Take The No Spend Challenge

Let’s talk spending. More importantly, let’s talk about not spending money.

Did your holiday spending get out of control this year? Maybe you spent more than you planned. Maybe you didn’t have the money at all but knowingly decided to take on the debt and pay it off later.

How often do impulse buys make it into your cart?

Do you know how much disposable income you would have if not for the impulse spending, restaurant meals and credit card debt?

We ask these questions because many American consumers have no idea where their money goes. That’s because they have a habit of mindlessly buying things that are “just a few dollars” or of overspending even when they know they shouldn’t.

If you can relate, you may be a good candidate for a No Spend Challenge.  A No Spend Challenge is exactly as it sounds. You make a game out of not spending extra money for a period of time.

The Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do set a start and end date. Many people aim for a month but you might test the waters with two weeks. If you are ambitious, go for two or three months.  
  • Do pay your bills. That means mortgage, utilities, car payment and all the other regular budgeted bills you pay to keep yourself under roof and your life functioning.
  • Do buy the groceries you need. This means stopping to consider whether you’ll actually eat that celery or if you’re buying it out of habit. Buy the things you need and limit the things you don’t need this month. Instead, eat out of your pantry and freezer to get rid of some things nearing expiration.
  • Do pay for transportation expenses. Whether it’s a tank of gas or a bus pass, you still need to find your way to work and school.
  • Do seek medical care when needed. This challenge isn’t an excuse to skip dental check-ups or to neglect a medical problem.
  • Do take some time to think about all the things you buy in a typical day or week that don’t fit into the above categories.
  • Don’t take on new luxury bills. Now is not the time to sign up for a new streaming service.
  • Don’t buy food you don’t need. Do you already have a cupboard full of cereal at home? You don’t need that box of Lucky Charms.
  • Don’t eat out for fun. This is hard for many but we often eat out because we’re too lazy to cook or because it sounds like a good idea. Put the family to work making a meal together with ingredients you already own. We can’t be the only ones whose mother told them they didn’t need a Happy Meal “because we have food at home!”
  • Don’t buy single serve drinks and snacks at vending machines and gas stations. Remember all that food you have at home? Pack some of it for a snack. It’s way cheaper and you may find some healthier, cheaper alternatives to the pack of gummy bears.
  • Don’t shop for fun or for things you don’t need. That means no new clothes and shoes just because they’re on sale. Did your kid hit a growth spurt? If they need a new pair of shoes, go for it but remember you’re there to buy for your growing child and not for yourself.

See where we are headed with this? If you commit to only buying the necessities for a month or even just a pay period, you will probably be surprised to see how much you have left in the bank at the end.

Personalize It

The best No Spend Challenges are personalized. You may have some rules to bend. For example, there’s no time to cook between work and your college night classes so you grab fast food on the way. Just budget for those allowances and don’t go overboard.

If you have other people living with you, get them involved. Make it a family affair. Your young children may be better at holding you accountable than your spouse because kids often get rules like these better than grown-ups do and they don’t mind shaming you when they catch you red handed.

You may even make it a game and set a goal or a reward. If you hit a savings goal or if you don’t eat out, you get to go to your favorite restaurant at the end.  

Most of all, find ways to help you not feel deprived. Remember the commercial that entices us to buy because “we all deserve nice things?” You don’t have to keep buying to have a good time.  Make brownies and popcorn for a movie marathon with the family one night. Invite friends over for a game night and ask everyone to bring a snack to share. Brush up on a hobby, go for a walk, visit a free museum, hit up the library, hold a photo shoot with your phone or call a relative to chat instead of spending of money.

There are tons of free ways to spend your time. In fact, if you want to reinforce how much extra stuff you own, spend some time cleaning closets and cupboards, purging unneeded and unwanted stuff that you’ve accumulated. It may discourage you from going out and buying more!

Want to do a No Spend Challenge? February is a great time to test the waters since it’s just 28 days. Then again, why not start today?

Get Fit Without Breaking The Bank

Did you meet the year with grand intentions of getting fit? If you think that money could interfere with your health and fitness plans, you need to reconsider what it really takes to improve your diet and get fit. Sure there’s a plethora of options for joining a gym, hiring a trainer, having healthy meal kits delivered and spending a boatload of money on all kinds of weight loss aids.

All of those things sound helpful but are they really necessary? Here are five things to consider as you start down this road.

  1. Free Information. There are all kinds of websites from reliable sources and free apps to help with your journey toward better health. Check out YouTube for free workouts and healthy cooking videos. There are apps that help you count calories and plan meals and others that provide music to keep you going during your run or walk. Free articles help you understand foods that pack a nutritional punch and recipes for putting them to work.  Need inspiration? There are even bloggers who share their inspiring story to help you stay motivated!
  2. Exercise Outside The Gym. If you’re really on a shoestring, try walking or doing body weight exercises. Old fashioned pushups, squats and crunches are just a few of the exercises you can do with nothing more than the sweat on your brow. If you have a few bucks, invest them in a set of hand weights. These things can be done nearly anywhere and the initial investment is just a decent pair of walking shoes and some cheap weights.
  3. Healthy Food Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive. Read that again. Healthy food isn’t necessarily more expensive than junk food. While we all envision health food as lean cuts of fish, colorful fresh salads and all organic ingredients, it doesn’t have to be that way. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and flash frozen at their peak making them an inexpensive substitute for fresh produce. Instead of boneless skinless chicken, go for the bone-in chicken breast but skip the skin and bake it instead of frying it. Vegetable soup and chili can be a nutritious way to stay full while stretching a dollar. Most of all, skip the junk food. Once you stop buying chips, pop, candy and sodium packed frozen meals, you may be surprised at how much more affordable healthier foods seem.
  4. Log Your Water. Water is so good for you! Carry a reusable water bottle with you to stay hydrated and curb temptation to buy a drink. Sugary beverages including pop and juices should be consumed in moderation or better yet, not at all. Just cutting out these extra drinks will save you dollars too!
  5. Talk To Your Doctor. Talk to your family doctor for medical advice first. They know you and your family medical history as well as any unique risks or needs you may face. They may even be able to set you up with meal plans, tips for starting an exercise regime and other useful information. The expertise of your family physician will be invaluable as you start down this road to a better you!  

Not everyone has the resources to hire a trainer or to only buy organic foods. Luckily, if getting fit is a priority, it’s possible to get fit and improve your health with the most basic resources like water, walking shoes and help from online resources. Have a tip? We would love to hear about it!

Set Better Goals For the New Year

Welcome to January. This is the month that most New Year’s Resolutions setting Americans will give up on their goals. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Hear us out.

First, you have to stop calling them resolutions and think of them as goals. More than half of all Americans will resolve to do something and it’s typically something big. We say we will lose weight or save money this year. We say we will stop smoking or get a promotion at work. What we don’t say is how we are going to accomplish these big resolutions.

If there’s something you really want to do, you need two things. The first is passion. If you are not passionate about your resolution the day you make it, you won’t be excited to keep going in six months and probably not even in two weeks.

The other thing you need is to break that resolution down into a SMART Goal. What’s a SMART Goal? We’re glad you asked! This is actually an acronym that you can use to guide your goal setting and make goals that are actually productive. It stands for:

Specific

Measureable

Achievable

Relevant

Time-bound

Specific. You have to make your goal as clear and specific as possible so that you can train your focus on what you really hope to achieve. What do you want to accomplish? Why is your goal important? Who will you need to involve to accomplish your goal? Where will it happen? What resources do you need at your fingertips and what limitations do you need to overcome? If you want to become an early riser in 2022, you need to know why it’s important to start getting up earlier and how you can do it. “I will become an early riser by going to bed one hour earlier than normal, by committing to not hitting snooze and by asking someone in my household to hold me accountable when I don’t get out of bed on time. My reward will be free time to do something I want to do in the morning.”

Measurable. It’s easier to stay motivated when you can track or measure your progress. It helps you set deadlines, stay focused and feel encouraged when you’re closing in on a milestone. If you’re failing to show progress, this isn’t a cue to get discouraged. Instead it’s a nudge to try tweaking your strategy. Measurability is crucial when it comes to things like losing weight. Instead of just saying you will lose fifty pounds, break the goal down into measureable chunks. You might say that you will lose five pounds per month for ten months. A weekly or monthly weigh-in will help you stay on track.

Achievable. You must set realistic goals. Big, lofty goals are fun to say out loud but it’s discouraging to reach for and fail at unattainable goals. Consider your restraints and limitations as you dream of the opportunities. Remember, as you work toward your goal, you still have to live in the world you wake up in.  We all want a big, fat emergency fund to help us through a rainy day. However, we may not have a lot of extra income to save and may need to look for reasonable spending cuts or ways to earn money on the side. “I will open a savings account with the goal of saving $1,200 in 2022. I will save $100 each month by cutting expenses and reducing discretionary spending.”

Relevant. Before setting a goal you need to be sure that it’s relevant to your life and that the timing is right. Is it worth your time? Is it something you want or even need to work on to have a better life?

Time-bound. A deadline is the ultimate inspiration so it’s important to have a target date or a series of target dates. Set achievable milestone dates as well to make your goal more measureable and the process more rewarding. If your goal is to spend more time with family, you need to prioritize getting it on the calendar.  “I will build better relationships with my parents by calling them twice a week and with my kids by planning a weekly outing for the entire family. I will do this for three months and then reevaluate to plan my next steps.”

You don’t need all the answers when you set your goals but you do need to give yourself a framework for getting started and checking in with yourself along the way. It’s that accountability, consistency and constant assessment of how you’re doing that will make all the difference!

Dee Conrad To Retire January 7

When Dee Conrad retires next week, she will celebrate the end of her 43 year banking career but will also start down a new path in her life’s journey. That journey has spanned over 4,000 miles and many years, leaving her excited to see where it will take her next. “I am eagerly awaiting to see what God has for me. He knows what’s best and where He needs me,” she smiled.

Dee Conrad

Dee’s life began far from the farmlands and four seasons of Fairfield County. She is the youngest of three kids, born in Hawaii to parents who worked civil service jobs for the military. Living near military bases meant there were always people coming and going from the far the reaches of the globe. “Other people never wanted to leave. They never wanted to go anywhere and I couldn’t understand it. All I ever wanted to do was to go. I wanted to see other places.”

And go, she did. At age 19, Dee flew to Baltimore, Maryland on a break from college. “I had blocked out three weeks so I could come to the Mainland. From Baltimore, I Amtraked to Dayton to visit my brother and went on to Chicago to see a friend. It was June but I really wanted to see snow. So I stayed,” she exclaimed with a laugh.

She found a job in the Dayton area and lived with friends of her family until some friends in Lancaster persuaded her to come to their town. She found work as a banker, met the man who would be her husband, saw her first snow and found where she belonged. “It was just flurries but I thought it was fabulous!” she exclaimed.

Where she belonged in her career was in banking. She started as a teller for a small bank in Lancaster. After being laid off from that job, she ended up at a new State Savings Bank being opened in town. She credits a supportive manager who saw her potential for helping her get that job. Dee worked at that office for eighteen years doing teller work, home equity loans and new accounts. She was assistant manager for a while as well.

When that bank was purchased by a national chain, Dee found herself stressed and unhappy. That’s when Ron Collins at the Friendly Bremen Banking Center came knocking. She made the move to our West Fair Avenue location in 1998 and the rest is history. “I have been here ever since. It’s been a good ride and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful to Ron for giving me this opportunity. I’m grateful to all the people who have helped me over the years,” she said.

As a Senior Personal Banker, Dee assists customers with their accounts, HELOCs and focuses on taking care of the complete customer. “My philosophy when it comes to dealing with people is that I’m of two spirits. The Aloha Spirit is one of treating people really well. There’s also the Holy Spirit which gives me the gift of helping. I love to help others and feel like that’s a special thing that I can do because not everyone has that gift. I try to go the extra mile for people and to listen to what they’re saying as well as what they’re not saying. Sometimes the thing someone is voicing isn’t what they really need,” she said. “It’s important to listen and to look for opportunities to help in whatever way you can.”

When asked what advice she can offer, she had much wisdom to share. “Keep your eyes open for people who need your help and know you can make a difference. Don’t be afraid to let other people in. Your life will be so much richer if you embrace the people around you. Be open to different things and be open to listening to people talk about the things they like to talk about. I love listening to other people when they’re explaining what interests them! You will always learn something. It’s a big world and there are many places to see. Go explore the world and ask questions. Go far or even stay close to home because there are so many things to see right here in Ohio. Be curious and be open,” she said.

Dee and her husband Steve have been married for nearly 42 years. They have three sons, a daughter-in-law and two granddaughters who all live in the southwest. Since Steve is also retired, they hope to spend more time with their family, especially their granddaughters who are now an infant and a toddler.

How will she spend her free time? Dee enjoys reading and sewing and puts her vast skills to work by helping with the drama program at Lancaster High School. For the last fifteen years, she has been involved in the bank sponsored dessert contest at the Fairfield County Fair and is excited that she can enter her own desserts in the future. Her inquisitive nature and love of travel will likely keep her learning and on the go when possible as well.

She also has a giving spirit and mentioned people and groups that may need help although she admits there are plenty of projects at home to keep her busy.

Dee’s last day with the bank will be Friday, January 7. “I don’t know what this next chapter of my life will be like but I’m excited to see where God is taking me. I like to say that I’ve been on that three week vacation since 1978! It has been a wonderful time too.”

Joe Gibson To Retire New Year’s Eve

Since 1998, commonly heard phrases around our McArthur office have included things like “ask Joe” and “Joe will know what to do.” That’s because Joe Gibson has been the Building Manager, taking care of everything from ordering supplies and moving furniture to managing maintenance projects for parts of the last four decades. It will be the end of an era when he retires on New Year’s Eve.

Joe Gibson

“Everyone here has been so good to me. They’ve all treated me like their own family so I’m really going to miss everyone,” he said.

This job was actually a part time role after he retired from 42 years in sales at Chillicothe Electric Supply. “I wasn’t looking for a job but Bob Will called and said that he had loan officers doing things around the bank that took away from their time with customers. He needed someone part time to take care of things and it sounded like a good fit,” Joe explained.

Joe is a quiet man who simply takes care of things that others might not notice. At the age of 86, he is youthful and more energetic than many younger coworkers and always at the ready to assist in any way he can.

He grew up in Chillicothe where he graduated from Chillicothe High School. After graduation he did a peacetime stint in the Army National Guard. “It was after Korea and just before we got into Vietnam. They wanted me to train to be a helicopter pilot but I decided not to stay in. I have often wondered what might have been but I don’t regret anything about my life. It’s been a good one,” he said.

He bought a farm near Allensville in Vinton County in 1972 and relocated. At Chillicothe Electric Supply, Joe worked in sales with accounts at places like Kenworth and with all the hardware stores in a 40 mile radius. It wasn’t long after retiring from that job that he joined the bank family.

Shortly after that, tragedy struck at home. His wife Phyllis was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. “Life stopped as we knew it. She became a patient and I became a caregiver,” he said. Joe worked to keep her at home for as long as possible, even taking a leave of absence from the bank for a while. When that was no longer possible, she moved to the nursing home in McArthur where Joe visited her every day. “The bank was good to me and let me set my hours so I could feed her lunch every day before work and dinner afterward. In fourteen years, I only had to miss visiting her for two weeks after my heart attack,” he explained.  “She was never, ever a burden. I know she would have done the same for me.”

He even trained to be a nurse’s aide and spent a few years working at his wife’s nursing home so he could help other residents while being close to Phyllis. He often signed her out to go for rides, to get ice cream or pick up lunch to enjoy together at the lake. She passed away three years ago.

 When asked what advice he might have to offer, Joe spoke of helping others. “When we have a new teller, I like to go to them and ask if they need a customer to practice on. I’ll ask them for a money order or whatever I need and tell them to take their time. It helps them and puts them at ease and gives them the opportunity to practice things that are new to them,” he explained. “I always tell them to slow down. You have a customer in front of you. Take care of that customer, focus on that customer. They’re the most important person in that moment. If you try to hurry it will take twice as long because you will make mistakes.”

How does Joe stay so youthful? He stays active. He enjoys outdoor activities like fishing and hunting. He exercises and loves to get outside. He feeds the birds, squirrels and deer and has a woodworking shop for projects. “I’m probably the only person you know trying to design a bird proof squirrel feeder,” he exclaimed. “It’s usually the other way around! I made one and it didn’t quite work so I’m still working on it.”

Joe also has a lady friend who has introduced him to her hobby farm. He has discovered that he really loves chickens and enjoys caring for them.

He’s already looking forward to a quiet winter at home where he can look after his outdoor friends and plan his garden. “The rocking chair is a death sentence. Once you sit down, your body stops. Your heart is a muscle and you have to work it to keep going.”

“I have enjoyed working here. It’s been a good run and I’m going to miss everyone. The people here have been so nice to me. Everyone has treated me like their own family. It’s just time to go.”

Joe’s last day at the bank will be December 31.

Giving Is What We Do

Giving is as much a part of community banking as the actual bank work we do for you. As your community bank, we see value in supporting the events and organizations that are part of the fabric of life in our neighborhoods.

We understand that kids need to see adults supporting their schools and activities through volunteerism and monetary donations. Hopefully they’ll grow up to be supporters as well. We understand that the backbone of entertainment and togetherness often comes from the nonprofits in our small towns. Where would we be without our volunteer firefighters or our senior citizens centers? Who would rally for our small businesses if not for our Chamber of Commerce?

That’s why we give each of our sixteen local offices a budget for doing good work in their community. Some choose to support every request in a small way while others choose a handful of projects to support with a big check. This year, VCNB gave away over $300,000 to projects both big and small. For example, our Ashville branch gave $3,200 to help the Ashville Food Pantry with their new building project. In McArthur, we sponsored the Adulting 101 program offered at the Rio Grande McArthur Center and also gave $5,000 to help with playground renovations at Wyman Park. 

Our Laurelville office gave a thousand dollars to the Laurelville Volunteer Fire Department again this year as part of an annual tradition to be part of Ohio’s most expensive cake auction.  Our branches in Ross County, Fairfield County, Pataskala and Canal Winchester teamed up to support Bottoms Up’s World’s Largest Diaper Drive in May. We buy livestock and sponsor events at many county fairs and donate door prizes for local fundraisers.

From the Berne Union Music Boosters to the Vinton County Wild Turkey Festival, these are just a few of the ways we have been able to help our communities with donations.

We also encourage our employees to volunteer, offering them comp time for their volunteer activities outside of work. We have employees who help in the concessions stand at football games and who do seamstress work for school plays. We serve on boards and help with grant applications for nonprofits in our free time. We work the gate at the county fair, help out with the Humane Society and pick up litter in parks.

We often send employees out to do special projects during the workday too. Over the years, employees have helped with giveaway day at the food pantry, taught financial literacy at the high school and prepared meals for residents at Ronald McDonald House.

You never know where you might find VCNB and our employees trying to serve our communities.

We tell you this, not to brag, so much as to reassure you that your community bank loves your community as much as you do. We also want to lead by example and hope that you will feel inspired to roll up your sleeves and find a way to get involved. As we finish out 2021 and begin looking ahead to 2022, we wish you and yours a very Happy New Year of good health and prosperity.

VCNB Can Make Your Life Easier

Christmas is here and, if you’re like many of us, it just feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. We can’t help with your child’s homework, your gift giving stress or your crazy work schedule but we can help with your bills and banking needs. In fact, there are a few ways we can make your life easier.

Balance Check –It’s important to always know how much money you have. Did your paycheck get direct deposited on time? Did the phone company cash your check? Check your balance instantly with our Online Banking and Mobile App. It’s safe and quick to sign in with your password or with your fingerprint on a mobile device.

Paying Bills – Use Online Bill Pay to pay your bills, set up payment reminders and even receive your bills electronically. You can log in to pay bills individually or set them up on autopay to insure they are paid on time, every time. Want to learn more? Log in to your Online Banking and click the Bill Pay tab.

Zelle® – Send money to people you trust using Zelle. It’s available in your Online Banking and Mobile App and you can send and receive money to individuals using just their mobile phone number or email address. That means you can pay the babysitter or even send a last minute cash gift to someone. If your coworkers agree to split the cost of a gift for the boss, you can send them all a request for payment. It’s a free, fast and safe way to avoid the ATM.

Gift Cards – If you need a quick gift, VCNB is waiving fees for gift cards now through December 31, 2021. Stock up for the holidays at any of our sixteen local branches! 

Credit Cards – Have a VCNB Visa® Favor Platinum card? Pay your bill and check your balance online. It’s quick and easy to log in and maintain your account!

Earn Rewards – If you are spending with your VCNB Visa® Platinum card or with a VCNB Rewards Checking debit card, you can sign up to earn UChoose® Rewards points for your regular purchases. Register your cards with UChoose to earn one point for every $3 spent with your Rewards Checking debit card and one point for every $1 spent with your Visa Platinum credit card. Those points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards and more! Rewards Checking customers can even earn cash back. While you’re spending for others, be sure to reward yourself!

ATM Deposits – Sometimes you need to make a deposit but simply can’t make it to the bank during our hours. VCNB ATMs use the latest in technology to deposit checks and cash. Need cash back from that check you deposited? No worries! Just follow the instructions on the screen to receive immediate credit for up to $500 per day. The remainder of the balance will be processed and credit will be given next business day if deposited before 2 p.m. and on the second business day if deposited after 2 p.m.

Go Mobile – Downloading VCNB Mobile is like carrying a bank branch in your pocket. Deposit a check, transfer funds, open accounts and more using our mobile app any time of the day or night.

Life can be hard and, while we love the holidays, they can make life more complicated. Take the complications and the stress out of managing your banking with help from VCNB! Have questions? Our Customer Service Team and the staff at all of our branches are here to help!

Give Gifts That Aren’t Things

What’s on your gift list? If you’re still scrambling to find gifts for people who already own too much stuff, you’re not alone. One recent study revealed that more than twenty percent of Americans will go into debt for Christmas this year while more than $15 billion dollars will be spent on unwanted gifts. Why go into debt for stuff no one really wants when you can give your loved ones experiences they will love?

Plus, you can support small businesses and non-profits in your own community while skipping lines and avoiding shipping mishaps. Read on for some inspiration for all ages!

SPECIAL RESTAURANT – It’s not unusual to give a gift card but it seems more thoughtful when it’s for a really special place. Whether it be their favorite or one they ordinarily wouldn’t treat themselves to, give them an experience they will enjoy.

MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP – Museums can provide hours of entertainment and education. Ohio has a host of memberships geared toward kids, history buffs, art lovers and more. With changing exhibitions and programs, a membership is a great way to say Merry Christmas!

ZOO PASSES – The zoo is fun for all ages but zoo passes make an especially great gift for families with kids. It gives them somewhere to go, an opportunity to learn and lots to talk about later!

CONCERT TICKETS – Who doesn’t like live music? Give them tickets for a musical experience they won’t forget.

MASSAGE – Whether it be an in-home experience or a massage at a business, most people could use some help relaxing.

COOKING CLASS – Have someone on your list who loves to cook? Maybe you’re shopping for a young adult who wants to learn basic skills. A cooking class is a great way for them to hone their skills and be more confident in the kitchen.

ARTS AND CRAFTS GIFT CARD– Does your friend have an artistic streak? Maybe they would enjoy classes for painting or stained glass art. Perhaps they would like spend a morning painting a bowl in one of those places where decorate your own pottery.

MUSIC LESSONS – If you know a budding musician, they might appreciate some one-on-one time with a pro. You often can find lessons at local music stores or even with individuals with a side hustle teaching private lessons.

SUBSCRIPTIONS – A magazine subscription or book-of-the-month membership would delight a reader. If you have a bigger budget, a Masterclass membership would provide access to online lessons provided by experts on everything from writing and cooking to design and history.

WEEKEND GETAWAY – A cabin in the woods sounds like an amazing retreat from this busy season. Many small towns across Ohio and in the region offer cute inns and Ohio’s cities have some fantastic boutique hotels. Give your loved one a break from the everyday and send them somewhere special.

WINE TASTING – Ohio has a number of wineries that offer tastings and even dinner packages. They will think of you as they watch the sunset over a glass with someone special.

SPORTS TICKETS – Your favorite sports enthusiast would love you even more if you sent them to a game!

PERSONAL CARE – A mani/pedi or hair salon gift certificate would encourage your loved one to enjoy some pampering!

SERVICES – Most of us have a long list of chores that need done around the house. It can be particularly difficult to keep up for those of us who are older, who work a lot, who have small children, or who have a health issue. Instead of a trinket, give them the gift of checking something off their list. This could mean hiring someone to deep clean their home, detail their car, or provide a helping hand with small repairs around the house. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from an oil change and a car wash!

MEAL KIT SUBSCRIPTION – Imagine opening a box to find all the ingredients you need for a tasty dinner without going to the store. If you have a larger budget, this is a nice way to make someone’s life a little easier, at least at dinner time.

YOUR TIME – It may sound cliché but it’s true. There’s nothing better than the gift of your time when it comes to the people who love you. Invite them over for a home cooked meal or a game night. Pick them up and take them out for coffee and a walk or help them run errands. In this busy, overly connected online world, there’s nothing better than spending time with a loved one.

FAMILY GIFTS – Here’s one more idea. Many of us struggle to buy individual gifts for extended families or friends with families. It can be expensive and difficult to know what to buy everyone. Consider a gift that the family can use together. Maybe it’s this year’s hot new board game and a gift card for the local pizza joint. You might do a gift basket with supplies for a perfect family movie night or supplies for a great meal everyone can make together!  

Get creative with your gifts this Christmas and provide your loved ones with an experience or service they will love!

Small Business Spotlight: The Willis-James

Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month. Today we learn about an exciting renovation happening in historic Chillicothe.

The phrase “if walls could talk” may sound cliché but that’s the focus of a big renovation happening now at a historic home in Chillicothe. The early nineteenth century era home is being transformed into a boutique bed and breakfast named for two prominent former residents. Now known as The Willis-James, the 6,000 square foot home is expected to provide guests with an experience that fuses old traditions with sophisticated hospitality.

Owners Drew Musser and Steph Moore have an extensive plan and a vision to honor the heritage of the home while giving their guests an exceptional, memorable stay.

What’s so special about this house?

Everything.

From the pocket doors to the eleven fireplaces to the history of the people who lived there, the Federal/Greek Revival house and its story could fill a book.  That story begins with Nathaniel Willis who was an apprentice in Benjamin Franklin’s printing office in Boston. He started his own newspaper, participated in the Boston Tea Party and was a veteran of the Revolutionary War all before journeying to the Northwest Territory and this new town called Chillicothe. When Willis arrived in 1797, the town had been laid out only the year before.

Here, he started the first newspaper in the Northwest Territory, securing his status in the area as a contemporary and friend of prominent men in Ohio history including Ohio’s sixth governor Thomas Worthington. The Scioto Gazette would go on to operate for 110 years, becoming the oldest continuously operating newspaper in Ohio.

Willis built the original house in 1805. The home changed hands over the centuries with each new owner expanding the home, improving and leaving their own mark. One such owner was Thomas James who is known as the “Father of the Western Iron Industry” for the work he did in constructing iron forges throughout southern Ohio and Missouri. The city of St. James, Missouri is named in his honor.

The house also was held by Eleanor Tiffin and Matthew Cook. She was the daughter of Ohio’s first governor Edward Tiffin. The home remained with Tiffin descendants for more than a century.

Drew can weave together the entire narrative of the people who called this place home and the influences they had on the house. As they have worked on the home for nearly two years, they have found where it has been added on to and uncovered interesting details like a large painted archway first thought to be wood that’s actually stone.

Long forgotten artifacts help to tell the stories of former inhabitants including Wesley Claypool whose labeled vest was found beneath attic floor boards.

While they are honoring the integrity of this home’s history, they intend to blend in 21st century amenities aimed at appealing to the modern guest. Each room will have its own thermostat, a king or queen bed fitted with high quality linens, slippers and robes. Each room will have a luxurious new bathroom fit for royalty complete with a walk-in shower and a comfortable tub for a long soak.

In all, the house has five guest rooms including one ADA accessible guest room on the main level and a two-room suite upstairs.

Guests will find nooks and crannies in common areas throughout the house where they might linger to relax and unwind. For example, just beyond the breakfast room, a greenhouse or orangery as it was once called will be at the ready for anyone wishing to sit with a book and a glass of wine. “There will be lots of spaces to relax and to make you just want to hang for a while,” Steph explained. “We want people to feel welcome to make this house their home during their stay,” she said.

Yet, they also want guests to explore the best that Chillicothe and the surrounding area have to offer. They are focused on helping guests discover the experiences that will make their stay special. Whether it be an in-room massage or help locating the best hiking trail, the hope is to create an authentic experience that allows guests to feel like they are the first to discover the amazing qualities that make the area special.

They intend to bring in local products such as Rost Coffee, local produce and Amish baked goods to provide guests with a taste of the area as well.

The property boasts a carriage house that will provide space for public rental. The board room table for twelve can be removed for small social gatherings and events. An ADA accessible restroom and kitchenette will be available for comfort and convenience. The upstairs of the carriage house will be Steph and Drew’s new home. As primary caretakers, the couple will provide top notch daily housekeeping services and home cooked breakfasts.

The couple do know a thing or two about hospitality. They are avid travelers who love the bed and breakfast experience. They have lived and worked in resort communities like Vail, Colorado and Santa Barbara California throughout their married life. She has been in the luxury boutique hospitality business for the last 28 years and has specialized in operations, finance and business development.

“It’s one thing to work hard for someone else’s dreams but it’s so meaningful to get to work on your own dreams and visions,” Steph said.

Drew is a Chillicothe native and Chillicothe High School graduate. The Ohio State University graduate has been an elementary school educator for the last several years. His local roots run deep and he has family in the area. “We love to travel and always go to bed and breakfasts but we also love to be home and to cook, to be surrounded by people,” Drew said.  “There’s always room for one more! The more the merrier” Steph exclaimed!

“We want to give the traveler somewhere nice, somewhere special to stay and we want to give Chillicothe something to be proud of,” Drew said. “We want to honor the history and the integrity of the house and the town, but still give guests the comforts they appreciate. We want to be a part of the town’s story.”

These images show parts of the Willis-James in various stages of restoration and construction.

While The Willis-James is still under construction, they will be ready to host guests during the Christmas Tour of Historic Homes on December 11-12.

Small Business Saturday Is This Weekend

Small Business Saturday is held the day after Black Friday every year but it has grown into more than just a day to focus on small businesses. It has evolved into a movement designed to coax shoppers out of the big box stores and out of their online shopping carts into the small businesses that line the streets of their towns and that dot the countryside of rural communities every day of the year.

Supporting small businesses in your community is about more than where you buy your goods and services. It’s about supporting your neighbors and about what happens to your dollars paid at a small business as opposed to a big chain or an online store.

When you buy online, every penny you spend is leaving your community. You aren’t even paying local sales tax and that online vender most likely isn’t contributing anything to your community. They don’t belong to the Chamber of Commerce, they don’t sponsor a little league team or occupy a storefront that makes your town appealing to visitors. They don’t employ workers in your town or support your local schools.

When you buy at a big box store or a big chain, the story is very similar. While they have a presence in your town and pay local sales tax, any dollars that don’t have to be kept in the community will leave the community. So they will provide jobs and use services like electric and water. In some cases, they have budgets for supporting limited local community projects. However, once the bills are paid, the money is sent to a corporate office to become part of a shareholder report.

When you support a small business, the bulk of your dollars will stay right there in your community. Salaries, utilities, charitable contributions and any additional profit stay right there. Plus, many small business owners prioritize doing business and striking partnerships with other small businesses thus creating a chain of support! These businesses typically support local organizations and fundraisers and the owners are apt to donate when your child’s team needs uniforms or when the Christmas parade needs sponsors.

Shop at a small business and the owner will do a happy dance! Be the reason someone does a happy dance today!