Embracing Kindness

Kindness. Caring. Compassion. In the fast paced and opinionated world that is 2021, it feels like these are words not used enough. Everywhere you go people are frustrated and sometimes unkind.  

That’s not true of everyone, of course, as there are still good people working to make this world a better place. Here at VCNB, we encourage our employees to follow the Golden Rule and to focus on being kind to others. That’s why we were so excited when we noticed how many offbeat holidays happening in October are dedicated to making the world a kinder place.

For example, October 1 was International Day for Older Persons. More than 60 million people ages 65 or older reside in America and, if we’re lucky, we’ll all eventually join this club of elderly Americans. As far as we’re concerned, every day is a great opportunity to show some kindness to an older person, to listen and to learn from them.

This is also Bullying Prevention and Domestic Violence Month. Any domestic violence shelter will tell you that these two issues go hand in hand. Bullying can happen at any age – on the playground or in the board room. It can happen to anyone as can domestic violence. As many as one in three women and one in ten men ages 18 and older experience domestic violence. While it’s hard to spot, chances are someone you know is living with an abuser.

 Sometimes the first step to addressing the issue is to be aware of it and to talk about it. Click here to learn about domestic violence in America and here to learn about bullying prevention.

October also addresses animal issues. It’s Adopt A Dog Month and there are days designated to recognize black cats and black dogs. Black animals are often the last adopted and the first abused thanks to silly superstitions. Animal shelters across the country are brimming with pets in desperate need of a home. Looking out for these four legged friends is a great way to bring joy into your own life while helping a creature in need.

Of course, October has long hosted Make A Difference Day, a national day of service where volunteers are encouraged to work together to do something impactful in their community. That could mean churches and 4-H Clubs or private individuals helping support community projects and things that they see simply need to be done.  

October 5 happens to be Do Something Nice Day. While it’s a pleasant sentiment on a calendar, here at VCNB we would like to think every day is a new chance to do something nice. There’s no opportunity too big or too small if it means extending kindness to another or doing something to improve the world around us.

Our employees are encouraged and even rewarded for their community spirit when they volunteer. In fact, our employees give hundreds of hours of their time every year, helping out wherever they can. They serve on boards like domestic violence shelters and the local chamber of commerce. They cuddle rabbits and walk dogs for animal shelters, pick up litter and help with distribution day at the local food pantry.

The bank also invests over $300,000 a year in sponsorships, fair animals, customer appreciation days, financial literacy, school sports teams, Chamber activities, and a host of causes in our communities.  We do this because we understand the value of investing in our communities and the people who call them home.

Our Core Values say that we will be community minded and that we will have the integrity to do the right thing – even when no one is looking. We encourage you to do the same and to seek out ways to make the world around you a little better. Money is great but sometimes what’s more important is a kind word to a friend, a little patience with that frazzled fast food worker, or a simple thank you to people who have helped you. Provide a home to a pet in need, stop to see an elderly neighbor or offer a shoulder to someone who is struggling.

There are many ways to help make our world brighter. You never know the ripple effect it may have and how your one small action could manifest into something far bigger than intended.

Local Spotlight: Circleville Pumpkin Show

Photo Courtesy Circleville Pumpkin Show Inc.

When the Circleville Pumpkin Show opens next month, it will be a welcome return to normalcy for the city after taking a year off in 2020. This will be the 114th edition of the Pumpkin Show and, while there will be a few pandemic related changes, organizers say it will be the same incredible hometown event that visitors have come to expect.

Circleville native Barry Keller has been Pumpkin Show Vice President for 25 years and says that volunteers have stayed busy preparing for the event. “This year there will be some changes because of Covid but we are excited to welcome people back to downtown Circleville and the Pumpkin Show,” he said. “This is a mostly outdoor event so we believe it is as safe as other large outdoor events and we look forward getting back to normal this year.”

Visitors will see a few pandemic related changes. For example, their longtime ride company has retired so there will be new rides with a new company and a completely different layout. The family owned and Indiana based Poor Jack Amusements will bring traditional family favorites like the carousel along with some modern thrill rides.

Meanwhile cherished traditions like their seven parades, live music, outdoor vendors, contests and pumpkin goodness will continue as normal.

But this isn’t a normal event. The Circleville Pumpkin Show attracts 400,000 people in four days and is the sixth largest festival of any kind in the country.  With pumpkin food, pumpkin carving and giant pumpkins topping as much as 1,700 pounds, it’s the oldest and largest festival in Ohio. In other words, they don’t call it “The Greatest Free Show On Earth” for nothing.

There are parades to celebrate pets, community, queens and even bands. In fact, Gary and Connie Sharpe, owners of Circleville-based Health Care Logistics are sponsoring the Ohio State University Marching Band to participate in the Parade of Bands on Thursday night. This is the third time the Sharpes have made this generous sponsorship and a shining example of how volunteers, sponsors and the entire community come together to make this event successful.

Photo Courtesy Circleville Pumpkin Show Inc.

“This isn’t just another festival. It’s a community homecoming. It’s an attraction for people from all over the country and all over the world. It’s the Pumpkin Show and people look forward to it all year,” Keller explained. “You can always tell when it’s Pumpkin Show time because people start to freshen up their storefronts, they clean up, paint buildings, freshen up mulch. Pumpkins and mums start to appear at homes and everyone gets in on the act of helping the town put our best foot forward.”

It’s also the biggest fundraiser of the year for civic groups, churches, school organizations, small businesses and vendors of all kind. “For some of these organizations, the money they make at the Pumpkin Show funds their activities for the year. It’s important that they have a good year,” he explained.

Courtney Hart owns Ivy Court in downtown Circleville and has been a vendor at the Pumpkin Show for several years. The local native’s shop has a host of handmade items personalized to Round Town and its famous Pumpkin Show. They also sell plants and a carefully curated selection of handmade items. “The Pumpkin Show is our number one event every year but we also had our online sales to keep us going.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for all the small businesses, vendors and civic groups that badly needed the sales. It’s not just a fun event, it’s important to the economy,” she said.   

She lit up when asked to describe the event. “It’s like Christmas. I’ve been coming since I was a little girl and have always look forward to it. People absolutely love the tradition of it. That’s what the Pumpkin Show is all about. If you’re from here, it’s like a big homecoming and a class reunion every year. If you’re not from here, it’s still an amazing festival. Not one disappointing block and so much to see and do,” she smiled.

Hart’s business is known for merchandise featuring the festival’s mascot Mr. Winky. They will have apparel, mugs, cutting boards, burlap prints and other unique pieces celebrating the event and the city. These items will be available in her South Court Street store beginning October 1 and will also be found in their festival booth. “We can hardly wait,” she exclaimed.

Keller invites everyone to attend and credits organizers, the community, sponsors, and the 250 or more volunteers who help to keep the Pumpkin Show successful year after year. “We couldn’t do it without everyone working together and we hope the community and everyone who attends will enjoy having the Pumpkin Show back this year,” he said.  “Being an outdoor event, we believe this is as safe as the other large outdoor events but we encourage people to use their own judgement. If people have concerns about Covid, it’s a personal choice to not attend and we encourage you to stay away for now but to come back when you feel it’s safe,” he said.

They are waiting for direction from the health department regarding precautions necessary for indoor displays and events and will announce those changes as they become available.

The Circleville Pumpkin Show is held the third Wednesday through Saturday in October. This year, that will be October 20-23, 2021. Visit their website and follow the Circleville Pumpkin Show, Inc. on Facebook for the latest information and details including a full schedule, parking information and ride pass info.

Small Business Spotlight: Rushcreek Feed and Supply

Rushcreek Feed and Supply Company has been a Bremen landmark and gathering place for sixty years. They’ll be celebrating that big anniversary with an event this Saturday.

With a wide selection, personal service and a large delivery area, it’s no wonder they have a loyal customer following.

Manger Justin Shumaker talked about their selection of products which is almost too long to remember. In fact, they pride themselves on being a one stop shop for livestock feed, pet food, lawn and garden needs, fertilizer and much more. That list includes:

  • Fencing Equipment
  • Pet Feed and Supplies
  • Garden Supplies and Tools
  • Honey Bee Supplies
  • Deer Minerals and Products for Hunting
  • Banks Deer Blinds and Feeders
  • Arrowquip Cattle Handling Equiment
  • ADS Plastic Piping
  • Birdseed, Squirrel Food and Supplies
  • Livestock feed and products for goats, chickens, pigs, cattle and horses
  • Propane
  • Custom Blended Fertilizers
  • Water Softener Pellets
  • Mulch
  • Custom Mix Feed for All Species

They also buy corn, beans, oats and wheat and offer delivery and a number of other services.  For example, they provide custom application of fertilizer as well as custom spray applications for fields.

“So many people rely on the customer service from a small company like us as opposed to a box store. We’re more versatile in a lot of ways like in making custom feeds. Only a local mill like this can provide this service,” Shumaker said. “Small businesses and small towns rely on good customers. We like to help our customers as much as we can and they like that they know us when they come in. That helps a lot.”

It all began on June 21, 1961 when five local farmers partnered to purchase the Brown-Burnworth Company from Bessie Brown. That company had been on this site since 1915 and had put Bremen on the map for its name brand Eagle Flour. There had actually been a mill here for many years before that. In fact, their office building was constructed in 1853.

Those farmers who partnered to organize Rushcreek Feed and Supply were Robert Pontious, Raymond, Scholl, Art Kelly, Joe Killbarger Sr. and Joe Kilbarger Jr.

Over the years. There have been numerous updates to the facilities to allow for expanded capacity and the addition of new products.  Today they employ eleven people and are on the lookout for some more help.

Join them this Saturday, August 28 to celebrate their 60th anniversary. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be food, door prizes and some vendors on site. The public is invited to attend this free event.

Rushcreek Feed and Supply Company is located at 103 W. Broad Street in Bremen. Call them at 740.569.4105 or follow them on Facebook.

VCNB Spotlight: Lancaster Festival 2021

When the Lancaster Festival makes its return this year, things will look a little different. However, the quality of the acts, the devotion of the volunteers and the celebration of the arts will be as powerful and enthusiastic as ever. Changes were made this year to make the event safer for audiences and performers in these pandemic times after taking a year off in 2020.

With less than a month to go before the nine day event, Executive Director Deb Connell says efforts are ramping up to make this “the best show we can and keep everyone safe.”

The event is a little shorter than normal and there will be no indoor performances but the schedule is still packed with impressive performers including Lancaster’s own world class symphony orchestra and acts to appeal to any audience. World renowned guitarist Don Felder will headline the festival. The former member of The Eagles helped to develop that band’s sound, penning some of their biggest hits including “Hotel California.”

“He’s one of the best guitarists in the world. He invented the doubled necked guitar and wrote a lot of the Eagles’ music. People may not remember his name but they know his sound and they love his music,” Connell said.

Other headliners include Dancing Dream – An ABBA Tribute Band and country music group The Band Perry. There will also be performances and events at venues around town including events for children and families and an array of musical genres designed to suit every taste. For example, bluegrass group String Therapy will perform in downtown one night while another night will feature renowned jazz artists when The Byron Stripling Band take the stage with guest Bobby Floyd. “Byron Stripling is a world famous jazz musician who played with Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and a lot of the greats. This is a big deal having him here,” she explained.

A Percussion Ensemble and a Soloist’s Spotlight will feature the talents of members of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra which is one aspect that makes this festival unique. “Our orchestra musicians come from all over the country and all over world. They are wonderful, professional musicians who are top notch in every way. They all have other opportunities to perform but they choose to come here and to spend this time with the people of Lancaster and creating beautiful music for us. We should be proud of that,” she said.

Proud indeed. Those orchestra members are hosted by local families who provide their hospitality at no cost to the musician or the festival. “Some of these musicians have been coming here for years and years. They were young professionals at the time they began and now they bring with them spouses and children. They’ve built relationships with their host families that extend beyond the festival. Some vacation together, they’ve shared weddings and births and all kinds of celebrations. So many of them have such a shared history they love each other like family,” she explained.

This is just one way that volunteers help to run the festival. There is actually a small army of volunteers who take on projects both big and small. While the festival has two full time employees and a handful of seasonal employees during the festival week, it is actually the volunteers that make the event work. “We couldn’t do it without our volunteers. There are about 400 of them. That’s what it takes to make us successful. That’s what it takes to have an event of this scale,” she said. “Everyone associated with the festival owns a piece of the festival and they love and care for it as though it were their own. We did an impact study a few years ago and found that those volunteers give about 28,000 hours of time each and every year.”

There are some changes to insure safety for all this year. For example, the orchestra will be a little smaller than its normal 63 piece size to allow for social distancing on the stage. Connell said that Conductor Gary Sheldon has carefully selected arrangements that will provide audiences the same impressive sound with fewer musicians. “People will not notice any change in the quality of the music.”

Table seating must be purchased in advance in sets of ten this year and gates will open a little later than in past years. Festival events at Ohio University – Lancaster will be smoke free this year since OUL is now a smoke-free campus.

Tickets are on sale now and Connell advises buying early to insure you can attend the events of your choice. In addition to music, there will be other events including the much anticipated Artwalk and the Festival Fair Day.

Want more information? Want to buy tickets, become a volunteer or learn about sponsor opportunities? Call 740.687.4808, email Deb at dconnell@lancasterfestival.org or visit them online at www.lancasterfestival.org. There’s a form you can fill out to become a volunteer as well as the full schedule of events and much more. Get all the latest news and information by following Lancaster Festival on Facebook

The Lancaster Festival will be held July 23 – July 31. Mark your calendars, buy those tickets and be prepared for live music!

Community Spotlight: Vinton County Creating Healthy Communities

Living a healthy life is easier when you live in a community that promotes healthy living. In Vinton County, there’s an effort underway to make it easier for residents to live safely and to embrace healthy choices. The Vinton County Creating Healthy Communities coalition (CHC) addresses healthy eating and active living through projects that will potentially have far reaching and long lasting effects.

The coalition exists thanks to a five year grant received by the Vinton County Health Department. Spearheaded by CHC Coordinator Jeri Ann Bentley, the coalition is made up of citizens, organizations and government offices that have partnered to provide everything from input to boots-on-the-ground workers. While the CHC has accomplished a lot in their first year, there is much on the agenda for 2021 and beyond.

The Coalition is divided into two subcommittees, allowing for volunteers to help with the projects they find most inspiring. The Healthy Eating Committee has been instrumental in creating a larger, more robust system of farmer’s markets in Vinton County. They have also created a healthy vending project and started a community garden this year. The Active Living Committee is working on a Complete Streets policy for McArthur, bike infrastructure and a major playground renovation project at Wyman Park.

A Vinton County native, Bentley is passionate about building a healthier community for her own family and neighbors as well as for generations to come. “A healthy community gives every person, regardless of age, ability or socioeconomic background the same opportunities to enjoy a good life, to eat well, to move about and to access all the resources the community offers just like everyone else,” she said.

Thanks to the CHC and a partnership with Vinton Industries, farmers markets can be found every Saturday morning in McArthur, Hamden and Wilkesville. Fresh produce, honey, Amish baked goods, handmade items, plants and flowers are among the things shoppers may find throughout the season

Vinton Industries is also spearheading the community garden where a $10 annual fee gives gardeners access to a plot of land as well as access to tools, Seven Dust and watering. Their program to offer healthy vending services and education for local businesses has been successful too. The goal is to offer a selection of tasty, healthier snacks that employees enjoy as much as traditional vending machine faire.

“I can’t say enough about Vinton Industries and what it has meant to have their support. They just took all these healthy eating initiatives and ran with them. It has really freed up my time and resources to focus on other things,” she said.

For example, she is working on a Complete Streets policy, written with support from McArthur Village Council. This will help village leaders plan for future projects that make the streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities. A walking audit last fall revealed many streets with broken sidewalks, missing curb-cuts and no sidewalks that are treacherous for pedestrians. “We aren’t saying the town needs to run out and put in all new sidewalks but we are helping them see places where new sidewalks are needed. We found places where there’s no curb cut so if you’re in a wheelchair you have no choice but to backtrack and find a way off the sidewalk so you can go out into the street,” she said. “By identifying the issues, we are making a sort of wish list that will allow us to make positive changes in the future.”

Pedestrian traffic before and after school will be addressed in the future too. “We’ve all seen how dangerous it is for kids just trying to get to school or trying to cross after school to get from the high school to McDonalds. There are simple, low cost solutions that can make it safer for our kids to cross the street when there’s a lot of traffic.”

The biggest project that Bentley and the CHC have taken on is a major playground renovation at Wyman Park. The aging playground equipment is potentially dangerous for youngsters. There are few opportunities for kids with disabilities to enjoy the playground and very small tots may struggle to play safely here.

The two existing large structures will be replaced with new ones. There will also be a number of smaller, ground level pieces of equipment like a fire engine and a caterpillar for imaginative play. Swings designed to hold children with disabilities, a sign language board, a tic-tac-toe board, a twister beam and metal park benches are part of the plan as well. A new rubberized surface is planned to be installed for enhanced safety.

CHC has received grant funding and some private donations have been promised to the Wyman Park Board but more funds are needed to complete the project. The Wyman Park Board has applied for some additional grants and is appealing to potential donors to help fund this project as well. Donors will be publically recognized for their generous support.

Meanwhile, the CHC will host Wyman Park Appreciation Day on June 26 from 4 p.m. until dark to raise funds for the playground project while celebrating the park and its importance to the community. Scheduled events are not yet set in stone but the group plans to have an adult cornhole tournament, vendor and craft fair, face painting, inflatable slide, food, live music, Kona Ice, and much more! This free community event will have fun activities for all ages to enjoy. Registration forms for the cornhole tournament and vendor fair will be available soon.

“We take pride in where we live and love our community. We just want to make it better for everyone, safer and easier for everyone to make good choices for themselves and their families. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last year but we’re excited about the future and all that we can do to improve this place we call home.”

Learn more about Vinton County Creating Healthy Communities and their upcoming Park Appreciation Day by following them on Facebook. Click to enlarge each image below for cornhole tournament registration, vendor and craft fair registration and for a flier about Wyman Park Appreciation Day!

Want to donate to the playground project or get involved in the other CHC projects? Contact Bentley at jbentley@vintonohhealth.org or at 740.596.5233.

Headed For The Hills: Hocking Hills Tourism Grows During Pandemic

The Hocking Hills is open for business and ready to provide rest and respite for pandemic weary travelers in need of a getaway. In fact, the Hocking Hills region has experienced a surge of visitors even while other tourist destinations continue to struggle.

Hocking Hills Tourism Association Executive Director Karen Raymore has a lot to say about why the region has continued to attract visitors this year, what it means for local businesses and what it could mean for the future of tourism in the area. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though as the early days of the pandemic caused obstacles, the likes of which no one had experienced.

“The first days and weeks were nerve wracking. None of us had ever experienced anything like a pandemic so, just like everyone else, we didn’t know what to expect, how long it would last or how to plan,” Raymore explained.
During those early days, of state issued stay at home orders and business closures, there came other local restrictions including the closure of cabins. “Where better to social distance and ride out a pandemic than a cabin in the woods? So visitors continued to come,” she said.

The Hocking County Board of Health eventually closed the cabins for over a month to slow the spread from a heavy influx of visitors. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources also saw issues with overcrowding in the Hocking Hills State Parks and ordered these parks closed until early July.

“As you can imagine, some cabin owners were unhappy and vocal while others seemed grateful that everyone was closing. It gave them opportunity to regroup and put in place safety measures,” she recalled. “When the cabins were allowed to reopen 41 days later it didn’t seem to matter that the state park was closed. People could escape the monotony of home and stay in nature on anywhere from two to a hundred acres. Some cabins have Wi-Fi for those who need it. Some folks are pleased to disconnect from their troubles. That demand has only continued to grow.”

The growing demand and increased traffic at Hocking Hills State Park over the years has long caused alarm among park officials worried about the sustainability of high numbers of foot traffic on park trails. The three month closure at the park actually gave officials time and space to reconfigure some trails so that they are mostly one way.

“It’s something that Pat Quackenbush, the Naturalist, had been wanting to do for a long time. We want to enjoy our beautiful natural world without doing so much damage. After all, when you are walking both ways and meet a group, someone usually goes off trail to allow the other party to pass and that can do real harm if it happens enough,” Raymore explained.

When the park reopened in July, cabins were inundated with guests who have continued to come without fail. When asked why the Hocking Hills has thrived through the pandemic while other destinations have struggled, Raymore credited three specific factors – accessibility by car, an abundance of free access to nature and a high number of detached lodging options.

Most people are driving rather than flying to the Hocking Hills and a there’s an enormous population within a six hour drive. According to a recent survey, the number one place overnight guests in the Hocking Hills come from is the Cleveland area. The Columbus area ranked second with markets near and far falling in line behind them.

It is this availability of cabins or detached accommodations that make the area more appealing to many destinations that rely on hotel lodging.

“If you fly to Orlando and stay in a hotel, you’re interacting with more people, you’re sharing an elevator with people outside your party, hotel staff is coming in to service your room,” she added. “People who were loyal to their hotel chains are finding it’s nice to have a living space, a kitchen, maybe a fire pit or their own private hot tub. They don’t have to worry about making too much noise or being kept awake by the neighbors.”

While the cabin business has flourished, it has been a journey and challenging time for many businesses that rely on visitors.

David Kennedy, who owns The Millstone Southern Smoked BBQ and the Hungry Buffalo in Logan said his year was marked by adapting to change – changing regulations, changing weather, changing customer expectations and others he never dreamed of facing.

“The one constant in this life is change and you either learn to adapt and be flexible or you won’t be around very long,” he said as he described a tumultuous year. “First we started with carryout and did quite well at the Millstone. Barbeque carries out really well. But when they closed the cabins, our carryout business dropped to almost nothing,” he said, explaining their decision to completely close for a period in 2020.

When they came back, it was with safety and hospitality top of mind. First it was with outdoor seating and, when the weather turned cold, changes to the indoor seating. “We want people to feel comfortable when they’re with us. That’s just being hospitable. So we created plexiglass and wood walls throughout the dining room. Getting rid of the open concept dining room and creating these booths helped us through the winter,” Kennedy said.

They will continue using the temporary walls for as long as it makes sense. “Not every restaurant in town has been so fortunate but we have been proactive in working hard to do what we do best – serving people good food and drinks and offering them great hospitality.”

In the world of retail, the downtown Logan shop Homegrown on Main experienced their best year ever. The store sells locally made items art, crafts, food items and books that were in demand by visitors seeking special souvenirs.

Just down the road from the State Park Visitor Center, Old Man’s Cave General Store has been experiencing a boom as well. Owner Lynn Horn admitted the early days of the pandemic were scary. The store had just ordered a large amount of stock in preparation for spring break. “Luckily we were considered essential because we sell food and we were able to stay open. It was scary because traffic was way down and we couldn’t plan.”

She credits local people for helping them get through these hard days.

Their deli offers quick items like pizza and burgers. Plus, they offer beer, wine and over 100 flavors of soft serve ice cream. “Ice cream sales went way up last year. It’s comfort food and people needed that,” Horn recalled.

Despite those bad days, Horn said that 2020 was a record year for her store. The close proximity to the park is ideal for serving visitors who need a cold treat, souvenir or a meal. Record sales every month made up for those early losses.

Horn reported meeting a lot of first time visitors. “We met a lot of people who would normally go somewhere else like Tennessee. But they found out that it’s just as beautiful here and much closer to home. The people here are friendly, the park rangers are friendly, the businesses are glad to have them here. It’s a good vibe so I know a lot of them will be coming back,” she said. “I’m sure there are good times ahead.”

Her store didn’t even see the normal slowdown that typically happens in the winter. “January and February are always our slowest months. They were slower than the rest of the year but much, much busier compared to other years. It’s amazing how busy it has been!”

What does this all mean for the future of the Hocking Hills and local businesses that benefit from tourism? Raymore said to count on continued growth including more family reunions at area lodges, more quick getaways for remote workers and more vacationers who wish to find both rest and adventure close to home.

“I think the future is bright,” Raymore exclaimed. “We’ve missed traveling, we’ve missed our extended families, we’ve missed so much that I think people will continue to travel more and more. And those who found us because of the pandemic will certainly come back again once everything is up and going full speed. They’ll want to explore more and we’ll be ready to welcome them!”

Learn more about things to do in the Hocking Hills including events and activities for the family, the adventure traveler, the retiree and everyone in between by visiting the Hocking HIlls Tourism Association online. Visitors can even find their ideal accommodations at the HHTA website ExploreHockingHills.com.

Small Business Spotlight: Downtown Treatery

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 visit Downtown Treatery, a bright and happy donut shop in Jackson where the owners hope to make you smile.

There aren’t many times in life that you will be encouraged to play with your food but that’s exactly what happens at Downtown Treatery. The Jackson donut shop opened just before the pandemic began and has provided much needed smiles for a growing legion of customers.

That’s partly because this isn’t just any ordinary donut shop. Step inside the brightly decorated storefront and you will be greeted by friendly staff, a delicious aroma and uplifting messages on the wall. The positive messages and whimsical décor including a bicycle table are designed to make every customer want to linger.

“Our donuts are great but we want you to come for the experience too,” Nicole Brennen said. She and her husband Brandon developed their unique format that allows customers to customize their orders with an array of icings, glazes and toppings. Essentially, customers can make their donut unique as fun to create as they are to eat.

Customers can also try the Downtown Treatery’s signature donuts with names like Oreo that’s topped with crushed Oreo cookies, the Piglet which features bacon and Extreme Butter Cup which is a chocolate and peanut butter lover’s dream. Their Michael’s Bubble is modeled off a popular treat from another Jackson area business – Michael’s Ice Cream where their daily fresh roasted peanuts top off their signature bubble sundae. These nuts are a prominent part of the Michael’s donut.

Other popular toppings include sprinkles, toasted coconut, Fruity Pebbles and chocolate chips. Icings include flavors like maple, strawberry, cream cheese and lemon while the assorted drizzles include marshmallow, peanut butter, raspberry and classic chocolate.

They also have other menu items like cream horns, brownies, cinnamon rolls, mini pies and beverages.

Another huge piece of the business is custom orders. “We do custom orders for any event you can imagine. We do weddings, birthday parties, bridal showers, retirement parties, gender reveal parties. You name it and we’ve done it,” she said.

“We chose bright, happy colors that kids like because we want to be family friendly and we want to people to smile when they come in. Everyone says just coming in brings a smile and we want them to be happy, to enjoy some donuts and to remember that life is pretty good. It’s not so bad. There’s a lot to smile about,” Nicole said.

Nicole and Brandon sweetly tag teamed the telling of the story that led them to want to open this shop. “It was all her idea. She had talked about it for a while. We had visited something similar on vacation years ago and one day she started talking to me about buildings,” he laughed.

“I knew it was something we should do and I just kept waiting for the right time. Everyone loves donuts, they make people happy. I believe that God has brought us to here to help others, to bring joy to others. I’m grateful to Him for that,” Nicole explained as she discussed how special and decorated donuts have become all the rage for celebrations in the area. “Everyone loves it and it’s another way we can bring a smile!”

When they found the building that would become Downtown Treatery, it had been stripped down to the studs, providing a blank canvas to create the space they need. They hung curtains over the front window during the renovation, waiting until opening day for the big reveal to the community.  “When I took down the curtains on the first day, there was a line stretched down the street,” she recalled. “It was incredible the way people showed up for us. I couldn’t believe it!”

That was January 25, 2020. Just six weeks later, the pandemic changed the face of life in Ohio and forced the couple to adjust their business model. “We had to adapt if we wanted to survive and we wanted to survive. Failure wasn’t an option so we started offering curbside pickup. You could order and we would bring your donuts right out to the car. If you’re a small business, you have to get creative.”

Nicole knows something about creativity. As a sports mom, wife, dental practitioner and small business owner she’s always had to balance, juggle and hustle but has done so more than ever this last year. “If it were easy, everyone would do it. I’m no stranger to hard work and I really love the challenge of making things work, finding ways around obstacles and reaching for my dreams,” she said.

Their dining room is open and there’s plenty of room for guests to social distance. Prior to the pandemic, they had welcomed parties of kids in to decorate their own donuts. “We loved doing that and can’t wait to do it again someday,” she said.

While Downtown Treatery is a special place for locals to enjoy, they also have a number of out-of-town guests including some who stop in while visiting town. “Jackson is such a wonderful place. Whether you live here or are just visiting, we welcome everyone to stop by for a donut and smile.”

Downtown Treatery is located at 229 Broadway Street in Jackson. Find hours, menu and more at their Facebook page!  

Small Business Spotlight: Logan Theater and Community Arts Center

Hocking Hills Banking Center Branch Manager Kati Maple presented a check for $25,000 to Logan
Theater, Inc. Executive Director Sheila Wolfe on Thursday morning.

It’s incredible to see what happens when a community works together toward a common goal. Logan is currently benefiting from a host of people, organizations, businesses and even a children’s chorus working together to give new life to an anchor building in the city’s downtown.

The results will be the Logan Theater and Community Arts Center which will be available in a host of ways. From movies and live performances to meeting space and tutoring for local high school students, this space will live up to its name as a facility that welcomes the community.

Our Hocking Hills Banking Center is thrilled to be a part of this project, donating $25,000 to sponsor the first floor concessions area. Hocking Hills Banking Center Branch Manager Kati Maple said that she is thrilled for the bank to be part of this project. “The revitalization efforts in downtown Logan are so important to the future of our community. This project will give students a safe place to go after school and give our residents and our visitors a place to find entertainment. I am so excited that our bank is able to be a sponsor,” she said.

This building is known by many names – the Chakeres Theater, the Masonic Building, the old Logan Theater – but whatever you call it, the building is structurally sound and spacious with some unique characteristics. Built by the Knights of the Pythias in 1926, the imposing building has a basement and three floors above ground including a first floor theater that has seen Vaudeville acts, singing cowboys and movies of all kinds.

Sammy Davis, Jr. performed on that stage as a child. Even Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger captivated audiences here.

It was part of the Chakeres Theater chain for many years but the theater closed in 1992, leaving what was once a vital community landmark shuttered and at risk. Today, the building is owned by Logan Theater, Inc. a non-profit organization. That group was born from Logan Town Center, the organization that purchased the building aiming to rethink, restore and revitalize it.

Logan Theater, Inc. Executive Director Sheila Wolfe praised the community for working together on this project and said she hopes this will encourage more development in the downtown. “Our community needs this. We need a place to gather and for our young people,” she said. “We hope this will be a catalyst for the downtown and that it will inspire more economic development.”

She said the project has been broken down into three phases.

Phase One
The Logan-Hocking Local School District has partnered with the organization to use the second and third floors. The school district will use the second floor as a tutoring center for high school students. It will provide a safe after-school space for students to come to study and even receive help with their homework. A coffee bar will give the space a relaxed feel.

There will also be an art gallery space for the students, art project space for the community and even a kiln.

The third floor will be home to the Hocking County Children’s Chorus. This permanent home for the chorus will provide an intimate performance space in what was once the Mason’s ceremonial room. Dressing rooms, office space and even much needed storage are just part of the package

A working elevator has been installed to service all floors.

These spaces have large windows that provide natural light to the modern, industrial feeling rooms. This phase of the project was completed earlier this month.

Phase Two
The next step will be to renovate the theater for live performances and movies. Sheila indicated that these plans are still being settled but they know they want to update the technology while maintaining the character of the historic theater.

Phase Three
The basement will be renovated into meeting space and ADA accessible bathrooms.

The estimated cost for the entire project is nearly $3 million. These funds are coming from a combination of private and public sources. They are working to use as many original elements of the building as possible and to be true to the building’s history. For example, some upstairs light fixtures could be salvaged but preserving the old windows was far outside their budget. Instead, they opted to replace the windows with new that look like they came with the building.

Exposed brick, original doors and even the original stage and risers from the Masonic Hall have been lovingly preserved. “We want to respect the history here,” Sheila explained.

“It’s getting so close. When you look at the pictures of before to now, it’s encouraging to see that we have come this far even though we know there is a long way to go before we’re done,” Sheila said. “My favorite phrase is ‘we’ll get there.’ It will happen. We will get there. We just have to keep moving forward and working together.”

The theater which once hosted the likes of Roy Rogers, a host of Vaudeville acts and countless movies will be renovated during phase two.

“We are so very thankful and blessed that we have made it this far. We have a wonderful board, a team that works together for this common goal. We also have incredible sponsors and people who have helped us,” Sheila said.

Sheila credits all those sponsors, the school superintendent and many others for believing in the project early on.

She also credits those who share their pictures and stories from the theater’s past. She said they are especially interested in information about the theater’s early days as they have no images of the theater’s interior during its first years.

Want to support the Logan Theater Renovation Project? You can volunteer your time or services or you can make a monetary donation.

Donate online at www.AppalachianOhio.org/LoganTheater or by sending a check to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio at P.O. Box 456, Nelsonville, Ohio 45764. Make the check out to Foundation for Appalachian Ohio with “Logan Theater Fund” in the memo line. To become a volunteer or for more information, email info@logantheater.org, call 740.603.7404 or visit them online at www.logantheater.org.

No generous act will be too big or too small.

Small Business Spotlight: Made On Main

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!

Nothing makes a crafter happier than a fun project, unique supplies and someone to share it all with. Made on Main in Ashville provides all that, even finding ways to keep people connected and happily crafting through the pandemic.

When asked about her store, owner Tiffany Jackson has a long list of reasons why her store is so special why it is drawing customers from all over the region and beyond. “There aren’t a lot of local craft stores around and we are different than your typical big box craft store because we carry different items. What really sets us apart is that we partner with other small businesses to sell brands that you can’t find everywhere else,” she explained.

While Made on Main specializes in paper crafts like scrapbooking and card making, they also holdclasses on mosaics, quilting, painting, knitting, crochet and beyond. “If it sounds like fun, we are willing to give it a try,” she exclaimed

In addition to raw materials, the store offers kits for a variety of projects including things like cards, applique, wall hangings or mini albums. “For example, a kit might include everything you need to make six to ten cards. Everything is pre-cut and there is a picture of the completed project and instructions so you can make it look just like my finished project or you can do your own thing,” she said. “This way, you can make a variety of things without being stuck with a lot of leftover materials.”

The store actually started a few years ago when Tiffany began hosting classes and make-and-take parties in her home. These events grew so much in popularity that she outgrew her home and badly needed space. When the old apothecary building in Ashville became available, it was a clear choice for her growing business. Now, the store has plenty of space for classes, crops and even a party rental room.

Day long crops give crafters opportunity to gather with others to work on their projects. For those who need or want some more direction, classes are offered as well.

While the pandemic has made events and gatherings much more challenging, it has also created opportunity for crafters to spend more time working on projects at home. “When we were closed earlier this year, I had people knocking on my door asking for projects so we started putting together more kits, things they could do at home.”

They also began doing online classes, offering curbside pick-up and doing more online business.

In addition, the store offers some handmade items that would make great stocking stuffers and gifts. Baby quilts, dog scarves and pillows are just a few of the handmade gift items that can be found on the store’s second floor.

Gift cards are available too.

All of this combined keeps customers coming back, not just from Ashville but from much further away. “We are a small town but we are just fifteen minutes from Columbus so we get customers from Grove City, Canal Winchester, from all over because we are just so different from the big box craft stores,” she said.

She actually organized a shop hop with several other craft stores in the area this summer. For a small fee, participants could visit each store to receive a discount and a make-and-take project that could be completed in person at the store or taken home for later. ‘It was so popular, we already have dates for 2021. People loved it and we loved it because we met new friends!”

The next Shop Hop will be July 1 through August 14, 2021 and participants can buy their tickets online in the coming months.

Tiffany isn’t just community minded when it comes to crafting. She also is holding a fundraiser to help with the construction of Ashville’s new food pantry. She is raffling two die cut machines – the Big Shot, valued at $120, and the Big Shot Foldaway, valued at $160. Raffle tickets are $5 each and can be purchased on their website or at the store. The drawing will be held at 3 p.m. on December 5.

Made on Main also has big plans for Small Business Saturday on November 28 so be sure to stop by for some early Christmas shopping and to stock up on projects and supplies for yourself this winter!

“Crafting is how I decompress and it’s wonderful helping others and bringing together others who love to craft,” Tiffany said. “When someone pops in to say hello because they were here once and enjoyed it that makes my day.”

Made on Main is located at 4 East Main Street in Ashville. Call 740.983.6777, follow them on Facebook or shop online.

Small Business Spotlight: Casa Del Taco

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!

Since 1984, Casa Del Taco has been one of Chillicothe’s signature flavors. The family owned business offers up fast casual Mexican food in two locations.

Owner Bill Barker said they set themselves apart from other restaurants in town with made-to-order food that uses fresh, high quality ingredients. “Everything is very fresh and we make it when you order it. We make our own sauces, avocado dressing, and chicken tortilla soup from scratch using our own recipes,” he explained.

Lean ground beef, real cheese, and fresh vegetables are just some of the delicious ingredients used to make their signature dishes. “We sell more regular tacos than anything but we are known for a lot of things,” he said as he began to list popular dishes like their Mexican Chef Salad with homemade avocado dressing, burritos and Casadillas which is their version of the quesadilla. “We want to be proud of the product we serve and one way we do that is to start with the best ingredients.”

That pride in work has been instilled in the entire family. Bill and his wife Tammy have four grown sons who are all involved in the business. Three work for Casa Del Taco while their youngest son manages the Old Canal Smoke House which they purchased in 2013. “I’m proud that they all chose to stay and help. It isn’t the easiest business in the world but we all love what we do and love serving great meals to people,” he said.

When they opened their first location on Bridge Street, the landscape of this now busy street was much different. At the time there were only about eight restaurants. Today there are close to eighty and growing.

As the city has grown, so has Casa Del Taco. They opened a second location near Kroger on Western Avenue, making it easier for residents on that side of town to obtain their “Casa Del fix.” In fact, the restaurant is a favorite first stop for many former residents when they visit town as well as a destination for people all over the region who have fallen in love with the food. “It’s pretty neat when someone says they drove from far away just to eat your food.”

While Bill is quick to admit that the restaurant industry is a challenging one, he said the complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have made it even more difficult. They were able to remain open with pick up services at Old Canal and drive-thru services at Casa Del Taco but traffic was diminished during these months.

They also have had to negotiate challenges like supply chain issues and staffing shortages. “Things that we bought for years suddenly weren’t available. Pork was harder to find because of meat shortages. It was just a real challenging time.”

The company employs about eighty people but they do have some openings available. “We are blessed to have such a great staff but things would go better if we had a few more people. But the people we have, I can’t say enough good about them. They’re rock stars, they’re soldiers, they’re so loyal to what we are doing and we are truly fortunate to have them,” he said.

Casa Del Taco is located at 1055 North Bridge Street and at 1360 Western Avenue in Chillicothe. The Western Avenue location is currently still drive thru only due to the dining room size but the Bridge Street location is open for dine-in or drive-thru. Find them online at www.gottagetyourcasa.com.