Spotlight: Ohio’s Small Town Museum

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When Charlie Morrison was a boy, he wanted to own a museum. So it should come as no surprise that he has championed Ohio’s Small Town Museum since it began down the street as just some shelves in his family-owned grocery store. “I graduated from the school here and didn’t know a thing about my own town,” he said. “People need to know about where they’re from.”

67416041_1451872351618262_3329583880515616768_nToday, the 88-year-old still works most days at the museum he co-founded along with friend Bob Hines and a host of volunteers. Established in 1975, the museum is run by the Ashville Area Heritage Society and a group of volunteers who pitch in to help wherever needed – cleaning, giving tours, curating artifacts and simply keeping the museum ready for visitors.

The museum occupies the corner of Long and Wright streets in buildings that once were the post office and Dreamland Theater which once showed silent movies. It’s packed with photos, artifacts and memorabilia from Ashville and other small towns in the area.

A museum tour with Charlie is a treat for a history buff as he shares stories and personal experiences that give life to the items that line the museum’s cases and walls. In fact, point to an artifact and wait for Charlie to pull from his personal experiences and tell a story.

The old dairy? He’ll tell you about washing bottles there for fifty cents a day and about the horse drawn wagon used to deliver quart bottles of milk to houses up and down Ashville’s streets. “That horse knew the route better than any of us,” he exclaimed.

Charlie was there to assist in digging items like old class photos and a classroom clock from the trash when Ashville High School closed – ask and he’ll show you his and his wife’s senior portraits on graduating class composite photos that were destined for the dump.

cab companytheater seatsHe can tell you about the technology used to test a driverless car on Ashville’s streets in 1969 and about the tinkerer who invented the world’s first traffic light. Charlie’s enthusiasm for the history of his community is contagious as he muses about the stories preserved as well as the ones that have been lost to time.

His expertise on the town was gathered over a lifetime. Born here, he graduated from Ashville High School and took over the family grocery store in the 1950s. He and wife Mona will soon celebrate 69 years of wedded bliss, living in just one place – the home he built for them his senior year of high school. He’s a former town mayor and councilman and the locals call him Mr. Ashville.

That’s why, even though many have worked to make the museum successful, it’s difficult to separate the museum’s story from Charlie’s own story. Luckily, the museum has an arsenal of fascinating things to say on its own.

The prized item here is the world’s first traffic light which was invented by an Ashville man named Teddy Boor. A prolific inventor, Boor used common household items to create a traffic light that looks like something from the Jetsons. It operated continuously from installation in the thirties until 1982 when it was given a permanent home in the museum. Here, it continues to operate and delight museum visitors.

There’s a collection of books by Ashville authors, military memorabilia, antique toys and a display dedicated to James Reeves Hulse V – the only Munchkin in the Wizard of Oz who hailed from Ohio. The Pickaway County man was born March 16, 1915 and, at the height of 4 feet, 6 inches, was ideal to play the part of a Munchkin villager in the 1939 classic.

The last edition of The Pickaway County News, printed July 31, 1969, rests atop an old newspaper proof machine. An entire section is dedicated to longtime Ashville physician Dr. Ralph Hosler while a sign for the Ashville Cab Company occupies a small but prominent spot beneath an antique telephone. Offering 24-hour service, they requested that customers “Call us for pickup and delivery service” at YU 3-2501.

Museum guides will even tell you the story of Buster, the dog who voted for Herbert Hoover in 1928, and of Chic-Chic, the pet chicken who bought his own lunch at a local restaurant for years. Chic-Chic was the pet of Mrs. A.B. Cooper. Every day, Mrs. Cooper would drop a dime on the kitchen floor and say “Chic-Chic, go down to Clyde Brinkers’ and get yourself something to eat.” The chicken would pick up the dime with his beak, and walk to Clyde Brinkers’ restaurant on Ashville’s Long Street where he dropped the dime down on the step. Then he would peck on the door and wait to be fed. Locals still called him the King of Ashville at the time of his death in the 1950s.

67352699_2085485081757304_3404277265918328832_nThere literally is a treasure or charming story in every nook and cranny of the museum and new items are added all the time. One local resident dropped off a vintage camera while we were visiting and someone else had donated a box of pictures from an attic a few days earlier. “When we were getting this started, I think we were in every home and every attic in Ashville looking for things,” Charlie exclaimed with a laugh. “Attics are the best because people put stuff up there and forget about it. Unlike a basement which is always damp, the attic stays dry and the items are preserved.”

Charlie laments how little people know about their own communities – not just in the past but today as well – as modern people prefer television and iPhones to sitting on the porch and visiting; internet shopping over supporting a small business; and driving out of town for entertainment over letting their kids ride bicycles and play with their neighbors.

Yet he recognizes that times have changed and that this is just a natural part of life.  “I just want kids and people in this community to know where they came from, to know about their towns whether it’s Ashville or South Bloomfield or some little town that people have forgotten about,” he said. “I like telling about the little town of Ashville and all the crazy things that have went on here over the years.”

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Ohio’s Small Town Museum is located at 34 Long Street in Ashville. Call them at 740.983.9864, follow them on Facebook or visit their website. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to noon. Admission is free but donations are welcomed.

Want to help? They are always looking for Ashville area people to volunteer. You can also join the Ashville Area Heritage Society – rates start at $10 a year for senior citizens and $20 for individuals. Families, organizations and small businesses are $25 a year and large businesses are $200.

Small Business Spotlight: Raccoon Creek Outfitters

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

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Small business owners tend to be passionate about their work. Even so, it’s hard to match the enthusiasm and pure joy of Bobbi Hoy when she talks about Raccoon Creek Outfitters, the Vinton County business she and husband Dustin started together.

What began as a dream is now in its third season and growing every year. “People thought we were crazy when we opened. We started in April 2017 with 28 canoes and eighteen kayaks. Now, we’re in our third season and have 106 boats. There are times we have them all out on the water at once,” Bobbi said. “It’s amazing how much we’ve grown.”

2.jpgRaccoon Creek Outfitters does it all.  They offer kayak and canoe rentals, a store and campground. They even offer their grounds for event rental.

The livery offers canoe and kayak rentals for five and seven mile routes, giving customers everything they need for a leisurely trip down the Raccoon. “This is a good creek to start on. It’s not fast moving water so you can go at your own pace,” she said. “One thing that makes it a little different is that we left the tree tops. That means it’s not just a lazy river. You have to paddle, to steer, and that makes a more enjoyable experience.”

All skill levels are welcome at Raccoon Creek Outfitters but they are pleased to introduce their passion to the beginner. “It’s ok if you’ve never even held a paddle before. We’ll take you out to the landing, show you some techniques and let you practice before we send you out,” she said.

3With 34 acres situated along the peaceful shores of Raccoon Creek in eastern Vinton County, it’s an ideal place to camp. Primitive campsites are available along the creek banks while RV sites with electric hookup are available as well.

A shelter house and large kitchen are available to rent for events such as reunions, parties and festivals.

Plus, the store offers a large variety of Bonafide and NuCanoe kayaks, life jackets, fishing gear and other supplies. They also sell Bending Branches Paddles, Yak Attack gear, Anchor Wizard anchoring systems and Venom Lures.

But the Raccoon Creek story isn’t really about the boats and other tangibles the business offers. It’s actually about the people and the exploration of the natural world they encourage here.  “We say that you may come here as a stranger but you will leave as family because if you’re a friend of ours, you are family,” Bobbi explained.

Their sense of friendship and family extends to their team as well. “We don’t have employees or staff. We are a team here and everyone is valuable to the team,” she said. “My husband and I always had jobs where we worked for someone else so we know how important it is to feel valued. That’s why everyone has a say and that’s part of the reason everyone loves coming to work.”

boat 1.jpgDustin Hoy worked for and managed another canoe livery for several years, learning the ropes in hopes of someday pursuing his dream to own his own livery. “Dustin is the backbone. He’s knowledgeable in every aspect of the boats and, if he doesn’t know it, he’ll learn. It’s his passion, his dream, and I’m lucky enough to be living it with him,” she said with a smile.

It is a family affair as Bobbi’s brother manages the business while her two kids help out as well. “Family is everything to us and we are proud to have our family working with us and cheering us on,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here if not for Dustin’s mom (Arretha Hoy) who helped us get this place and for so many others who have helped us along the way. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here.”

She also credits those who help to promote the business every chance they get. For example, her sister Adeanna Chandler was the first customer they put on the water and one of their biggest fans. “She has a stack of business cards and she gives them to everyone she sees. She advocates for us in so many ways and my appreciation for her is big to say the least. My parents Dean and Carol Chandler, also tell everyone about us. It means the world when people have your back!”

The Raccoon Creek Outfitters team consists of Mark Chandler, Rose Chandler, Cecilia Chandler, Bret Chumley, Brett Coleman, Justin Turner, Clinton Lester, Tessa Hoy, Alina Hoy, Okey Fitzwater and Arretha Hoy. They also credit their Pro Staff Team of Matt Davis, Reed Carpenter, Michael Jennings and John Shef.

When talking about the people who have made a difference, she mentioned several customers who have supported the company from the beginning including one family from Canada that comes every year as well as locals who come as often as they can.

“We are truly blessed. Life is so short, you have to learn to appreciate the little things and the wonderful people who surround you. Blessings come in all forms and we are overwhelmingly blessed,” she said.

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The company makes an effort to go the extra mile and to give back for all the good fortune they have enjoyed. From serving breakfast to campers every morning to free movie nights to helping out with community events, Bobbi said that her team enjoys staying busy and being involved.

They also offer a number of discounts including a ten percent discount for paddling their vessels to current military, veterans, nurses, law enforcement officers, EMTs, firefighters and teachers. Discount rates are available for 4-H clubs and large groups too.

Free Movie Friday is open to the public. Movies are family friendly and usually start around 9 p.m. every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weather dependent. Both visitors and the community are welcome to bring a chair and snack to enjoy this free event.

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Conveniently located near Lake Hope State Park, Uncle Buck’s Riding Stable and Dance Barn and the Moonville Tunnel, the staff encourages customers to take advantage of other activities in the area. It’s also just a short drive to the Hocking Hills State Park and to Ohio University in nearby Athens. “Whatever people are doing, we just want to help them get outside and to enjoy nature,” she explained.

Visitors will hear countless species of birds as well as frogs, whippoorwill and the gentle splash of an occasional fish jumping in the water. “There’s nothing like floating. I love being on the water. It’s so peaceful to hear the birds and the wind in the trees and to just become one with the water. I sound like such a hippie,” she exclaimed.

Visit their website or follow them on Facebook to keep up with upcoming events like Capsize Cancer and many others.

 

 

 

Small Business Spotlight: Jack Pine Studio

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

multi color pumpkin group

Jack Pine’s signature piece is the pumpkin which he, and artists he trains, create in all shapes, colors and sizes.

When Jack Pine was a young man, he set out on a cross country road trip in search of adventure.  He landed in Seattle with $200 in his pocket and a pet ferret at his side – only to find that the real adventure had just begun.  Today, the renowned glass blower is honing his artistry in the Hocking Hills, bringing his life story full circle just a few miles from where it began.

Today, Jack Pine is known for his blown glass pumpkins and other delectable pieces of finely crafted art but his roots are quite humble. His studio sits off the St. Rt. 180, on a wooded lot close to Rock House, one of the Hocking Hills State Park’s most popular destinations. Here Jack and artists he trains create glass art that is sold and shipped nationwide. Visitors are welcome to stop by for a glass blowing demonstration or to shop in the retail store.

The artist is a self-described country boy whose roots run deep in Hocking County. He described growing up in Tarlton as one of the best things that could happen to him. “I wouldn’t trade my childhood in Tarlton for anything,” he said while describing small town life with his two pet ducks, a town full of people he knew and parents who brought art into his life.

Both parents were artists in their own right – his dad was a DuPont factory worker who engaged in artistic pursuits including inventing while his mother was a talented painter and sculptor.

The 1983 Logan Elm High School graduate describes himself as a quiet, creative kid who was sometimes a target for bullies. A scholarship to the Columbus College of Art and Design offered opportunity to follow his lifelong passion for art but he still lacked funds to pay for his full education. So he did a stint in the Army which he calls “life changing.”

“The Army equalizes everyone. It strips away your previous identify and makes you all the same. For me, that pulled me up,” he said. “I had always been quiet and reserved so it brought me out of my shell.”

He came home to college after being stationed in Germany for a couple of years. “I didn’t actually graduate. I ran out of money for school and I wanted an adventure.”

His destination was Seattle where the art scene was like mecca for glass thanks to artists like Dale Chihuly who co-founded the nearby Pilchuck Glass School.  So he pointed his Ford Escort west, car camping and visiting an aunt in Colorado along the way. The stories of this meandering journey past the Grand Canyon and up the west coast are captivating as are his stories of breaking into the glass scene.

He was actually homeless for a short time before taking a job in a grungy store that “sold gas, sandwiches and not much else.”  Here Jack became friendly with a customer who took an interest in the young and connected him with a glass blower who needed help. Jack fudged his way through an interview to become an apprentice at Mt. St. Helens Glassworks which used ash from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens to create hand blown pieces like kerosene lamps. “They quickly figured out that I had no idea what I was doing,” he laughed. “But they could see I was hungry to learn and agreed to teach me. I was super enthusiastic to learn.”

While he had no trained experience in glass blowing, he has long been fascinated with fire. In fact, he recalls childhood campfires where he enjoyed watching glass bottles thrown in the fire transform in the heat. “I’m a bit of a pyro,” he exclaimed.

Jack’s career has taken many twists and turns since those early days at Mt. St. Helens. Most notably, he landed at a studio in Boulder, Colorado where he began to fine tune and experiment with his craft. “I don’t mind making the same piece all day every day. That’s how you learn to finesse the materials and I love that. I love the constant state of learning,” he said.

It was here that a friend asked him to create a glass pumpkin, an innocent request turned life changing opportunity. “I made a pumpkin with a glass stem and realized I could sell them at the Pumpkin Show.”

pumpkin collectinHe arranged with his employer to use their workspace in his down time to create a trailer full of pumpkins he could haul home to the Pumpkin Show. “It was a gamble but I sold every last piece and knew I had something,” he said. He returned home to Colorado and began preparing for next year’s festival, beginning a tradition that has continued ever since.

For a period in the nineties, Jack took on a couple of different business partners, learning more about the business side of the art world. “I really don’t like that side of what I do,” he frowned while discussing problems he encountered as an artist partnering with investors.

He eventually came home to Ohio, setting up shop in a warehouse in the Short North Arts District of Columbus. He also began traveling the country, doing shows and developing a wholesale business that allows art lovers to find his work in stores like museum gift shops across the country.

While he was happy to be back in Ohio, Jack still longed to come home to the country. “I’m a country boy at heart,” he said. “I spent most of my childhood outdoors so I really don’t belong in the city.” When he located the property that is now his studio, he could see potential to do great things. “I’ve spent my life telling people about the beauty of the Hocking Hills. To be able to come home and create an attraction in an area that I love is a dream come true,” he said.

The studio, opened in December 2017, is about a mile and a half from Rock House and six miles from Laurelville. Most of their visitors seem to be tourists seeking adventure or maybe just some R&R while in the Hocking Hills. However, he invites locals to stop by as well. They do daily demonstrations for guests and a retail shop is available to purchase pieces as well.

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They also offer introductory workshops where students can learn the basics of glass blowing and make a piece with the aid of a master craftsman.  Plans are underway to make improvements to the property and for the creation of a school where budding artists can learn or improve their glass blowing skills.

Jack likes giving back to the community too. Last year they hosted a Summer Solstice Festival where proceeds benefits Sparrow House in South Perry. They plan to host the event again this year and to gift the proceeds to the Laurelville Fire Department. It will feature live music, food, kids’ activities and artists selling their work.

Visit Jack Pine Studio at 21397 Ohio 180, Laurelville or call 740.332.2223. Click here to visit them online  or on Facebook. Want to know more about the Summer Solstice Festival? They will post information on their Facebook page closer to event time!

Bank Where You See Our Logo

Do you know how to spot a VCNB branch?

We have seventeen locations in eight Ohio counties and they operate under a few different names – Friendly Bremen Banking Center, Canal Banking Center, Hocking Hills Banking Center,  Jackson County Banking Center, Pickaway County Banking Center, Ross County Banking Center and, of course – Vinton County National Bank.

Embracing a community name is our way of embracing our communities!  While they may operate with different names, all of these bank branches are a part of the VCNB Financial Family and all embrace the same values and priorities that have been developed since our first bank opened in McArthur in 1867.

But how do you recognize a VCNB branch? That’s easy. Just look for our logo!

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Regardless of which VCNB branch you went to when opening an account, you can bank anywhere you see our logo. Need help finding a VCNB office? Click here!

 

VCNB Team To Compete In The Buck Fifty

When the Buck Fifty kicks off in Chillicothe Friday afternoon, a team from VCNB will be among a field of nearly a hundred teams hoping to conquer the challenging overnight relay race through Ross County. The course winds through several communities, along back roads and through the area’s state and national parks. While the region’s rolling hills and winding roads make a scenic backdrop for a run, the course is a grueling 150 miles of physical and mental challenges.

But this relay race isn’t just about winners and losers. It’s also about raising money for an important cause in Ross County. Buck Fifty proceeds benefit the Drug Free Clubs of America Program in Ross County.

VCNB Head of Consumer Lending and VCNB Team Captain Tom Oyer said that helping raise money for this important cause was part of the reason the bank wanted to participate. “It’s an important cause here in Ross County. All the money raised is used to combat the drug problems in the community, specifically young people in schools,” he said.

Race jersey

Look for the VCNB team jerseys during the Buck Fifty Friday and Saturday!

The bank’s participation in this third annual event was actually the brainchild of VCNB President Mark Erslan and Personal Banker Dustin Nusbaum. An avid runner, Nusbaum logs ten to twenty miles every week and has supported the Buck Fifty since its inception three years ago.

The Buck Fifty funds this program which has attracted 65 percent of all Ross County high school students, using a drug free pledge, education and incentives to keep kids clean.

The race begins on Friday and ends Saturday, mainly with ten person teams and just a handful of elite five person teams. The bank’s team consists of ten people from Chillicothe and other areas where the bank has branches.

Each ten person team is divided into two vans, with one van on the road at all times while one person is running. While the terrain is challenging, the schedule is grueling. It calls for participants to run several miles at a time, at three different times during a 24 hour span.

By day, Bryan Radabaugh works as Vice President of Operations at the bank’s McArthur office. In his free time he’s been training and looking forward to some family time with his two grown children who have also joined the bank’s team. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m in the same van as my kids so we’ll get to have some family time,” he said while describing the competitive spirit of son Bret, age 23, and daughter Hannah, age 20.

While Nusbaum has experience running this course, it will be a first time experience for the rest of the team. “It should be interesting for all of us. It’ll certainly be a challenge. You know, running is physical but it’s a mental thing too. Your body is saying ‘I can’t. I don’t want to do this.’ But you have to stay focused and use your mind to keep going,” Radabaugh said.

The VCNB Buck Fifty team consists of:

Mark Erslan, Chillicothe
Bryan Radabaugh, McArthur
Tom Oyer, Chillicothe
Mike Thurston, Pataskala
Gracie Rarick, Pataskala
Keirstan Mirgon, Lancaster
Josh Palmer, Pataskala
Dustin Nusbaum, Chillicothe
Bret Radabaugh, McArthur
Hannah Radabaugh, McArthur

“We’re all just proud to represent the bank and hope to do a good job,” Oyer said. “More than anything, we’re happy that the money raised at the Buck Fifty will be used for such a good cause.”

Best wishes to all of these volunteers who make up our team. We are proud of the work you do for the bank and look forward to seeing you compete this weekend! Want to learn more about the Bucky Fifty and how the money raised will be used locally? Click here for details.

Small Business Spotlight: The Olive Branch Coffee and Pizzeria

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

Ask Tamie Wallake to talk about her business The Olive Branch Coffee and Pizzeria and you might expect her to tell you about the delicious food they make with fresh ingredients. You might expect her to brag about how they’re able to prepare fresh subs, custom pizzas and salads in a matter of minutes. You might expect her to mention the relaxing atmosphere and the coffee shop that invites customers to stay.

If that’s what you expect from a conversation with Tamie, you would be wrong.

Instead, her eyes sparkle and her demeanor brightens as she discusses how she and her husband Bryan use this business to help people who need a second chance. The Olive Branch helps people who are recovering from tough breaks and poor life choices that may have resulted in addiction, homelessness or crime.

The story of how this business came to be and of its place in Canal Winchester is actually quite complex and one that is rooted in faith and service to community. Bryan is a real estate broker and Tamie is a former realtor. Together, the pair have a history of building and selling businesses that fill a need,  including a golf course, a fitness center, and a construction company. “We have a talent for building businesses but not an eye for growing them. So, after selling the golf course we were looking for a new project.  I felt like God wanted me to do a daycare,” she explained.

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That’s why they opened Heaven Sent Children’s Academy which employs 35 teachers to care for 200 children. Empty acreage next door to the daycare was beckoning to be filled but the pair weren’t certain what business they should pursue next.

When Bryan came home and announced he wanted to open a pizza shop, she said her reaction was not initially supportive. “What do we know about making pizzas? I thought he was crazy,” she laughed. “But then I started thinking about the good we could do and how we could help people who are struggling because they made bad choices at some point in their lives.”

Those people who are struggling often slip through the cracks, becoming a statistic or sometimes a story on the evening news. But through the daycare, through her sister who is a foster parent, and through the couple’s nonprofit organization called Breaking Chains, she saw firsthand the dire need that many members of the community suffered with every day.

She tells some of those stories – not of statistics – but of real people who couldn’t get ahead even when they tried and who needed a second chance to start their lives anew.

She speaks of a young man who was homeless and who had a felony conviction. A hard worker that no one would hire because of the conviction, he had nowhere to live and a newborn baby. So Tamie and Bryan stepped up to help the young family and learned why it is so easy for people like him to be forgotten. “He was really trying but couldn’t get a job, couldn’t get a place to live because of bad choices he made years before. It’s no wonder people struggle when they can’t get a second chance,” she said.

“I realized I could use this business to help people like him. So I agreed to make pizzas if we could use it to help others and to give back,” she said. Consequently, they donate monthly to two charities including Breaking Chains which assists people coming out of homelessness and drug addiction.

But Tamie and Bryan didn’t want to just make pizzas. They wanted to make excellent pizza with fresh ingredients, quick service and the best customer service in town. They first attended pizza school at Good Fellas in Staten Island, New York. Good Fellas is renowned in the pizza industry for making some of the world’s best pizzas. They teach their students to use the best ingredients to make their dough and sauce from scratch.

Customers can watch their dough pressed and the pizza made before their eyes. It’s slid into a brick oven and baked for 2.5 minutes before coming out piping hot and ready to enjoy.

Signature pizzas include a BBQ Chicken Pizza with sweet bbq sauce, mozzarella/ provolone mix and cheddar cheeses plus chicken, bacon and onion. Diners can also choose from a host of meats, vegetables and cheeses as well as eight sauces to make their own custom pizza. Plus they offer signature subs and salads as well. Vegan and gluten free customers will have no trouble finding delicious options on the menu. They even offer a cauliflower crust.

Many of their ingredients come from a community garden behind the restaurant. Daycare children from Heaven Sent help tend the garden, learning about the how food grows and the importance of worms. “These are city kids and they have a chance to learn about growing food. Plus, what we don’t use here is donated to Heaven Sent so nothing is wasted,” she said.

Open the door to the Olive Branch and you are immediately hit with the divine smell of baking pizzas and melted cheese. The next thing you’ll notice is how prompt, courteous and helpful the staff are at all times. “We focus on customer service. We want the customer to be number one and we want the product to be excellent. We’ve worked to give them a sense of ownership and we are always working on customer service skills. Honestly, we have the cream of the crop here, a great group of kids,” she said of their staff of twenty.

“We are careful not to have too many second chancers here at one time,” she said as she explained how the ownership employees feel in their work extends to helping newcomers learn the Olive Branch way.

In addition, the business offers a coffee shop which serves One Line Coffee, a Columbus business that roasts coffee fresh when it is ordered. They actually offer more flavors than national chain coffee shops and have a peaceful atmosphere for conversation, meetings and quiet reflection. Smoothies, hot chocolate, espresso and frapuccino are a few menu items. Plus there are muffins, homemade cinnamon rolls, breakfast pizza and burritos. Homemade donuts are available Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

coffee shop

Comfy chairs welcome customers to the coffee shop.

The business has a distinct area for the pizza restaurant, a quiet area complete with a fireplace for the coffee shop as well as party space for bridal showers, Bible studies and birthday parties. “We literally offer the best of both worlds. We have fast, courteous service but we also have good quality ingredients, good food and a pleasant dining experience,” she said.

With the business approaching its two year anniversary, Tamie and Bryan have one eye on semi-retirement. “We understand that we are good at building businesses but we’re not so good at taking them to the next level and growing them,” she admitted.

That’s why they have engaged their grown sons to take over the Olive Branch. Braden will take over the marketing and Jeff will manage the daily operations. “Jeff has the mindset and the ability to take us to the next level and to do things here, to do things with people that I could never do,” she explained. “I’m at peace with stepping away from the daily work and trusting it with him. And I just know it’s going to be a real blessing for him and for others.”

Tamie and Bryan will take a break to rest before deciding their next move. She looks forward to finding greater balance in her life and to enjoying some freedoms that are hard to achieve when running a business every day. But she remains passionate about the message on their shirts – “It’s not just about the dough. Pizza with a purpose.”

She clearly is devoted to helping people by filling needs in the community and through addressing specialized needs that impact individuals and families. “Being able to do this has been a true blessing for us. Being able to take a break and to come back having found some balance, I think we’ll love it more,” she said with a smile.

The Olive Branch Coffee and Pizzeria is located at 5600 Gender Road in Canal Winchester. Dine in, carry out, request delivery or arrange curbside pickup. Order online, follow them on Facebook or call 614.524.6888.

 

 

 

 

Gem Beverages: A Southern Ohio Tradition Since 1923

Black and white

The three Holzapfel Brothers – Henry, Frank and Leonard are pictured watching the first bottles of “Double Dry Ginger Ale” coming off the production line at the Gem Bottling Plant in Wellston in the late sixties.

If southern Ohio had an official drink it would most certainly come from Gem Beverages in Wellston. This longtime family business has been distributing Ski and Gem Brand drinks for decades, delighting generations with their unique flavors and colorful packaging.

The company distributes Ski, Diet Ski, Cherry Ski, Tropical Ski, Double Cola, Jumbo Orange and Gem Cream Soda from the 11th Street location that’s been home to Gem since the fifties.

Owner Rex Holzapfel is just the third owner of the business since it opened in 1923 and is proud of both his product and the business’ history.

The business began in 1923 when two local men – Will Corn and Harvey Malloy started a bottling business in an old garage that was located where the Kroger parking lot now stands. On Saint Patrick’s Day 1938, Holzapfel’s father and two uncles purchased the business with a little help from their mother. “My dad was born in 1923 so he was the same age as the business. He was fifteen years old when they bought it. He was the youngest but he worked and received a paycheck just like the other two,” Rex explained.

The bottling and distribution business expanded over time, as they bottled their own line of Gem flavors. In 1956, they replaced their Gem cola when they began bottling Double Cola. A few years later, the company began bottling Ski, which eventually became a regional favorite.

The elder Holzapfels – Henry, Frank and Rex’s dad Leonard – remained involved in the business even after Rex purchased it in 1996. Leonard would continue working on reports and making bank runs until shortly before his death at the age of 95.
“The three of them would go to Lee’s (Lee’s Steakhouse is a popular local restaurant near the Gem headquarters) every day at 1:30 or two o’clock. They always went for coffee. They could be arguing about something but once the coffee came, the argument was done and that was that,” he said with a smile.

This went on every day for nearly six decades. When Frank died in 1999 and Henry in 2000, Rex said that his wife suggested he needed to have coffee with his dad. “I thought I was too busy but I made the time. Ended up going every day for eighteen years and I’m glad,” he said.

The business has long been a family affair. His brothers, cousins and others have worked after school and summer jobs over the years. Today, Rex’s own children are involved in the family business. His daughter does the books while his son drives a route. “In fact, it seems like almost everyone has worked here at some point. The kids laugh because when I’m out I’ll say, ‘that person used to work at Gem Bottling and that person used to work at Gem’ and the kids will ask ‘WHO didn’t work there!’ I just laugh,” he said sheepishly.

Unfortunately, the industry has seen a number of changes over time that have made his work a bit more challenging. It was a tough decision but Rex said they chose to close the bottling division in 2006 and to focus on the distribution side of the business. “It was a hard decision but it was something that needed to be done. I went from working 55 or sixty hours a week and not making much money at all to turning a better profit in half that time,” he said.

Once up on a time, Rex said that soft drink bottlers could be found in nearly every town. “It’s just how it worked. Local drinks, national soft drinks, they all used local bottlers. Now it’s getting hard to find those smaller bottlers. It’s getting hard to find someone that will bottle for you,” he said.

The highly competitive soft drink industry is ruled by large national names that can afford to buy shelf space in grocery and convenience stores while some large retailers refuse to carry regional brands. “This makes it a lot harder. But our drinks have a following. Ski has a following and the customers demand it around here.”

When asked what he would tell someone who hasn’t tasted Ski, Rex laughed. “I would tell them they haven’t lived! It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” he said. “When people ask what it tastes like I always say it tastes like Mountain Dew but better.”

Ski was born in 1956, a product of the Double Cola Company of Chattanooga, TN. In their advertising, the company boasts that it’s made with “real lemon and real orange juices with a kick.” The country band The Kentucky Headhunters mentioned Ski in their 1989 song “Dumas Walker.”

The band originated in the Greensburg, Kentucky area which was a big Ski bottling area. When suggested that they immortalized Ski with their song, Rex laughed and suggested that Ski immortalized the Headhunters. “We were around a long time before they were,” he quipped.

bottles

Multiple flavors of Ski and Gem brand products are staples in stores across southern Ohio.

Rex is also quick to point out that Ski has continued to grow in southern Ohio while Pepsi and Coke have not. He said that they first introduced Ski in Vinton County in 1961 and that the drink’s popularity spread like wildfire in that community. From there, it gained popularity in Jackson County and beyond and has continued to grow.

Today, Gem Beverages is responsible for distribution of the Ski brand and other drinks in eight counties including Jackson, Vinton, Athens, Hocking, Ross, Pike, Meigs and Gallia. They recently began delivering to the Duke and Duchess stores in Chillicothe because customers requested it.

He said the best way for customers to get a product in their local store is to simply ask store management to carry it. “That’s how we ended up in Duke and Duchess, customers were asking for it,” he said.

The drinks are available in a variety of sizes including twelve and six packs of cans, 20 ounce bottles, 12 ounce long neck bottles, 16.9 ounce six packs and two liters.

In looking toward the future, Rex says he plans to “just keep doing what we’re doing. By the grace of God, we’re still here,” he said. But he has a secret weapon in the form of a nineteen year old who he calls “the face of the future.”

Rex and John 2

Josh Lung and Rex Holzapfel are pictured outside Gem Beverages in Wellston.

Josh Lung started at Gem with an after school job a few years ago and says that he loves working there. “I just love being here. I don’t know. It’s a great place to work and great people to be around,” Josh said with a huge smile.

“You know how some kids like to play sports? Well, work has always been Josh’s sport,” Rex said of the young man who he has known since he was a small tot. “He reminds me of me sometimes, the way he gets so excited about this place. He’s definitely the new face of Gem.”

Today, Rex also enjoys working with his son Kevin and daughter Kerri. His wife Vicki owns Holzapfel Family Clinic in Jackson and the couple have four grandchildren- Olivia, Kash, Easton and Maizy plus another on the way.

VCNB Supports Project Recognizing Ohio’s First Female Sheriff

Alice's House and Sheriff Maude DonationVCNB is pleased to assist the Vinton County Historical and Genealogical Society (VCHGS) by supporting their project to recognize Maude Collins as Ohio’s first female Sheriff. VCNB gave $1,500 to the project which will result in the creation of a Historical Marker at the Vinton County Courthouse, near the Sheriff’s Office where Collins served.

sheriff-maude-collins

Sheriff Maude Collins

Sheriff Maude was appointed Sheriff in 1925 following the death of her husband, Sheriff Fletcher Collins, who was killed in the line of duty. She went on to run for a term of her own, beating male candidates in both Primary and General Elections. Another county has made previous claims that their sheriff was the first Ohio woman to hold this position in the seventies. VCHGS applied to the Ohio History Connection’s historic markers program last year in an attempt to rectify the oversight.

VCNB Branch Manager Jane Nickels praised the efforts to recognize the pioneering sheriff. “We at the bank appreciate your efforts to preserve the memory of Sheriff Maude and to tell her story in a way that generations to come will see and appreciate,” she said.

VCHGS President Deanna Tribe thanked the bank for supporting this project which had already received donations from several local residents and others who wanted to help. “Maude Collins is a significant figure not only in Vinton County’s history, but also Ohio’s history, women’s history, and law enforcement’s history. This historical marker in her honor will make Maude’s story more known to the public,” Tribe said. She also thanked VCNB Marketing Specialist Brandi Betts for assisting in the research and preparation of the marker application.

Supporting Community By Investing In Ourselves

Artists Renderings of the new Pickaway County Banking Center in Ashville

 

Last month we told you a little about our core values – the things we value most and that make us who we are. We talked specifically about how we value community and the things we do to support our communities through volunteerism, donations and encouraging our employees to get involved.

Another way that we support our communities is through investing in ourselves. That sounds a bit self-serving but we believe in taking care of our buildings and putting our best foot forward whenever possible. A well cared for branch that operates efficiently is an investment in the community as well as in ourselves.

That’s part of the reason we have been undergoing upgrades at some of branches for the last several months. Last year we updated the storefront of our Circleville location and we’re putting the finishing touches on work at our Grove City branch while renovation projects are in full swing at our Laurelville and Lancaster West Fair locations. We recently finished demolition and clean-up of our Ashville building to make way for a brand new facility.

Plans are in the pipeline for improvements at other branches in the coming years.

Supporting the community means being good neighbors and we hope you’ll be happy with the results as we modernize and improve our locations in the coming months and years. The next time you’re in one of the branches under construction, be sure to ask the staff about the plans and have a look at the artist’s renderings of the new work!

Small Business Spotlight: Donut World

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

50755929_534720143701097_998579857665294336_nwhite donutsBill Miller doesn’t know what he would be doing if not for making donuts. That’s because he’s been in the donut business since his very first high school job at Jolly Pirate Donuts in Lancaster. For the last thirty years, he and his wife Cheryl have owned Donut World, a Lancaster landmark known for the best donuts in town.

A graduate of Berne-Union High School, Bill started working at Jolly Pirate doing clean-up work. “I started out with the most entry level job you could do there and worked up to night shift manager,” he said.

Bill and Cheryl opened their first shop in Logan in 1989 where they operated successfully until moving to Lancaster in 1993. Located at the corner of N. Broad Street and Sixth Street, the shop is just a few blocks off of Memorial Drive.

The delicious aroma of donuts permeates the neighborhood as one car after another lines up to order. Many are regulars who need only to pull up and wait for their favorite treat to be boxed and passed out the window. Others take their time selecting just the right donut.

People from the neighborhood walk in to pick up breakfast. A youngster with a clean report from the dentist next door comes in with a coupon to claim his rewards for taking care of his teeth. His dad requests a cherry turnover and the pair leave happy.

And this goes on all morning long.

The staff is friendly and cheerful, always glad to help the next person at the window. Some are family while others have been with the shop for many years. They even still have the first employee they hired in Logan in 1989. Bill and Cheryl’s daughter Heather works at the shop now but was just a little girl when she named it Donut World from the back seat of the family car. Together, they all seem to share the bonds that come from working in close quarters for a long time.

Group.jpgTheir variety of donuts is exceptional and includes over 50 kinds, including some seasonal favorites like pumpkin and cherry. “We tend to focus on the most popular and on the things people love the very best,” Bill said as he began naming customer favorites like chocolate iced vanilla, devil’s food, chocolate bismarks, apple fritters and cinnamon rolls. Still the runaway favorite here is good old fashioned glazed donuts. “People never get tired of our glazed donuts,” he said.

They do take requests and he said they are always open to new things if they think there’s a market.

The shop has a large following, not just in Fairfield County but across the region and beyond. “We have customers come up from Logan and Vinton County, from Columbus, Buckeye Lake –really from all over the area,” he said before going on to talk about those who come from much further away.

“We have a lot of customers who stop by when they come to visit family in town. They’ll come in from out-of-state, go see the family and then come straight here. We have people who say they wish we were wherever they live.”

Bill gives credit to many other people for his own successes. He speaks fondly of a friend in the donut business who encouraged him to open his own shop and then helped him get started. He smiles at the memory of an old friend, now deceased, who drew up the Donut Man character when Donut World was still just a dream in a young man’s mind. Donut Man still presides over the shop, looking down from the sign out front.

Bill credits his family for their hard work too. Cheryl does their books. His daughter, sons, grandsons, sister-in-law and mother either work in the shop now or have helped out over the years.

Most of all, he’s grateful to his parents and to his uncle who taught him work ethic, self-sufficiency and saving money.  “They taught me to be smart about saving, about growing food and preserving it, about building houses and taking care of things. I owe a lot to my mom and dad. I had the greatest parents you would ever want to have,” he said. “They taught me to be careful with money, to be reasonable and to always be fair.”

Then there are the people he’s met because of his line of work. “I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people. When I worked nights at Jolly Pirate I would talk to older customers and to the night shift cops.  You can learn so much just from talking to people,” he pointed out.

Life, he said, hasn’t always been easy. “Especially in the beginning, in the early days in Logan, I worked eighteen to twenty hours a day for the first few years.”  Now he has a good staff in place and the time to enjoy some of his hobbies and pursuits. He especially enjoys big game hunting and trips on his motorcycle.

A lot of people don’t know Bill by name but they do know his business. “I see people everywhere I go and they just call me the ‘donut man’ and I think that’s pretty great. Everything I have is because of donuts so I’m always happy to stop and talk to my customers.”

51188981_382350412577202_6012871888466870272_nDonut World is one of the top ranked donut shops in Ohio and was the Best Bakery in Fairfield County in 2016 and 2017, according to the readers of the Lancaster Eagle Gazette.  They have a five star rating on Yelp and have a large following on Facebook too.

In addition to selling donuts by the single or by the dozen, they provide larger orders to local churches, schools and organizations. They also do close to fifty weddings per year, enjoying an ever growing trend to serve donuts in lieu of a wedding cake.

Donut World is located at 601 N. Broad St., in Lancaster.  Stop by or call them at 740.653.4888 to place your special order.  You can also follow them on Facebook.  Donut World is open 24-hours a day, closing only for Christmas morning. They recently began accepting plastic in addition to cash.