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.

 

 

 

 

Small Business Spotlight: Crossroads Meats

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!

Crossroads Meats exterior

Crossroads Meats is a custom butcher shop and retail store on Main Street in Adelphi.

If you’re looking for fresh, good quality meat, a local butcher shop is the place to go. Crossroads Meats in Adelphi specializes in custom butchering but has a popular retail storefront as well. Here you’ll find everything you need to stock your freezer or to entertain guests at your next backyard barbeque.

The attention to detail that owner Noah Cross gives to his work, combined with an increasing demand for quality meat, has helped the shop develop an eager following of customers.

Noah grew up in his father’s butcher shop in rural Missouri, where he helped out while learning the trade. “Growing up, I thought I’d never butcher for a living. Why would I when there’s all kinds of exciting things to do? But it comes back to what you know and what you love and I really love what I do,” he said with a smile.

Yet, when Noah and his wife Ann had the opportunity to relocate to Ohio and start a new life with a newly settled Mennonite community, Noah wasn’t sure he wanted to continue in the business. ‘It’s long days and they’re hard days. It’s real physical work, especially in your arms,” he said.

So when they came to Ohio, he took up tree trimming and removal. He did that for a while but quickly learned this fair weather business didn’t keep him busy enough. So he returned to his roots and began processing deer on the side, growing this business to accommodate the community’s need. This side business quickly took off, causing him to buy the old hardware store in Adelphi and set up a butcher shop and retail store.

Here he focuses on custom cattle processing jobs which keeps him extremely busy. At this time, their custom work is booked through early 2021.

But many customers know Crossroads for their retail shop. Here, customers line up to buy everything from hamburger and steaks to handmade sausage and fresh marinated chicken.

“A lot of our business lately has come in because of COVID. They say there’s a meat shortage and a lot of people have come here because they couldn’t get what they want at the store. But once they try our product they say they’ll never go back to buying at the grocery. They say they’re spoiled now,” he said. “A lot of people don’t believe there’s a difference in the taste but there really is. And you can shout till you’re blue in the face but it doesn’t mean anything until they try it and taste the difference for themselves.”

When asked about the difference in fresh meat from a butcher shop and that from a grocery store, Noah said that part of the difference lies in geography and timing. “When you’re buying meat from the store, you might be buying something that was raised in Kansas and slaughtered in California. Then it still has to be transported to the store for you to buy it. I’m not saying that a Kansas animal isn’t as good as an Ohio one but animals don’t transport well dead or alive. By the time it gets to you, that really shortens the shelf life,” he explained.

There’s a sign in the store that seems to summarize his work philosophy. It reads “Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy local and it can buy fresh.”

Group

Noah Cross and his employees take pride in the work they do, providing quality meats for the community. From left are Ginny Beachy, Twila Martin, Noah Cross and Jemima Zook.

That’s part of the reason he has begun raising his own cattle just down the road. “I like going from farm to table. I like feeding my own and knowing how it was cared for and that it just traveled a quarter mile down the road to get here. It’s important to me, knowing what I’m providing for people,” Noah said. “I have customers who have been up to see them and have already ordered cattle that isn’t even ready yet because they’re that confident it will be good.”

The meat they currently sell in the store comes from Heffelfinger’s Meats here in Ohio. Coolers are stocked with thick cut bacon, hamburger, steaks, chicken and pork chops. Noah’s employees make their own bratwurst, snack sticks, summer sausage, trail bologna, sausage links and sausage patties among other things. But some of their most popular items are already marinated and ready to cook. Chicken marinades include barbeque, garlic butter and southwest. He said their burgundy pepper New York strip steak and old fashioned dry rub bacon are especially popular too. Their seasoned hamburger patties are big sellers and can be purchased in smoky molasses, garlic tomato basil, and jalapeno cheddar.

Each Saturday, he fires up the smoker out front and cooks sixty to eighty sides of ribs. They come out of the smoker at noon, fresh and ready for customers to enjoy. They do encourage ordering in advance to ensure that customers are able to get this high demand product.

Some Thursdays, he smokes chicken wings, legs quarters and drumsticks too. Anything not sold that day will be available for purchase in the store.

Noah believes in delivering quality service and product. He also is pleased to work with customers and deliver what they request. He described a popular sweet Italian bratwurst link that they make. When a customer asked for that seasoning in a patty instead of a link, they were happy to accommodate. “That’s how new products are born,” he said.

The store also sells Camp Chef brand grills and smokers, chest freezers, some meat seasonings and Ben’s brand mustards and barbeque sauces. Essentially, if you need the meat or some way to freeze, flavor or cook it, Crossroads can help!

The business is very much a family operation. His wife Ann helps out with the business aspect and their four little boys, ages 10, 7, 5, and 2 spend a lot of time with their dad here and are well known to regular customers. They also employ three people to do processing, packaging and to help with the store.

While they clearly work hard and long days, Noah his thankful to the community for their support. “The people here are just wonderful. We moved here not knowing anyone and not deserving a thing and these Ohio people have absolutely showered us with their friendship, their kindness and business,” he said. “We’ve made so many wonderful friends that we simply couldn’t ask for more.”

Crossroads Meats is located at 11826 Main Street, Adelphi. For more information, visit their store or call 740.702.MEAT.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Albright Saw Company

Albright historic pic

This antique photo features a number of Jerry Albright’s relatives and many others from the community who worked in logging and sawmills in Vinton County.

Ask Jerry Albright to talk about his work and two things are clear: he loves what he does and he knows his business. The founder of Albright Saw Company has officially been in business since 1979 but his experience started when he was a teenager just helping out his dad, Johnny.

Today he owns the Frick brand of sawmills, one of the best known and oldest sawmill brands in the country. They manufacture, sell and service sawmills but that’s just the tip of the saw blade when it comes to describing what they do.

To understand the Albright story, it’s important to go back a few generations. “My great grandpa, my grandpa and my dad all worked in sawmills. They sawed, logged, farmed. They were just like everyone else, they did whatever they had to do to make a living,” Jerry said before describing his own upbringing in Vinton County, being raised by his parents, Ruth and Johnny Albright.

The family lived on Pretty Run Road, near where his business is located today. With six kids to support, Jerry’s dad farmed and owned a sawmill before eventually teaching himself the art of saw hammering. This is the technique used to straighten a saw. It’s done with an eight pound hammer, an 800 pound anvil and a two foot long straightedge. His dad was known as the man to see if you had trouble with a sawmill.

In that day, dozens of sawmilling operations across Vinton County provided a large nearby customer base. He did this work during the day and worked nights for Dale Riddle’s mill and the teenaged Jerry helped where he could. “I was lucky to grow up around it and it just came easy to me. I was lucky to come from a family that taught us to work hard,” he said.

Today, Jerry has a reputation much like his father’s. “I like being the one that can fix it, the one you call when no one else can figure out the problem,” he said.

That reputation was hard earned. Over 41 years Jerry has built a customer base of thousands, taking him all over the country to hammer saws and to fix sawmill troubles.

He had been selling products for big brands when opportunity knocked in 1993. That’s when Jerry contacted Frick, in hopes of becoming a distributor. However, the company was for sale and new distributors weren’t being sought.

On a whim, he asked for a price. Realizing it was a fair price and good opportunity to buy the operation including all the blueprints, patterns, copyrights, equipment, molds and parts, he visited the Mississippi based facility and then the bank for financing. Within a short amount of time he was the proud owner of a brand that had been manufacturing trusted sawmills since 1875.

The rest, as they say, is history.

albright saw work

Jerrod Albright continues the family tradition, learning alongside his dad.

Since then, his company has supplied Frick sawmills to operations in 35 states including South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and many points in between. Add in the parts distribution and saw hammering services and he has done business in 45 states and three Canadian provinces.

While there are a number of sawmill brands on the market, he said his mills are known for precision at an affordable price. “We can do the same volume as the other guy but more accurate and for less money.”

Today, there are just two other businesses in Ohio that do similar work hammering saws. “There aren’t a lot of us around,” he said.

What’s truly fascinating about Jerry Albright is that he’s able to speak so knowledgeably about how the machines work, the science involved in how a saw blade turns, and the computers used to run a modern sawmill that it would be easy to assume he has extensive formal training. But the Vinton County High School alum just laughs and shakes his head when asked about how he became so informed about everything from physics to engineering. “I’ve blown up a lot of stuff!” he exclaimed. “And I’m not really kidding. You learn a lot by doing,” he laughed.

All that experience has come in handy, helping thousands of customers across the country as well as some customers of his competitors. “I’m sort of a thorn in their side,” he said of his competitors while recalling one very expensive sawmill that wouldn’t work. The manufacturer wouldn’t help the new owner and the owners were desperate to get their new investment working.

Jerry was able to identify the issues in one visit, order parts and go back another day to oversee part replacement, adjustments and repairs. “I’ve never seen anyone as depressed as that sawmill owner when I got there. By midnight just a few days later we had it running right,” he said. With millions invested in a mill that didn’t work, the owner might have lost everything on this endeavor if not for Jerry’s years of expertise.

He has also shared his knowledge with countless sawyers, the person who operates the mill. One example is Shawn Cramer, an employee of the Zaleski State Forest. The state forest had a Frick sawmill which was destroyed by fire in recent years. Albright built the new sawmill that replaced it. He has been teaching the crew that operates it.

“There were one or two of us out there with some experience but the rest of us were greener than grass. He’s given us direction and helped us understand things better and helped us learn from our mistakes,” Cramer said. “He’s been nothing but helpful.”

Jerry is proud to say that the timber used for the new Lake Hope State Park Lodge was sawn by the Zaleski State Forest crew on a Frick sawmill. “When I visit, they let me play a little so, a couple of those beams in the lodge, I sawed myself. If you look up at the beams some of them have been sanded down and you’ll see the words Zaleski State Forest burned into them.”

Jerry also is known for a saw sharpener that he designed for accurate, safe and easy use.

image0

At home with Jerry and Debbie Albright. The couple have been married forty years and are known for their involvement in the community.

Debbie, his wife of forty years, smiles as her husband speaks of his business. “He’s so much fun to listen to and, I know he thinks I’m crazy when I say this but he practically glows when he talks about his work. I don’t know many people who get that truly excited about their work,” she said. “But sometimes I think he’s happiest on the phone troubleshooting someone’s problem or looking for a solution,” she said before describing her husband’s tendency to go the extra mile for customers.

“Over the years, with smaller operations where these guys can’t afford an expensive breakdown, he’ll be out scavenging for parts, looking for a good way to solve their problem so they can get back to work,” she said.

Another interesting twist in his story is that Jerry has assisted the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in two states with identifying ways to make sawmills safer. Historically, the industry has been dangerous and some of Jerry’s own relatives have been injured or killed in sawmill and logging accidents. Today he is working to make the industry safer for a new generation of workers.

Jerry and Debbie have three grown children – Angie who helped with the books through high school and college; Jerrod who now does the hammering; and Jordan who is studying Business at Rio Grande College and works in the office on breaks and creates digital concepts of drawings of sawmills. Son-in-law, Chad Hafner, has worked weekends at the Londonderry location.

They also have two grandsons, Michael and Matthew, who Debbie says are “dying to get into the sawmill business.” The two teens have been helping their grandfather since they were tots just big enough to hold a broom or a paint brush. “I’ll put them to work painting parts or something. They just like to help,” he said.

The pair beam as they talk about their family and of how they have been able to employ lots of family over the years. “All of my brothers but one, nephews, nieces and brothers-in-law. My sister has been my bookkeeper for years. It really is a family affair and that’s important, I think.”

“I’ve been lucky to have been able to hire many friends, neighbors and relatives over the years to produce quality equipment, and that has helped me stay in business over forty years,” he added.

Today, the company employs ten people and last year they manufactured about a dozen sawmills. Jerry said they stay as busy as he wants to be given that it is important to him that they have free time for family. When their kids were in school, Albright coached youth basketball, baseball and softball for thirty consecutive years.

When son Jerrod competed on an international traveling basketball team, his team competed once in Australia. Debbie and Jerry went with the team, taking along Jordan who was just a toddler at the time. Debbie recounted how the team coach was ejected from the game after a few warnings. Without a coach they faced disqualification so Jerry stepped up to coach the last few minutes of the game. “It was just a few minutes but for a while there I was an international coach,” he laughed.

“I am a lucky man. The people I have met, the people I do business with, they’re the best people in the world. You won’t meet nicer people,” he said “And I’ve been able to make a living doing something I enjoy. Helping people, fixing things, doing the things that no one else around knows how to do,” he said. “I am fortunate.”

Albright Saw Company has two locations – the original on Pretty Run Road in Vinton County and a retail location near Londonderry in Ross County. Learn more about Albright Saw Company on Facebook.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Robert K. Fox Family YMCA

YMCA - Debt Free - Ron Collins with Board of DirectorsThe Robert K. Fox Family YMCA in Fairfield County was one of the first stories in our Small Business Spotlight series. Many exciting things have happened here since that first spotlight in 2015.

The latest and most exciting piece of news is that theorganization heads into this new decade debt-free!  That’s right – the loan taken out for their nearly twenty year improvement project was paid off at the beginning of this year thanks in large part to the generosity of an anonymous donor who has been contributing to the cause for nearly a decade.  This project officially got under way in 2000, allowing for the expansion and renovation of the main campus. Paying it off has allowed the program – and its personnel – to breathe a little easier.

CFO Kerry Sheets recalled how it came about.  “I remember it was Christmas time in 2013, which is already a stressful time.  And an individual approached our office and said they wanted to help.”  The donor laid out a plan and committed monies on the spot – seven payments over seven years to be exact.

“I cried.  Oh, I cried” Kerry recalled.  Without this donor, the YMCA in 2008 would have faced some hard decisions.  Operating funds were being set aside in order to ensure payment of the huge loan they had undertaken, and expenses were being evaluated.  After the donor’s offer, the situation essentially changed overnight.  “And sure enough, I woke up, came in one morning, and there is a donation check waiting for us.”  This continued six additional times, and was a key factor in the Y’s ability to celebrate their “Debt-Free 2020.”

In addition to paying off the loan, they also recently opened the River Valley Campus (RVC) branch, a brand new second location created in partnership with Fairfield Medical Center.  Officially opening in September 2019, the RVC was a years-long project that evolved far beyond the initial concept.

“We were approached initially by Fairfield Medical Center who were in the planning stages and they had some ideas about child care” said Robert K. Family Fox YMCA’s CEO, Howard Long.  The YMCA was intrigued by the potential partnership, so as the ideas began to flow and the model for what the medical center could be began to evolve, so too did the Y’s involvement in the project.

“We all have the same goals.  We just want the community to be healthy” explained Howard.  It made the partnership a no brainer, and what came out of it was a brand new, fully functional YMCA facility, operated and maintained by YMCA employees.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From day one the public response to the spacious facility and the latest and greatest in exercise science equipment has been nothing but positive.  “It’s been an amazing partnership” Howard beamed, before referring to the value the new facility adds for Fairfield Medical Center, the YMCA, and their members.  “Our brand has a value and that was recognized.  Our logo is prominently displayed.  It’s fully functional – a brand new second branch.  It’s instant value for our members!”

The RVC has quickly become a model for YMCA programs across the state to follow.  “I’m taking calls and meetings all the time” said Howard.  “They want to know how we did it, and this is really a model of how to do it right.”

But Y members will be happy to know that the newest locationisn’t the only facility getting all of the attention.  The main branch’s Wellness Center has seen updated carpeting, equipment, and HVAC systems, and the RecPlex continues to see growth.  The gymnastics program, in particular, has seen explosive growth and now requires the use of the facility’s second floor.  Additionally, their childcare program has grown significantly and has expanded into the former Sanderson Elementary School building.

This physical growth and expansion is in addition to program success – old and new – at the Y.  For example, Darkness to Light, a newer offering featuring the Stewards to Children program that Howard has been involved with since before his arrival to Fairfield County in 2018, helps adults learn how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.  To date, 253 adults have been trained through this program in Fairfield County. Our strong partnership with the Harcum House and United Way have made this program possible.

To say that the staff here is pleased with this growth would be an understatement.

However, all of the success and growth of the Robert K. Family Fox YMCA program would not be possible without the numerous donors and partners that contribute a tremendousamount of support.

Someone else who played a huge role in the YMCA we know today was the organization’s namesake – Dr. Robert and Dorothy Fox. “Without the Fox family and their foundation, the (main campus) addition wouldn’t exist.  We truly wouldn’t be where we are today without the generosity of them and their continued financial support,” Kerry said.

Donations from the community go directly into the Y’s Annual Giving Campaign (AGC), which topped $210,000 in 2019.  As part of that $210k, over $10,000 came from the generosity of the selfless YMCA staff members themselves.  Fittingly, the success of the AGC meant that the YMCA turned no one away in 2019 for their inability to pay.

If you’re interested in joining the Robert K. Family Fox YMCA, consider their Better Together program – a referral program that can earn you a savings of 20 percent.  For more information, contact Annie Weaver at 740.654.0616 x234 or at aweaver@ymcalancaster.org.

For full information on the Robert K. Fox Family YMCA and their programs, visit them online and follow all their latest happenings on Facebook.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Georgie Emerson Vintage

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!

9C8512B4-9B30-4FA2-91E5-2434538C6316

Coming home. That’s how it feels when you enter Georgie Emerson Vintage.

Here you will find a comfortable atmosphere filled with beautiful things. Here you will find kind people who can’t wait to see what you have chosen. You will find laughter and a sense of belonging that will make you want to stay and shop just a little longer.

In every nook and cranny you will find something special, something you won’t find in any other store. Not to mention Pippa, the precious rescue dog who presides over the shop, accepting kisses, ear scratches and other forms of attention lavished on her by loyal shoppers and admirers.

1D4F8768-A1DC-419C-BCB9-9D82B4C2E06AWhen Polly McCormick was a little girl and people asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said Nels Olsen on Little House on the Prairie. “I always wanted to be Nels, to have that store counter. So I would play general store and my parents would be my customers,” she laughed.

Today she owns what she calls a vintage lifestyle shop with an enormous sales counter, large rolls of paper and twine, and an atmosphere that would make Nels proud.

She described her childhood with a mother who took her to yard sales, flea markets and auctions. They would find old pieces to clean, reimagine and transform into treasures. “She taught me to paint, sew, craft – I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” she said.

Yet, the road from playing mercantile to owning one was long and painful at times. She had a corporate career for several years and was working as Human Resources Manager for Big Lots when her parents fell ill and she took time off to care for them. After her father died, Polly said she worked to keep her mom in her own home for about seven years. During that time, Polly opened a booth at an antique mall, quietly growing this business and working part time at the antique mall where she learned about working retail.

It was after her mother passed in 2012 that Polly was feeling a little lost and the seeds of Georgie Emerson were planted.  With encouragement and support from her husband Mick, a small shop in downtown Canal was born. But that first 485 square foot shop was short lived as the business grew quickly. In fact, they are now in their fourth location, a 5,000 square foot space that allows Polly and her girls and guys to play with displays and to create charming vignettes at every turn.

Her girls and guys are a few of the 29 local people who create handmade items that are available only at Georgie Emerson.  Some helped Polly look past dirt and junk to transform their current location from cavernous to cozy. “I couldn’t have done it without their help. I might not be here if it weren’t for them,” she said.

Those 29 artists and artisans from Canal Winchester, Lancaster, Pickerington, Ashville and points in between work in a number of mediums  including ceramics, woodworking, crafting, sewing, metalwork, jewelry and painting. These Georgie Emerson exclusive items give the shop a sense of handmade flair to accompany fine quality vintage and antique items, and carefully curated reproduction pieces.

Clothing and accessories, furniture, wall art and a host of decorative items pack the store without feeling overwhelming

Polly finds inspiration in French country as well as modern farmhouse, using a palette of soft colors, beautiful textures and weathered patinas to create a sophisticated yet simple and warm environment.  “And fun! We want people to have fun with their homes. We want them to have fun with us,” she exclaimed. “I want people to feel like they got a hug when they visit here. Having a bad day? Shop here and you’ll laugh, you’ll be inspired, you can pet a dog and be happy,” she gushed while gesturing toward Pippa tucked away in her bed on the counter. Little Pippa presides over the shop, eager to meet a new friend and to greet an old one. People frequently pick her up, cuddling the affectionate little dog while they browse.

While Pippa clearly enjoys the attention, it seems her human friends gain something special from the interaction as well.  “People just love Pippa and you can tell it makes their day better having her here,” Polly said.

Pippa isn’t the only one to give special attention to customers. Watch Polly interact with customers for a few minutes and it is clear that she takes an interest in everyone who comes in. She knows their birthdays, the names of their pets and what they purchased last time. She inquires about a sick grandmother and about whether someone else is ready for their big move. She’s so friendly and engaging with everyone around her that the store takes on the atmosphere of a slumber party at times.

8F7AA063-DFB0-41ED-88B4-C42121520B34

“I guess I’m kind of a dreamer and have a bit of gypsy soul,” she said. “But in all my dreams, I never imagined it would become what it is today.”

The store that began as a tiny shop in 2012 continues to grow. Soon they will open Georgie Celebrates, a classroom space that will be available for rent for small parties. Polly expects the space to be available by spring.

Want to visit? George Emerson Vintage is located at 360 West Waterloo Street in Canal Winchester. They are open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Have questions?  Call 614.562.9938 or ask them on Facebook.  They go live on Facebook at least once a week and often post pictures and videos of new merchandise so be sure to follow them for the latest news!

Want to see more of the merchandise? Check out the slideshow below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Small Business Spotlight: Stuart Burial Vaults

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!

80687675_1184180558447026_9070079770682720256_n

This month’s Small Business Spotlight is with a business that recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. While they provide a service that most people need at some point in their lifetime, it isn’t the kind of business most of us frequent or even know exists.

Does this sound like a riddle?

It’s not really. The company in question is Stuart Burial Vaults, a family owned business that is still in their original building in Bremen.

“The vault is not what the public sees.  They know us for the tent they see when they arrive to the site in the funeral procession” says John Boone who is just the fifth owner of the 100 year old business.  “We take pride in the vaults we make as well as helping to provide a tasteful presentation for family and friends who want to honor their loved ones.”

Stuart Burial Vaults was started by John Stuart, a contractor and businessman who was making a name for himself in the early 1900s through his quality of work and his 9-bag mix of concrete.  As his reputation grew so did the size and importance of his projects.  He worked on bridges and roadways throughout the county that long outlived their expected lifecycle. He was even asked to consult with the construction of the Hoover Dam in Nevada!  Stuart was able to send his son to be on-site during the construction while he stayed home to run the vault business he created in 1919.

80424136_1488441691310400_2659597844519845888_nStuart Burial Vaults was actually one of the first four concrete vault businesses in the country.  In addition to creating and running the business, John Stuart was also a founding member of the National Burial Vault Association, which helped establish industry wide guidelines and standards.

“Just like Mr. Stuart 100 years ago, we work hard and take pride in what we do and we’re proud of it” John Boone beamed.

To say there is more than meets the eye to the business would be an understatement.  It’s not commonly known, but the customer base for a vault company is primarily made up of funeral directors.  Funeral directors order directly from the vault company. Then John and his team arrange for the delivery of the vault, the set-up of the presentation as well as the installment, tear-down, and return afterwards.

John estimates there are five appointments on the schedule of a typical day.  However, there have been more than twenty scheduled for a single day in the past. While this is a challenge, he credits his team’s professionalism and determination for always making it work out.  “If it can be done, we’ll find a way.  It’s amazing – we always work it out!”

Stuart Burial Vaults has nine trucks, a fleet of “buggies” for vault transport, and eleven employees on staff in addition to John.  John is tasked with orders, logistics, billing, and much of the day-to-day business dealings but he credits Foreman Delbert Hammer for making the business operate smoothly. “These guys are my heroes” John says repeatedly when referring to his team. “And Delbert is critical to our business.”

On days with fewer appointments, the crew works on creating and maintaining inventory.  That way, when they do have couple of days or weeks with busy schedules, they have the inventory to fulfill orders.

“The crew of guys we have now has been with me for years.  They can go out and wrestle a 2,000 pound vault in a muddy cemetery – handling it safely – and still have to bring a nice white tent back to me after it’s all said and done.  We have to have our tent look like this (points to pristine white tent in a photo) on a cold, wet, rainy, muddy, snowy day and still bring it back looking like this.”“They’re always on call.  Saturdays, holidays, bad days, good days.  We’re always on call just like police or doctors or firefighters.  These guys are my heroes.”

John first joined the Stuart team when he was sixteen and has spent most of his life in the business.  Now in his fifties, he owns the business after a lifetime of watching the industry and society evolve.  Cultural and societal shifts, insurance costs and coverage, costs associated with materials, and the wants and needs of funeral directors are things that have impacted the business.  “It didn’t change a bit for eighty years!  And now in the last decade things are changing quickly… but at the end of the day, it’s cement, sand, water, and gravel for us.  And it always will be.”

In addition to crediting his staff, John also credits his customers for the sustained success of the century year old business.

“My customers are great people.  I don’t have to worry and deal with some of the not-so-fun stuff that other businesses have to worry about.” John explained.  “Most of our customers have been with us for a long, long time.  Decades.” John explained. “I’m so lucky!”

Stuart Burial Vaults is located at 527 Ford Street, on their original site in Bremen. Visit their website to learn more. Friendly Bremen Banking Center and the VCNB financial family would like to congratulate John and his staff, and all of the previous owners and employees on reaching such a milestone!

 

 

Small Business Spotlight: The WOLF Radio

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!

 

In an age of online streaming and cookie cutter corporate owned radio stations, there’s a local radio station that continues to grow and thrive. WLOH, better known now as The WOLF, has carved out a   place in Fairfield, Hocking and Perry counties with a unique sound and commitment to community caring.

Talk to owner Mark Bohach about this business plan and it’s quickly clear that it’s not about business at all. “We really do care about our community. It’s that simple. And that’s why everyone here is involved in boards and organizations,” he said as he began to name all the local organizations that he and the staff support. From the library board to Young Professionals of Lancaster to the YMCA and lots in between, Mark and his staff make it a priority to be involved.

The last few years have represented a period of tremendous growth for the station beginning with the switch from talk radio to a country format in 2015. Since then, they’ve rebranded the station The WOLF and added a tower in Perry County, expanding their services to an important but underserved community.

fair-sponsors.jpg

Community involvement is integral to the success of The WOLF FM.

Being locally owned and operated, Mark calls the station “the anti-corporate media” with a chuckle. “We are the opposite of those big companies,” he said. “We play country music but we want to know what our listeners think. We support our community and the community supports us. That’s how it should be,” he said.

The casual listener would likely think the station sounds so professional and clear that it must be coming from a large market like Columbus rather than from a small studio on Lancaster’s Columbus Street. The sound quality is superb and local personalities give the station a professional but fun feel. Their bread and butter is classic and contemporary country music spanning sixty years. “We play both Georges,” he boasted. “Jones and Strait!”

They also air local, state and national news plus weather and sports. High school football and basketball are popular as well as Ohio State University, Cincinnati Bengals and Columbus Blue Jacket sports. They have five local DJs to keep things moving with a mix of talk about the music and good natured chatter. They also give priority to talking about events and issues important to the community. The Brownfield Ag Network provides farm news while the Nashville based Big D and Bubba in the Morning provide a popular syndicated radio show with plenty of room for the local news and weather listeners need.

Mark does on-air work, some ad sales and keeps the station’s technology current and running. His wife Arlene is the General Manager, running the front office and keeping the business end of things operating smoothly.

WLOH are the call letters but the brand is the WOLF. “We wanted to keep it simple and memorable. And it’s visual. You see it, you hear it. You know what it is,” Mark said. “The WOLF actually took off a lot faster than I expected. People were listening but they couldn’t remember our name. Now they know who we are.”

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

He is conscious of what the future will bring. “We have to ask the question. What is our place in the 21st century media environment? We’ll be having a meeting with the key players here to talk about that,” he said. “After years of growth, we’ll be sitting down to take a breath and to discuss where we are going. How do we remain relevant to our listeners?”

“You can get country music anywhere but you don’t get the local community just anywhere. A lot of people think of radio as a technology. And it is a technology that we use to deliver a service. If we forget that we are a service, we are lost.”

The changing role of technology in this century hasn’t missed the radio world. Online streaming allows listeners all over the world to tune into their hometown radio station. He said they can see where listeners are located and they often seen Afghanistan and other countries with a U.S. military presence pop up during high school sporting events. “People can hear the hometown news and listen to the game from wherever they are in this country or across the world,” he said.

The technology here is impressive. The studio was designed and built by Mark and their work is computerized and largely automated. Satellite receivers feed in up to the minute news and weather. News breaks, songs and ads are scheduled to run and everything feeds seamlessly but can be overridden by a DJ. Weather emergencies and Amber Alerts are programmed to break into regular programming.

He said the staff of eight is cross trained so that no one has a specialty but everyone is able to do everything. “I am blessed. We have great people here.

“So many corporations use technology to save money. We spend money on technology to serve our listeners better.”

This service they provide extends into a host of areas. For example, Mark regularly interviews Meals on Wheels Executive Director Anna Tobin about their activities. They do live remotes at events like the fair and incorporate upcoming events into their conversations around the music.

At work 2.jpg

Sales Representative Rachel Jones

Sales Representative Rachel Jones joined the company a little over a year ago. Mark is teaching her the ropes of owning a radio station as her goal is to eventually own a station of her own. She talked about the station’s approach to advertising. “Every business is unique and we treat them that way. What works for a car lot won’t work for a radio station,” she said while describing how she creates unique commercials for each advertising customer to help them get the most bang for their advertising buck. “I talk to them about their goals and help them see the best way to go.”

“When we add a client, we want to keep them for life,” Mark added. “That means getting to know them and understanding them,” he said. The radio station does rely on the support of advertisers to keep the business successful.

While Mark and others in the company are contemplating the future, they are also deeply rooted in the past. The station began as an a.m. station in 1948 and Mark beautifully tells the story of how the station has evolved since that time. The walls are covered in vintage WLOH advertising, awards and pictures. The 1963 a.m. transmitter that powered the station from 1963 to 1990, no longer operational, remains part of the décor.

Mark is complimentary of his staff and community and is clearly proud of the work they do in Fairfield, Hocking and Perry counties. “It’s a fun business and we love what we do,” Mark said. “I’m just grateful we’re able to do it.

Tune into the Wolf at 104.5 FM Lancaster, 99.3 FM Logan and 102.9 FM New Lexington. You can also listen to live streaming online or using their mobile app on your device. Visit them online for more. 

They also welcome new advertisers. Find advertising and contact information by clicking here.

 

 

Small Business Spotlight: Buff Lo Dip

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 Duane Boring to describe his product Buff Lo Dip and his eyes light up. “It has the taste of dipping buffalo chicken wings in ranch dressing, just minus the chicken,” he says with a smile.

DuaneGood served hot or cold, this locally made dip can be used on or with almost anything. In fact, he names a long list of items his customers use it on as a condiment including hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, baked potatoes and sloppy joes to name a few. It’s also commonly used on pizza, as a dip for chips, chicken nuggets and vegetables. “People get pretty creative with it sometimes,” he said.

Buff Lo dip – and yes, that’s the spelling – buffalo without the ‘A’, was born out of necessity in Duane’s home kitchen. “Years ago, there was a fast food restaurant that offered a similar sauce for dipping their chicken nuggets. I loved that stuff and had it at least a couple of times a week but they discontinued it,” he explained.

Since no one was selling anything like it, he decided to make his own for dipping those fast food nuggets.  “No one was selling it so I got up one Saturday morning and started pulling things out of the cupboards. I started mixing things up and wrote down the measurements each time so I would remember how to repeat it. And you know something? What I came up with was better than what they had in the first place!”

When his family liked the product, he packaged up samples to take to church. “I went to church with bags of eight ounce sample cups for a couple of weeks and asked people to try it. After a while, people were meeting me at the door wanting more. They wanted it for all kinds of things. They were putting it on sandwiches, pizza, all kinds of things. I just made it for my chicken nuggets!”

jar.jpgWhen requests to purchase the dip started to come in, he knew he had something special. So he began the year and half long journey to start his business and to learn the legalities of producing, selling and distributing food.

When he rolled out his Buff Lo Dip at McArthur Super Valu on July 11, 2011, that first order of 234 jars sold out in two days.

Today he has his own kitchen facility and distributes in thirteen states, thanks to Rural King. But he has a stronghold in gas stations, local groceries and other stores throughout southeast Ohio, Cincinnati, Columbus, Kentucky and West Virginia.

The former insurance agent oversees all aspects of his family business including production, marketing and working with distributors. His company van now has over 300,000 miles on it as he crisscrosses the country introducing new audiences to Buff Lo Dip at expos, trade shows and events. From a chicken wing festival in Memphis to the Holiday Market in Cincinnati and hunting and fishing expos everywhere in between, it seems that Duane has left no rock unturned as he works to grow sales.

He credits the partnership with Rural King for helping the business grow into new markets including Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and Missouri. “It’s great when you’re working a show and you’re able to tell someone who just said they love your dip that they can buy it a Rural King in their own community,” he said.

They can also ship to anywhere in the United States.

However, Buff Lo Dip isn’t just about making money. He is all about giving back and offers a fundraising program for non-profits. One example of fundraising success is the work he does with Future Farmers of America (FFA).  “I like working with FFA and last year was our biggest fundraising year with them,” he said.

As he talks about the business, he shares a good bit of wisdom that can be applied, not just to business but to all aspects of life. “Listen to everyone’s advice and use some of it because everyone in the world will tell you what to do. You have to listen, decipher and take from it what will work for you.”

He has another sound piece of advice regarding getting what you want. “My son has asked how I keep getting into different stores. I tell him that I walk in with a jar of dip, a business card and a smile on my face. What do I have to lose by asking? If I don’t ask, the answer will always be no. Why not give it a shot? The worst that will happen is they’ll keep my sample jar and not order anything,” he said.

The Vinton County native said that his wife Trish and three kids Zac, Levi and Amanda have been supportive of the business and all have played different roles in making it successful. “It’s not a huge company. We’re not millionaires or anything like that but I like what I’m doing and that’s more important than making a lot of money at a job you hate.”

Find Buff Lo Dip in a store near you with their location finder or just visit their website to learn more about the company.

Like and follow them on Facebook or Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

Small Business Spotlight: Tim’s Wood Shop

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!

Tim's wood shop exterior

Look around America’s small towns and it’s sometimes hard to find skilled craftsmen making quality goods. That’s why Jackson is fortunate to have Tim’s Wood Shop, a small business in the community for more than thirty years.

One key to success has been their ability to change with the times and with customer demand, according to owner Tim Crabtree. The Oak Hill native actually started the business as a furniture shop in 1977. Tim said it had long been his dream to make furniture professionally but soon realized that making a living in this field would be challenging in southern Ohio. At the same time, he saw a demand for high quality custom doors and wood trims so he left furniture making for this more secure business model in 1987.

Growing the business over time, Tim has earned a reputation for quality products and service.

But the business has continued to evolve in recent years as the demand for custom wood flooring has increased so much that it is now the focus of the business.  “There is a lot of competition but our niche is that we do have a quality product. It’s better than what you will find elsewhere,” he said.

Most of their flooring is made with rift quarter sawn white oak but he noted they are happy to make flooring from any Appalachian hardwood that they can acquire including red oak and walnut.

While engineered flooring now comprises about half of the wood flooring market, Tim said there are different advantages and disadvantages to both engineered and hardwood flooring. For example, the price of flooring found in big box stores is lower but the veneer is often easily ruined by moisture. On the other hand, hardwood floors can be repeatedly repaired with sanding and refinishing. “What we do is more durable, the millwork is better and honestly, it’s a better long term investment,” he said.

The business is a family affair with help from Tim’s brother as well as Tim’s wife Lois who helps run the shop. An experienced woodworker in her own right, Lois helps with creating the chevron and herringbone floors. She said that most customers choose traditional plank flooring but there is a good market for these specialty floors.

flooringShe also explained that they offer two grades of wood – “Select grade” which typically is without flaws and has consistent color as well as “Character grade” which may have knots, variation in color and other small flaws. “It just depends on your taste and what you’re looking for,” she said, explaining that most customers choose the better grade while some still prefer the character that comes with flaws.

They sell their products locally as well as to distributors across Ohio and in other states.

In addition to themselves, Tim’s Wood Shop currently employs six people but they are looking for workers who have experience as well as those who are interested in learning. “We’re as busy as we’ve ever been so we do need help,” he said.  “We’re better than a big company on quality and sometimes we’re even more efficient but we do need good workers to make that work.”

Tim said they are always looking for ways to improve efficiency. One way they have done this is by transforming sawdust into firewood. The sawdust is turned into two pound bricks that are pure wood. Virtually ash free and creosote free, they have no additives or bugs and are a popular firewood source in the area. It sells for $175 a ton. Tim credits the Jackson County Economic Development Partnership for a $20,000 grant that helped fund the $92,000 machine used to create this product.

Tim’s Wood Shop is located on Athens Street, near Osco in Jackson. The large blue building has served many purposes over the years and was once a King Edward Cigar factory. Look closely at one side of the building to see a King Edward ad.

Want to know more? Tim’s Wood Shop is located at 117 Athens Street and is open 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Click here to visit their website or call 740.286.4535.