents just one day in a six-day Model T Ford Centennial Party that begins July 21 and encompasses several Wayne County venues. The party is being sponsored nationally by the Ford Motor Co., and the Centerville-based Model T Ford Club of America (MTFCA) is serving as host at the main celebration site, the Wayne County Fairgrounds and Exposition Center in Richmond.

Highlights of the event include a judged Model T show, driving and challenge games, a swap meet, a series of Model T road tours along the Old National Road, a vintage baseball game, a visit to Centerville's recently opened Model T Ford Museum, special displays of antique camping, a period clothing store, vintage fashion shows, hand-churned ice cream and a giant birthday cake.

More than 1,000 vintage Model Ts are expected to make the journey to Wayne County, some from as far away as Australia, Great Britain and Norway. These cars – just a fraction of the 15 million Model Ts that Ford built between 1908 and 1927 – will be the largest gathering of Tin Lizzies since they left the factory

More information about the Model T Ford Centennial Party – as well as a wealth of information about America's favorite automobile – is available at a special party page on the MTFCA Web site.


The park, the pool … and we're outta school!  June 25, 2008

Summertime, and the livin' is easy here in Hagerstown.

Now that school's out, most families are looking for outdoor activities that can their keep their kids' attention – and keep the Xbox controls out of idle hands for at least a few hours.


pool

We have the answer. Actually, two answers – two great locations for family-friendly summer fun: Ruth Dutro Community Pool and Hagerstown Park.

Dutro Pool, at 611 E. Main Street, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday (weather permitting). With reasonable fees (see chart below) and plenty of space to splash or sunbathe, the pool is the perfect antidote for the summertime blues.

You can even rent the facility for private parties between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. Call ahead at 765.489.5048 to schedule your event. Cost is just $95 for two hours.

Another hotbed for warm-weather fun is the park, west of downtown at 15940 Turnpike Road. It's the site for local Little League baseball and girls' softball games, and for numerous special events throughout the season. Park shelters can be reserved for picnics and family reunions by calling Hagerstown Town Hall at 765.489.6171.


shelter

Click to view all three shelters.

For more information on Hagerstown Park and its facilities, call 765.489.4060.

Pool fee schedule

  • 2 years and under: free
  • Ages 3-17: $2.50 per day
  • 18 and older: $3 per day
  • Student/single membership: $49 for the season
    Adult (18 and older) membership: $59 for the season
  • Family membership (up to four members): $100 (Each additional member/babysitter: $15

Small business is no small matter in this town  June 25, 2008

As they look toward Hagerstown's economic future, town officials aren't exactly thinking big. Quite the contrary; they're convinced that small business is the way to go, and they're making a concerted effort to encourage individual entrepreneurs to locate their start-ups.

Although a small business can't provide the quantity of local jobs and the immediate tax payoffs of a large corporation, it often brings other economic and quality-of-life benefits that the bigger firms can't match.

For example, because many of today's entrepreneurial efforts are technology-based or knowledge-based, they're less likely to bring with them the environmental drawbacks of a manufacturing or industrial operation. Also, high-tech or knowledge-economy firms attract skilled, creative, professional workers – well-educated people who tend to be actively involved in their communities.

In short, one creative and committed entrepreneur can make a big difference in a comparatively small town.


igloo Nate Logston works at his studio.

Case in point: Nate Logston, co-founder of Igloo Studios – a new media design firm with offices above the local pharmacy on West Main Street. Logston, trained as an architect at Ball State University, began his professional career in 2004 with a well-known architectural firm in Richmond.

In his off hours, Logston did freelance work, using a little-known software package he had discovered while in college – called SketchUp – to create computer-generated three-dimensional drawings and models for several clients.

Logston's use of SketchUp – pushing the capabilities of the program – soon caught the attention of officials at the company that had created the software; they offered him a job as a software trainer. Within a year, Logston had left his traditional "day job" in Richmond. He and two other young designers, both based near Los Angeles, helped develop a training curriculum and soon were crisscrossing the nation to conduct SketchUp seminars attended by thousands of architects and designers.

And then came Google.

The Internet search-engine giant, looking for a way to integrate 3-D modeling into its Google Earth mapping software, bought the @Last Software, the creators of SketchUp, and wisely kept Logston and his two California co-owners on as trainers.

"We knew this software probably better than anyone," Logston recalls, "so we became the first certified Google SketchUp trainers."

 

igloo Igloo Team, from left to right: Nate Logston, Drew Dishman, and Jason Eales (not pictured: Jake Conrad).

With Google's muscle behind the project, Logston and his California comrades – Alex Oliver and Mike Tadros – soon found themselves busier than ever. They liked the work, largely because they were so taken by, and so involved with, the software itself. "It sounds kind of funny, I know, but we feel really passionate about SketchUp," Logston says. "We really helped push and evangelize the application, and its success is something we're all very proud of."

Still, this high-tech trio could all see that the time was right to change directions, to separate from Google a little more and focus on their own company. In June 2005, they did just that, forming Igloo Studios. Google, Whirlpool and Volkswagon, are several of a growing group of clients Igloo serves from its two offices – one in the Los Angeles area, and one here in downtown Hagerstown, where Logston leads a four-person team of Web-savvy 3-D modelers.

"It's a perfect situation for me," Logston says. "I love the work, and I'm really comfortable here. I was born and raised here, and it's a great place to run a company."

Logston also appreciates the town's entrepreneurial environment, and he's especially grateful for the very-low-interest small-business loan he obtained from the town. The money – drawn from the town's Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) fund – made it possible for Logston to move his budding business outside his home and into the office on West Main.

"The EDIT funds were a wonderful resource for us," Logston says. "With that loan, we were able to buy our equipment and get going right away. We're paying on it gradually over five years."

Who knows? By that time, the Hagerstown office of Igloo Studios may grow by leaps and bounds.

"The overhead here is very low compared to what my partners have to pay in L.A.," Logston says. "We've actually talked about moving the whole operation here."

These are the divisions within Igloo Studios:

http://www.go-2-school.com

http://www.taptheresource.com

http://www.bluemarbleproject.com


Eco-friendly industrial park will put town on the cutting edge  June 25, 2008

It's not easy being green, but area economic-development experts know that eco-friendly business is progressive – and they're convinced that it will be profitable. That's why they've embarked on an ambitious plan to build an environmentally conscious industrial park in the Hagerstown area – perhaps on State Route 1, near Interstate 70.

leed"Even though this project is still in its planning stages, we have a very clear vision of what we want the eco park to be," says Jim Dinkle, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County (EDCWC). "It will be a LEED-certified site, built to be sustainable and built to attract the kinds of firms we want: high-tech and life-sciences businesses, not the smokestack type."

A LEED-certified facility is one that meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system developed in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council. Those standards rate building performance in five categories of sustainability: site, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, water-use efficiency and overall indoor environmental quality.

The first tangible step in the Hagerstown project is for the EDCWC to hire a qualified engineering firm – one that is well-versed and experienced in the LEED system – to conduct "geo-technical studies" to determine the best site for the park.

"We've put together an RFP (request for proposals) to find a qualified engineering firm," Dinkle explains. (Click here for a copy of the RFP). "We're looking for a firm that can ensure that the building site doesn't include wetlands, and that it avoids soil-compaction issues." He said he hopes to have the firm chosen before Labor Day and to have determined the proper site for the park's construction before the end of the year.

The ultimate vision for the eco park, Dinkle says, is for it to be a privately developed and owned site on a lot of between 100 and 120 acres – large enough to accommodate six to eight small to medium-sized businesses.

Officials hope to have the park built and occupied by at least one tenant before the spring of 2010 – less then three years after Hagerstown officials first approached the EDCWC with the idea of developing that type of eco-friendly facility in the area.

Dinkle says the eco park "will truly be a first-of-its-kind industrial park for Indiana" adding that, by developing the site quickly, "Hagerstown and Wayne County should be way out in front" of other Indiana communities. Though he acknowledges that the timeline for the park is ambitious, Dinkle and local leaders are convinced that the time for this type of progressive project is now – and that Hagerstown is the place.

"Green, sustainable development isn't something that's off in the future; it's here today," he says. "New businesses want to locate in facilities that are green and energy-efficient – places that promote stewardship of the environment."

A Tale of Two Hagerstowns  August 11, 2014
New Leaders  August 10, 2012
Hagerstown on the Move  August 10, 2012
Hagerstown's creative use of EDIT Funds benefits a home grown business   Nov 1, 2011

By Mike Bennett

HAGERSTOWN, Ind. -- IronGate Creative has a stately, leisurely appearance from the outside. But, there's a beehive of business activitity going on inside.

It's multimedia mecca on Main Street.

Drawing tables and computer stations fill the upstairs rooms.

Colorful framed creations line the walls and staircase.

Award plaques and a huge conferencing table attest further to the company's success with advertising, marketing and product branding.

IronGate designs logos, magazines, packaging and web sites. It offers on-the-edge services with social media.

Its success in Hagerstown is a testament to a shared vision and community resources.

Co-founder Jeff Huffine says a loan for $30,000 through Hagerstown's economic development fund was essential in the final decision to locate the business at 35 W. Main St., within steps of an old-fashioned pharmacy, a pizza parlor and the post office.

He and business partner Jeff Richards had started their business in Hagerstown, but were considering other location options about seven years ago.

Many people scoffed at the potential of the rundown old residence, Huffine says.

It had a colorful history, including serving as home for the Exponent newspaper.

Besides stories that were produced in the building, there were persistent sightings of a friendly ghost.

Those all heightened its appeal, gave it artistic character, Huffine jokes.

The choice for Huffine and Richards was about vision and branding, about picking hometown and character over a potential relocation.

It also was about taking a risk.



Cross-Media Project for the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, Indiana - Visit site

"Jeff and I joke that we're not smart enough to be scared..... so we proceeded on with our plans," Richards says.

The two received a loan from First Bank Richmond to buy the building and make initial renovations.

Hagerstown official Nick Jarrett helped steer them through the EDIT process that resulted in a $30,000 loan at 1.5 percent interest.

"The Town of Hagerstown made a good EDIT Fund investment by making this low-interest loan to this business." Says Peggy Cenova, President of the Hagerstown Town Council. "Not only did they preserve a historical building on our Main Street – but they have added professional employees to their payroll. This business is a perfect example of retaining the kind of well-paid jobs that we need to grow to a prosperous future."

"The loan was just what we needed," Huffine says.

Building a Legacy into a Future  May 2, 2011

Penny Wickes credits her early years growing up in a small town with helping to instill her strong work ethic and a willingness to listen to and learn from her elders. When Penny and Mike Wickes started their first business many years ago in Tennessee, there was a group of older businessmen who mentored young entrepreneurs because they knew thriving businesses were crucial for the success of the community as a whole.

After Mike and Penny brought their manufacturing business back to Hagerstown, well-known Hagerstown resident Bob Beeson provided similar mentoring, Hoosier style. The message of these business predecessors was not lost on them. When Welliver's Restaurant closed, the Wickes knew the ramifications would extend far beyond the building and the staff. Penny states, "We were plenty busy with our other business. We didn't open Willie and Red's for us. We opened the restaurant for the good of the town."

When they took the leap into restaurant ownership, the plan for phase one of the project was to do whatever was necessary to get the restaurant open. That meant an overhaul from top to bottom, including a new roof and ceiling, all new wiring, new floors, new kitchen equipment, and new restrooms.


An outside view of the bar at Willie & Reds.

Now plans are moving forward into phase two, focusing on the west side of the building. As this phase develops, they will consider the possibility of reinstating some form of the smorgasbord, but that will require first installing a second kitchen. Presently they host occasional large group parties, with an in-room buffet, in the west room or across the street in another of their community projects, The Meeting Place.

The Willie and Red's menu has changed very little from the previous Welliver's menu, with the main difference being the addition of some of the former smorgasbord favorites as side items. However, it's important to the Wickes that Willie and Red's offers meals at a variety of price points to provide something for everyone from young families to retirees. Specials include Italian fare, a result of the expertise of their kitchen manager, and 2 for $20 specials on Thursdays and Sundays.

Exterior sign at Willie & Reds.

 

Current dining hours at Willie and Red's are Thursdays 4:00-8:00, Fridays and Saturdays 4:00-10:00, and Sundays noon until 8:00. Reservations are accepted for groups larger than 15 people.

Penny and Mike Wickes walk the talk of their commitment to community, receiving a high level of support from grateful area residents. Penny notes, "People we have never known before have come up to us to thank us and to tell us how important Willie and Red's is for the community."

When asked what makes her proud to be a Hagerstown business owner, Penny Wickes says she's most proud of being in a position to provide jobs for other people and to offer guidance to help them overcome obstacles and build a future. Clearly, Mike and Penny Wickes learned well the lessons of the elders and they are paying them forward to help ensure that Hagerstown's heart beats strong far into the future.


Council president sees the future through green-colored glasses  August 13, 2009

Hagerstown Town Council President Peggy Cenova has lived in this area virtually all of her life, and there's no place she'd rather be. She spent her childhood in Greens Fork, and he and her husband Chris, have lived in Hagerstown for 26 years, raising a daughter and becoming deeply involved in the community.

At age 56, she's serving her third term as a member of the Town Council, her first as its president — and she has high praise for her fellow council members and the townspeople in general.


Peggy Cenova

"By and large, the people who live here are proud to live here," Cenova says. "To them, Hagerstown isn't just a place to live. To them — and to me — Hagerstown is home. We care about this place and we want to make it even better."

For Cenova and her colleagues in local government, one key to a better Hagerstown is reflected in the ongoing effort to establish an environmentally friendly industrial and office complex in town — a LEED-certified "eco park."

A LEED-certified facility is one that meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system developed in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council. Those standards rate building performance in five categories of sustainability: site, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, water-use efficiency and overall indoor environmental quality.

Cenova knows the value of such a facility. She works in the Richmond satellite office of the Indiana Small Business Development Center, offering advice and assistance to entrepreneurs and small-business owners in a five-county area that includes Wayne County. She hears virtually every day from entrepreneurs who are hungry for ways to establish and operate "green" businesses — and she and other business-development experts are confident that Hagerstown can offer a place for such firms to grow.

The council first embraced the eco park project nearly two years ago, committing some of its own development funds and partnering with the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County to explore the concept. The first step was to identify and hire an engineering firm to determine the best site for such a park. That firm — Portland, Oregon-based Group Mackenzie — is now on the job, and Cenova says its experts are looking closely at "three or four" potential sites. Town officials hope to have a site chosen by early next year.

The ultimate vision is for the park to be a privately developed and owned site on a lot of between 100 and 120 acres — large enough to accommodate six to eight small to medium-sized businesses.

Town officials had hoped to move more quickly on the project, Cenova admits, pointing out that the original plan was to have the park built and occupied by at least one tenant by the spring of 2010.

"Of course, we came up with that plan before the economy tanked," Cenova quipped. Still, she insists that the plan, though delayed, is not derailed — and she says that town officials are using this time to sow the seeds for the park's success by taking as many "small steps" toward sustainability as possible.

"There are lots of little things we're trying to do now to try to change attitudes and to lay the groundwork," she says. For example, she says, officials are reassessing energy use by the town itself, including a close examination of the operations at Town Hall. She says the town also is considering the purchase of more environmentally friendly trucks and other equipment.

Though she and her colleagues are not able to move quickly with development of the eco park right now, "we can still take the initiative and set an example," Cenova says. "We want to lead the community in a thoughtful process."

By "walking the walk" when it comes to environmental sustainability, she explains, town officials hope to generate enthusiasm, not just for the potential economic benefits that the eco park can bring, but for the long-term, quality-of-life issues it represents.

"We have such a rich heritage here in Hagerstown, and that's a great platform to build on," Cenova says. "But we don't just want to rest on our grand past; we want to create a grand future."

Hagerstown Farmer's Market

Town's volunteer fire unit takes a very professional approach   August 13, 2009

When a fire alarm sounds in the middle of the night, Hagerstown residents can take comfort in knowing that dedicated, well-trained people will respond — and quickly. To Fire Chief Rick Cole, this sense of community comfort is a source of great pride, as well as a tribute to the 24 other active members of the town's all-volunteer force.

"We really do have a great group of guys," says Cole, a lifelong Hagerstown resident who has been a member of the fire service for 19 of his 50 years. "We have several longtime members who have been on the force for more than 30 years; plus, we've been very fortunate lately to have several younger guys come forward and want to join."


igloo Pictured left to right: Rick Cole, Bob Bullock Sr., Bob Bullock Jr., Allan Bullock and Wes Sheppard.

A zeal for public service is, of course, the lifeblood of any volunteer department, but members' dedication isn't the only thing that sets the Hagerstown department apart from other volunteer units. Professional-level training matters — as does a professional approach to the work.

"When guys ask about joining the fire service, we let them know from the very beginning what we expect of them," says Chief Cole. "We want guys to be on the department for the right reasons — not just to wear the uniform or use the apparatus, but because they're committed to really helping the people in their community. Also, they have to commit to the training. We have regular training at least once a month, and we also have some special training classes. We want people who are really going to take it seriously."

This professional approach has paid off in tangible ways, earning the Hagerstown force an ISO Class-5 rating — according to Cole, "one of the best ratings that a volunteer department can get." Annual ISO inspection takes into account such things as ongoing training of firefighters, the accessibility and volume of the local water supply, and the existence of mutual-aid agreements with fire departments in nearby communities.

Because the Hagerstown force scores high in all of these categories, local residents not only enjoy middle-of-the-night peace of mind, they also save some money. As a result of the department's Class-5 rating, Hagerstown residents earn discounts on their homeowner's insurance.

Admittedly, maintaining sufficient staffing can be challenging for an all-volunteer force, particularly in the current economic climate, which often forces many small-town residents to work many miles from their homes — and thus dangerously distant from the people who may need their help during the workday.

"It's getting harder and harder to find guys who still work close to town," says Cole, who himself commutes daily to Richmond, where he works as facilities manager for the Dunn Center. "Luckily, we do have several longtime members of our department who are retirees. They live right there in town and can respond quickly."

Still, Cole and the other members of the department are looking to the future; they're actively seeking younger residents who might want to join the force. One way of doing this, says Cole, has been to revive a project that had been abandoned some years ago — the Junior Firefighters Program.

In Junior Firefighters, teenagers spend time "shadowing" fire service volunteers during virtually all aspects of the work — except actual emergency runs. "We teach them everything we know about fire safety and fire department procedure," Cole points out. "Hopefully, they'll want to be members of the department when they get a little older."

Two local boys are involved as cadets right now, Cole says. Both are 17, just one year shy of the state's age requirement for full-time volunteer firefighters.

Even if they don't sign up when the time comes, though, Cole says their time spent as Junior Firefighters will be valuable — to them and to Hagerstown.

"It isn't just about looking for new guys to recruit," Cole says. "We also do service projects and try to get them involved in helping their community any way they can." One recent project, for instance, had the two cadets going into the homes of needy residents to install free smoke detectors and talk about fire safety.

For Cole — and, no doubt, for every volunteer firefighter — this emphasis on community service is what being on the force is all about.

"The chance to really help a person, that's the real reward," he says. "It's not like a big-city department. When we respond to a fire call or get called to an accident scene, we usually know the people involved. They're our friends and neighbors, and they know we're there to help them. That's a great feeling."


Jubilee Days: A treasured time of merriment and memories  August 13, 2009

For natives and residents of Hagerstown, the third weekend in August is always a special time, a time that connects family and friends and links the present to the past. This year will be no exception, as the Nettle Creek Lions Club stages Jubilee Days — Hagerstown's traditional three-day summer party — Aug. 14, 15, 16.

The celebration, which begins Friday evening and runs through Sunday, will feature a Festival Market where visitors can buy Amish-raised produce, a variety of crafts and all types of fair food; an outdoor Kid Zone with inflatable games and pony rides; a car show; all types of musical entertainment; a teen dance at Hagerstown High School; and the traditional Jubilee Days Parade on Saturday morning.

"It's going to be a great time, as it is every year," promises Cindy Harper, who has helped stage the big event for nearly three decades along with her husband and other longtime Lions Club members and supporters. Cindy is a past president of the Nettle Creek Lions; her husband Jim, a Hagerstown optometrist, is the current president.


igloo Cindy Harper

"We've been doing this for 27 years," Cindy says. "There's a core group of about 15 of us who help put this together year after year. To a certain extent, it's kind of a year-round thing for a lot of us — you know, just part of the routine. We really have a lot of fun with it."

With 27 years under their belts, the Harpers certainly represent a deep reservoir of knowledge about Hagerstown's annual summer festival — but they're by no means the deepest well. Consider, for instance, Bev Dale, a 73-year-old Hagerstown native who remembers the very first festival (in 1951) and has the honor of being named the very first Jubilee Days Sight Queen (in 1952).


igloo Bev Dale

"I won a dozen roses and, I think, $25," says Bev, chuckling as she recalled winning the crown as 16-year-old Bev Leavell. "It was kind of a last-minute thing," she says, pointing out that it really wasn't even her idea to enter the contest, which was staged as a fund-raiser to help the Lions Club provide eyeglasses to needy children. "I was working at Welliver's restaurant, and the day before the first contest, (restaurant founder and owner) Guy Welliver said, 'Oh, by the way, Bev, you're going to be in the Sight Queen competition tomorrow. You're going to be Miss Smorgasbord.'"


igloo 16-year old, Bev Dale showing-off her Jubilee Days Sight Queen flowers in 1952.

She wonders now whether she wasn't chosen largely because, as the daughter of a local car dealer, she had easy access to a convertible (an absolute must for the parade, you see). Whatever his reason, Welliver's choice proved wise because, at a penny per vote, Miss Smorgasbord raised the most money from her supporters and so won the title as the first-ever Sight Queen. And she did it against stiff competition from about 30 other comely contestants. "A lot of places had several girls in the contest," Bev recalls. "I think PC (Perfect Circle Corp.) entered 10 or 15."


igloo Bev Dale and Guy Welliver.

In the years after that big win, Bev didn't just rest on her roses. In fact, she helped longtime queen contest organizer Don McCullough prepare for the event for many years. Also, even though she and her husband moved to Richmond 23 years ago, she still returns to Hagerstown most years for Jubilee Days.

Regrettably, she says her husband's poor health will probably keep her in Richmond during this year's festival. Still, she adds: "I've been back for a lot more of them than I've missed over the years, I can tell you that. I've always enjoyed Jubilee Days, and I'm proud to have been the first queen."

A good measure of Bev's pride is no doubt linked to the good that comes from the money the festival generates each year; and community assistance is still very much at the heart of the event. The money raised from Jubilee Days helps the Lions support a host of local and regional organizations — including the Nettle Creek Food Pantry, the Greens Fork girls softball program and Hagerstown Little League — as well as assist area low-income families at Christmas.

Aside from the donations it generates for others, however, the three-day festival also generates something very important to participants: priceless memories such as those shared by Bev Dale and the Harpers.

And it's not only longtime veterans who treasure the tradition.

"My wife and I have only lived here since 2001, and at first I really didn't get it," admits Jeff Richards, owner of a local design firm called Freedonia Studios. "I thought Jubilee Days was just another summer festival — you know, a parade, games for the kids, that sort of thing."


igloo Jeff and Janelle Richards and their two boys Seth and Eli.

But after living in Hagerstown for several years and attending the festival with their sons (9-year-old Seth and Eli, who will turn 7 on Aug. 10), Jeff says he and his wife Janelle now have a deeper appreciation for the event.

"Jubilee Days is really a giant homecoming," he says. "It's not just a class reunion; the whole town has a reunion. It's a real celebration of family and friends."


New manager at Welliver's is honored to maintain the tradition  August 13, 2009

When the news broke in early July that a buyer had stepped forward to rescue financially strapped Welliver's restaurant — the family-owned smorgasbord that has been a Hagerstown landmark for six decades — the Welliver family was understandably thrilled.

Founder's daughters Janie and Mary Welliver, who have spent their entire lives helping operate the restaurant, had announced a June 28 closing date and admitted all they could do was "pray for a miracle."

Their miracle, and the town's great good fortune, came in the form of businessman Tony Bucher, owner of Across the Street Antiques. Not only did Bucher agree to buy the place and work to return it to profitability, he pledged to maintain the traditions that have helped make Welliver's a diners' "destination spot" for decades.

And to help him keep that pledge, Bucher turned quickly to a trusted, right-hand woman: Heidi Houck, who has been working for Bucher more than three years as manager of Across the Street.


igloo Pictured from left to right: Liz Purvis, Aimee Foust, Brooke Beckman, Heidi Houck, Mary Welliver, Janie Welliver, Steph Purvis, Jennifer Grose


For Houck, an 18-year Hagerstown resident, accepting the job as Welliver's general manager was simple in one sense…but scary in another. "As a manager, I'm comfortable and confident," says Houck, 43. "I've done retail, and I understand what it takes to work with people. Besides, I have five children (ranging in age 16 to 6). Talk about management training!"

Despite her on-the-job experience and her familiarity with Welliver's (her previous workplace is literally "across the street"), Houck admits that nothing can really prepare a person to take the reins of such an iconic enterprise. "Everybody knows Welliver's," she says. "So many of the people working there have been there such a long time, and it has such a wonderful tradition. "It's hard not to be a little intimidated."

What has really helped, she says — besides the confidence Bucher has shown in her — is the way the Welliver family and the other employees at the restaurant have reached out to her.

"I've just kind of jumped in there with the Welliver family, and they've been so gracious to me," Houck says. "Janie and Mary have been wonderful. And Margaret, too, she's the third sister; both of her daughters work at the restaurant, and Janie's three daughters work there, too. They've all got great ideas, and I have a lot to learn from them about their jobs and about the restaurant business."

That learning process will never really end, Houck says, because her management style will always be a matter of give-and-take. "I don't really like to manage as someone who's 'in charge,'" she says. "I work with people, and I'm very big on communication."

Houck says her team-oriented approach extends not only to her new co-workers at Welliver's, but also to the team members under her own roof — especially husband Scot, 47, a physical education teacher and coach who worked last year at Riverside Junior High School in Fishers.

"This really has to be a joint enterprise," Heidi Houck says. "If we both weren't on board — really, if the whole family wasn't on board — it just wouldn't work."

Houck knows there's much work to be done to ensure a profitable future for Welliver's, but she's already seen positive changes since Bucher's arrival. Equipment is undergoing long-needed maintenance; the restaurant's balky air-conditioning units are being repaired; and plans are in the works to publish a new cookbook — one that not only features recipes of Welliver's best-loved dishes, but also shares customers' favorite memories and anecdotes.

"We also plan to step up the look a notch by getting new uniforms for the staff — not just for the servers," Houck says, "but for the folks back in the kitchen, too. After all, without them, there really wouldn't even be a Welliver's."

Several other ideas are bubbling on the back burner — some of them Bucher's, some Houck's, and some that come directly from longtime staff members at Welliver's. For example:

  • Expanding the restaurant's carryout service to serve outlying areas such as Richmond and New Castle.
  • Preparing boxed lunches for noontime delivery to Autocar, Precision Wire and other area workplaces.
  • Establishing a "fifth quarter" tradition by opening up a section of the restaurant after local high school games to serve kid-friendly food and view the just-completed contests on DVD.

Houck says that, since Bucher arrived and helped the restaurant avert financial crisis, there's been a rush of new ideas — and enthusiasm — to boost Welliver's future.

"Really, there's a new idea about every day right now," she says. "Of course we can't do everything, and we certainly can't do everything right away. We understand that it'll take some time, and we're going to take baby steps for a while — but we'll get there."

"The main thing is, we really don't need to make drastic changes. In fact, we shouldn't," Houck insists. "Welliver's isn't broken. It's just a machine that needs a little oil."


Dutro Community Pool opening, June 4 at 11:00am  June 4, 2009

We have the answer. Actually, two answers – two great locations for family-friendly summer fun: Ruth Dutro Community Pool and Hagerstown Park.

Dutro Pool, at 611 E. Main Street, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday (weather permitting). With reasonable fees (see below) and plenty of space to splash or sunbathe, the pool is the perfect antidote for the summertime blues.

You can even rent the facility for private parties between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. Call ahead at 765.489.5048 to schedule your event. Cost is just $95 for two hours.

Another hotbed for warm-weather fun is the park, west of downtown at 15940 Turnpike Road. It’s the site for local Little League baseball and girls’ softball games, and for numerous special events throughout the season. Park shelters can be reserved for picnics and family reunions by calling Hagerstown Town Hall at 765.489.6171.