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.

October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a topic that hits close to home for millions of American families but one that most of us aren’t comfortable discussing. Our friends at The Lighthouse Domestic Violence Shelter in Fairfield County have asked VCNB employees to shine a light on these crimes by wearing purple on October 16. Our employees will wear purple and are invited to donate $5 to The Lighthouse so that they can wear jeans that day as well.

An average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. That’s more than 12 million women and men over the course of a single year, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Here at VCNB, we are concerned for the safety of all people who are victims of abuse. The fact that so many Americans, so many of our neighbors, live in fear of their own partner is unacceptable. We have seen first-hand the struggles of too many women and men in abusive relationships and were devastated last year by the senseless murder of a former employee.

Life with an abuser is a lonely one and it is scary. An abuser is a bully who normalizes abuse and terminates their victim’s relationships with loved ones. They use ongoing verbal abuse to devastate their self-esteem, making them believe that they deserve to be abused. They make sure their victims have no resources of their own by denying them opportunities to work or to have their own money.

Leaving this untenable situation seems impossible but there are organizations with staff and resources that will provide vital support to them leave this dangerous situation.

If you are someone you love is in an abusive relationship, there are local shelters as well as a national hotline that you can turn to for help. Each county’s domestic violence organization is different with some offering everything from emergency shelter to victim advocacy to safety plans.

When you’re ready, here are some of the resources available in the counties where we have branches.

Fairfield
The Lighthouse
Lancaster
740.687.4423
www.lancasterlh.org/

Franklin
CHOICES
Columbus
614.224.4663
www.choicesdvcols.org

Hocking
My Sister’s Place
Athens
800.443.3402
www.mspathens.org/

Jackson
Serenity House
Gallipolis
800.942.9577
www.serenityhouseinc.weebly.com/

Licking
Center for New Beginnings
Newark
800.686.2760
www.thewoodland.org

Pickaway
Haven House of Pickaway County
Circleville
740.477.9113
www.havenhouse1180.com

Ross
Ross County Coalition Against DV
Chillicothe
Crisis Line 866.828.2273
www.facebook.com/RossCountyCoalitionAgainstDomesticViolence/

Vinton
Shepherd’s House
McArthur
740.596.9271
www.facebook.com/Shepherds-House-196460857034200/

Nationwide
National Domestic Violence Hotline
800.799.SAFE
www.thehotline.com

Small Business Spotlight: Ohio Steel Recycling

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!

Have some scrap metal in your way? Ohio Steel Recycling will be glad to take it off your hands and pay you for it too.

The company buys a long list of scrap metals from both commercial businesses and individuals. “We don’t care if you bring us a truck full of junk cars or just a trunk full of scrap from around your yard. We’re happy to take it all and will pay you for it,” owner John Belcher said. “That’s better than letting it sit in your way!”

They buy scrap metal that can be upgraded into materials to sell for recycling. For example, junk cars go through a process where they are drained of all fluids including gas and oil before the exhaust, wheels, tires and catalytic converter are removed. The metals and rubber can be recycled while the fluids like gas and oil must be properly disposed of by EPA standards. The car is then run through a compacter before being sold to another facility that will shred and separate the metals for recycling into other useful products.

This is helpful to the environment as it is more eco-friendly friendly to reuse metals than it is to mine more. It also prevents tons of materials from hitting landfills. “The environment would be a lot worse without places like this. Imagine if all this was sitting in a dump somewhere,” he said, gesturing to the hundreds of crushed cars that are stacked and waiting to be hauled off for recycling.

Cars are stripped of hazardous and valuable materials before being compacted and hauled away to be shredded. The shredded metals may be recycled and made into useful products.

But they take more than cars. They accept all sorts of junk vehicles and equipment as well as other items like appliances, copper wire and tubing, iron and steel scrap, aluminum scrap, cast iron, lead, brass and brass alloys, zinc and zinc alloys, demolition scrap, and industrial and manufacturing scrap. The list is quite long and includes almost everything metal.

For the average person, this could mean garage doors, metal siding, old plumbing, a car part or the refrigerator they just replaced.

There are some exceptions. They don’t take anything hazardous, toxic or radioactive. They don’t take any closed containers under pressure like propane or gas cylinders, fire extinguishers or aerosol cans that could explode. Liquids including gas, oil, paint, propane and water aren’t accepted either.

Copper wire that has been stripped from tubing awaits recycling.

Used bullets from a local gun range are among salvage materials that most people wouldn’t even think of as an opportunity to recycle. Copper wire is stripped from tubing, appliances are dismantled and everything that can be recycled is prepared to be trucked out to their next step in the recycling process.

John is always on the lookout for ways to expand the business and said they are about to begin accepting aluminum cans. “Aluminum cans are sort of a break even commodity for us but if it helps the customer, I think we should do it,” he said. “Besides, if they’re bringing us cans, they may realize this is a good place to bring other things.”

One customer hauled in an assortment of metal scrap in a bathtub. “You see all kinds of things in this line of work,” laughed John Belcher.

He works to keep his area as neat as possible given their line of work and encourages employees to remember “just because we’re a junkyard doesn’t mean we have to look like a junkyard!”  He went on to say “people don’t want to bring their nice cars into a bad place. Besides, we want to be good neighbors and keep things as clean as possible.”

John is also conscious of how the pandemic has impacted his business as well as other people and businesses. “It’s been a hard time for a lot of people. We closed for a couple of months and used the time to do some projects here. We’re open again but we’re not back to where we were in April. Honestly, I’m just looking forward to when things get better.”

John and his wife Dusty work together. They’ve been married for twenty years and have seven kids and five grandkids. He’s a Columbus native, living now in Grove City, but looking forward to someday moving back to the country near Stoutsville. He chats freely about the business, family and about finding a work-life balance. “Life is short and it’s important to appreciate the people in your life and the time that you have. Work is important and I really like what I do but you have to enjoy life to its fullest. Every day is important and I need to do better for sure but I’m trying,” he said.

Ohio Steel Recycling is located at 13141 National Road, Etna. Call them at 740.927.5384 and visit them online at www.ohiosteelrecycling.com.

In Their Own Words: Community Banking According To Our Branch Managers

We are proud to be a community bank. What does it really mean to be a community bank? We asked some of our branch managers to tell us in their own words what community banking means to them and what they like best about being a community banker. Here’s what they had to say!

“One of the things I appreciate about working for a community bank is that we get to know our customers and their unique needs. Growing up on a farm, I understand a farmer’s business and their needs. They don’t have to explain their life and the challenges to me the way they would to someone without that background.”

Katy Hanes

“I like being able to get to know my customers and I think they appreciate the personal touch they get from us. That’s not something that’s encouraged or even possible at big banks so it feels really good to offer it here.”

Matt Hearn

“One thing I really like about VCNB is that they encourage us to get involved in the community, they reward us for volunteering and they want us to know our customers.         I never had that before at my old job.”

Christina Wine

“The thing about working in a bank in a small community is that you get to know almost everyone and they get to know you. It feels good when someone calls and asks for you. It tells you that that you’re doing something right – that you’ve built a relationship with that person and that they trust you to take care of them.”

Charlotte McCarty

“It’s going to sound cheesy but I love helping people, especially the problem solving aspect of what I do. I appreciate that we are taught about why a policy or procedure exists and the bank gives us the tools and leeway to work with our customers.
We’re sometimes able to find ways to help the customer whether it’s helping them get approved for a car loan because their car just blew up or finding ways to help them
stop over drafting an account.”

JJ Wright

“You don’t find that community feel just anywhere but our involvement in the community allows us to be a resource to customers. That extends to employees too. When your staff and coworkers feel like family, you all work together better. You help each other out more and you feel like we’re all in this together.”

Brittany Walters

“I like to problem solve and love when I can figure out a customer’s issues.
That’s rewarding to help and to be a resource for them. Even with seventeen branches, we are still a community bank. We’re still allowed enough leeway to help customers
in a way that you just don’t find at big businesses. I mean, we all know
the Executive Team here. We all know the President.
We all are given the confidence and the freedom to work together.”

Kati Maple

“Do you know how important it is to work for a company that encourages employees to get involved? And it’s not just about opening savings accounts and lending money. It’s about helping out at events and going to the fair to buy livestock. I was a 4-her once and I remember how important it was to have businesses support the livestock sale. That’s where I got the money to open my savings account, from taking hogs to the fair!”

Jeremy Robson

“This is so much more rewarding than corporate banking which is very black and white. In corporate banking, there’s no opportunity to get to know your customers or to help someone who you’ve had to tell they can’t have what they want but that there
may be another solution. It’s like night and day when you go to work for a bank that actually wants to work with customers.”

Matthew Giroux

Here for You Badge

Small Business Spotlight: Perfect Weddings

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

beautiful dressWhen it comes to wedding planning, there is nothing more exciting or more stressful than choosing the right dress. Fortunately, local brides have a secret weapon at Perfect Weddings. Here Ellen Rickett uses her experience to help brides select just the right wedding gown and everything else she needs for the bridal party to wear.

In 35 years Ellen has refined her abilities for helping a bride choose the dress that makes them feel the most beautiful while carefully working within her budget. However, there is more to Perfect Weddings than just the bride’s dress. In fact, the relationship a bride and her bridal party develop with the Perfect Weddings staff only begins with dress selection.

“We will help a girl find the dress but it doesn’t end there. A lot of the larger stores will sell you a dress and send you out the door but we facilitate the storage, alterations and pressing. We like to give them one less thing to worry about.”

Perfect Weddings exteriorThe 7,000 square foot facility encompasses two floors of a tudor style shop on Memorial Drive in Lancaster. It is practically a wonderland of wedding gowns, bridal party gowns, homecoming and prom dresses. They also offer tuxedo rentals, jewelry, veils, shoes, garters and even fun socks to prevent the groom from getting cold feet.

Ellen and her daughter Kim started the business after Kim graduated college. They began with just $4,000 and a small shop on East Main Street. Today Kim manages the business while Ellen works directly with customers. However, Ellen doesn’t talk about them like they’re customers. She clearly takes a personal interest in each, making certain their individual experience is pleasant.

“The dress is the first thing you need when planning a wedding and there’s a lot of pressure to find the right one. Every bride wants the perfect dress and it’s my job to help them find it.”

One thing that makes Perfect Weddings unique is that they have three in-house seamstresses who they affectionately call “Angels” because they are known for performing miracles. The Angels perform all alterations on site so that dresses never leave the building until they are picked up for the wedding. “That’s important because they aren’t being shipped off for alterations and stored next to countless other dresses from other stores. We keep the dresses here, make the alterations and continue to store them until the wedding,” she said.

Dresses are even pressed by hand before they leave on the big day.

PressingPandemic related closures have created difficulties for the event business as most gatherings have been cancelled or postponed. “We went from 118 tux rentals in one weekend to none the following weekend,” she recalled. “It was a domino effect of tragedy for the kids, the brides, for us, our designers and distributors, the venues, for everyone involved.”

“Some girls had pictures taken in their prom dresses or had private mini proms with friends. Many weddings have been postponed until fall or until next year and we are here to help them, to help alleviate some worry as we will keep their dresses safe until they’re ready.”

Alleviating stress and worry is a common theme when Ellen discusses their work. “Planning a wedding can be stressful. For many girls, they’ve never planned an event so large. It’s a lot of work, a lot of details, a lot to worry about and we want to ensure that they aren’t worried about their dresses. We aim to give them one less thing to worry about.”

beautiful dress 2Money is another focus for Ellen as she strives to work within any budget. They typically have some dresses on sale for as little as $99 and the range of cost goes up to $2,300. They do offer a payment plan, a service that she said most bridal stores no longer provide.

“I never want to encourage a bride to go over her budget. I don’t work on commission so I have no reason to push something that someone cannot afford,” she explained. “The true reward is that moment when you turn her around to see herself in the mirror and she smiles. She smiles and sometimes tears will flow down her cheek because she knows this is the dress, the one she’s dreamed of. That’s why we do this.”

Ellen speaks with a bride before she comes in for her consultation. “Most girls have an idea of what they want. They know they want long sleeves or strapless or that they want a lot of bling. I talk with them about their desires and about their budget so that I can have some dresses ready for them when they come in.”

With over 600 styles under one roof, finding the right dress sounds intimidating but she said it typically takes just one visit and four to five dresses to find the one they love. “It’s the feeling they have in it. You can tell them they look good but if they don’t feel good, if they don’t feel beautiful, it’s not their dress.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ellen said their business has seen everything. Brides come from all over Ohio and across the country, often by referral. Weddings are sometimes very small or may have a dozen bridesmaids. They have done weddings for four sisters and are currently helping the third sister in another family. “It’s special when they think so much of us they are bringing a family member here.”

Perfect Weddings is located at 430 North Memorial Drive, Lancaster and is available by appointment by calling 740.654.4696. Visit them at perfectweddingsbridal.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

Small Business Spotlight: Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards and Farm Winery

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

116061571_449888325974325_8736316907901386237_n

Sunset on Locust Grove at Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards and Farm Winery.

Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards and Farm Winery is more than a winery, it’s a passion project for one local family and a truly special experience for visitors to the Hocking Hills region. Whether you come to spend the night in their guest suite or just to sip a glass of one of their signature wines, you likely will not want to leave.

The boutique winery sits atop Locust Grove, one of the scenic rolling hills of northern Vinton County. Mark and Margit Chevalier purchased the farm and its 1883 home when their four children were small. At the time, they were focused on giving their family a healthy country life while finding ways to keep the land working. Now the kids are grown and the couple have found a new way to work the land and to build a business that fills a need in the community.

They exude hospitality and charm as well as excitement that guests can now come and enjoy the literal fruits of their labor over the last ten years.

Mark is a retired educator who Margit says has “just a wonderful palette.” She is a trained horticulturist with a vision for a vineyard and winery that celebrates the grapes, the land and the human connection to both.

116040148_625697704718943_4030668859621223374_n

Mark and Margit Chevalier are the owners of Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards and Farm Winery in the Hocking Hills.

The winery just opened to the public in May but Mark said the process began a decade ago when they planted the first grapes. The 2014 Polar Vortex brought bitter cold that killed some of their French varieties and encouraged them to select all heirloom and hybrid varieties that grow well in this climate.

grapes and sky

Margit speaks with passion for all the grapes they grow.

Margit has an intimate knowledge of all their grapes, how they grow, required care and even their history. She also speaks with a motherly affection for their grapes. “They’re my babies!” she laughed. “My four babies are all grown up but now I have 5,000 of them to care for and help grow.”

Their wine list currently consists of Catawba, Norton, Seyval Blanc, Chambourcin and Grower’s White which they say is “a vineyard blend of estate grown hybrids finished in a soft, easy-drinking slightly sweet style.”

New wines will be added in coming years including Chardonel, Marquette, Itasca, Alexander and Marechal Foch. There is already a wait list for the Alexander which is expected in 2022.

The winery has plenty of room for guests both inside and out. The centerpiece inside is the bar, handmade by Mark with wood from a maple tree on a neighboring farm. Ash shelving, also of local origin, displays wine bottles that feature a label that Mark designed. Indoor seating welcomes visitors to stay for a while but the real centerpiece is the outdoor view. From the deck or a glider in the yard, guests can enjoy the breathtaking view of the vineyard and the rolling hills beyond.

It’s the perfect place to gather with friends or to enjoy an intimate evening for two.

Those who wish to stay longer can actually rent the Winery Loft which features a full kitchen, king bed, sofa bed and private entrance to accommodate up to four guests. Two private decks were designed to showcase the surroundings – one deck is placed for enjoying the sunrise while the other is available for optimal sunset viewing.

interior loft

Extend your stay at the farm by renting the loft over the winery. With a private entrance and proximity to the Hocking Hills State Parks, it is an ideal place to get away.

Situated near the Hocking Hills State Parks, it is the ideal location for a relaxing vacation or even a staycation for those looking to take a break close to home.

While their children are young adults who have begun finding their own way in the world, they all have been involved in the business and helping with its success. “Everything we do here is important. We are careful about what we grow and what we make and always make the best we can. It isn’t just our product, it’s our name on that bottle,” Mark explained.

Margit echoed his thoughts. “We pride ourselves that this isn’t just a winery. It’s a vineyard and everything is from our land. We have never bought a single grape from another vineyard,” Margit said. “You’ve never tasted grapes like this, wine like ours because it tastes like the work and love we’ve put in here.”

They have plans to someday serve some food but currently invite guests to bring their own. “Bring a picnic! We welcome everyone to bring their own food, a basket of bread and cheese or even a pizza! We don’t mind,” Margit said. “This is our own slice of paradise, our own Garden of Eden and we want people to come here and enjoy it. We want them to stay and experience what we live with every day.

As the midsummer sun sets, illuminating acres of grapevines for as far as the eye can see, their two border collies romp with a toy in the field and birds sing their final song of the day. Two out-of-town guests savor the moment from the deck and it really does feel like paradise.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While 2020 hasn’t been an ideal time to open a new business, Margit said that their property is a perfect place to find some sense of normalcy. She pointed out there is ample room for guests to safely enjoy each other’s company and that social distancing is no trouble.

She recalled a Loft guest who recently brought her children from the city for an overnight stay. “She sat down at the campfire and you could just feel the weight of her worries leave. She said ‘this is the first time I’ve felt normal in I don’t know how long,’ and it made me happy,” Margit recalled. “It’s so important to me that people have that opportunity to just breathe and enjoy their surroundings.”

Visit Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards and Winery online for more information including hours and menu or to book a stay in the Winery Loft. Follow them on Facebook for their latest news and photos.