VCNB Spotlight: Lancaster Festival 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart

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! This time we are pleased to feature Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart in Lithopolis.

Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart adds color and charm to the streetscape in downtown Lithopolis.

Ask Amy and Joseph Contino about their coffee shop and it is clear that it’s not your run-of-the-mill place to buy coffee. The business and its owners have a colorful story and something special to offer. Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart has stood out as a colorful addition to the Lithopolis streetscape for ten years. The brick exterior with cheerful yellow accents invites customers in but it’s the European experience and German coffee that keeps them coming back.

Joseph is a charismatic storyteller who accepts responsibility for the vision that led to this venture.

The pair are veterans – he’s an Italian from Groveport and she is from generations of good German stock in Cincinnati. They met while serving in the US Air Force where she picked up the call sign Frau Burkhart, a fun twist on her maiden name and German heritage with a hat tip to Cloris Leachman’s character Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein.

The coffee shop is actually modeled off the German cafes that Joseph, an Air Force Pilot, discovered during his many trips to Germany. “We were never what you would call coffee snobs. We were utilitarian drinkers and really just drank coffee for the caffeine. That all changed my first time in Germany,” he said.  “I was tired, I was exhausted and I just wanted a cup of coffee to give me some energy. One taste and I was hooked. It was the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.”

He discovered that coffee is less beverage and more a way of life in Germany where every restaurant, dance club, beer garden and café serves excellent coffees. Inspired and motivated, he began searching the country for the best of the best German brew while convincing a reluctant Amy that this was a good idea.

The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the coffee shop sits on the main drag through town, not far from central Ohio communities where consumers are looking for a different kind of coffee shop experience.

And it is different from other American coffee houses.

The laidback vibe here is offset by cool techno music, a reminder of the German club scene. Walls are adorned with artwork and subtle humorous nods to the country.  “We have a different vibe and a different product on purpose. We don’t want to be like everyone else and we actually embrace the different. That’s what makes us who we are,” he said. “What we do here is organic and sincere.”

What really makes them who they are is the coffee, pastries and light sandwiches that keep a steady stream of customers coming in throughout the day. The menu is extensive but they are known for their Das KaffeeHaus German blend, a brew that is derived from a German recipe that dates back to 1632 in Aachen, Germany. They say the proprietary blend is a light roast by American standards and a much different experience than most US coffee drinkers have come to expect from a chain coffee shop.

They are also known for their Schwarzenegger Austrian Roast, Blitzkrieg French Roast and D’Allessandro Italian Espresso Roast. The menu includes some specialty teas, smoothies and hand dipped Velvet Ice Cream from nearby Utica, Ohio. Like in Germany, real ice cream is used in their Frappe’ called the Frostlatte and in a drink called an Eis Kaffee – A coffee/ice cream float where hot coffee is poured over your favorite ice cream and topped with whipped cream. The Eis Kaffee happens to be the most popular coffee drink in Germany.

Daily specials offer regulars the opportunity to try something different.

Amy said the coffee is the star of the show here but they also offer pastries that are handmade daily as well as some simple sandwiches. Pastries you may find in their case include cream puffs, turnovers, strudels and Bavarian pretzels, complete with their German and American names proudly displayed. She did admit that marrying German traditions and the American palette can be a challenge. “We tend to expect things to be sweet but pastries in Germany tend to be not at all sweet so we’ve had to make some adjustments,” she explained.

They do not claim to run an authentic German business in the heart of Ohio. Instead, they have taken the best of the German café concept and tried to make it a fun, delicious experience for a consumer who is looking for a bit of culture and something different with their coffee.

Listeners of 99.7 the Blitz Radio in Columbus know that they’re the official coffee of the Blitz and have likely heard Joseph read funny and sometimes edgy copy as Herr Joseph. They are also developing a beer garden that will be located behind the coffee shop and that they hope to have ready for Oktoberfest 2021. They are open to speaking with anyone interested in franchising and investment opportunities as well.

To get the full Das KauffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart experience, stop by 45 East Columbus Street in Lithopolis. Follow them on Facebook for the latest news or visit them online for hours, menu and to hear some of Herr Joseph’s radio spots.

Small Business Spotlight: Castaways Restaurant

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!

This month we are excited to feature Castaways Restaurant in Lancaster, an iconic eatery high on the hill “above the fairgrounds” as the advertisements used to say.  Established over seventy years ago at this very location, Castaways is a Lancaster staple.

While some necessary changes have been made through the years, the meat and potatoes of the restaurant remains the same – the food!  Fresh steaks, chops, and burgers sourced from Bay Food Market accompany a wide variety of seafood, sandwiches, salads, and stone-baked pizzas on the menu.  Their legendary Prime Rib Wednesdays, held bi-weekly, have been satisfying crowds who come in to “eat at the butcher’s house” for decades.

For as long as anyone can remember, the Kraft family has been connected to the historic restaurant.  The connection, first through the Bay farm and then through Bay Food Market, eventually led to Bay Food Market owner David Kraft buying the restaurant in 1997 when original owner Fred Eaton decided to sell.

For many years the restaurant stuck with what worked in more than just the kitchen.  Traditional marketing tactics were used to promote the restaurant and word of mouth was heavily relied upon.  However, in recent years as David’s daughter Micole Ruff has taken on more responsibility with the family business, she’s made the marketing side one of her top priorities.  Step #1 was to make social media a serious part of their strategy.

With an eye for photography, Micole posts to social media nearly every day, whether it be photos on Instagram or updates and shout outs on Facebook.  On Sundays and Mondays, when the restaurant is closed, she even makes an effort to shout out other local businesses and establishments.

Like everyone else, the business had to evolve last year because of the challenges that came with the pandemic. “We just did what they told us we needed to do,” Micole said, referring to operating a restaurant amidst a global pandemic.  “We really didn’t have a choice.  But we were lucky that we already had a good amount of carry-out business before this all happened.”  The already-established base of their carryout business, she says, is a large reason why their temporary but mandatory shift to carry-out only service was successful.

Then they experimented with bringing in musicians to play on the patio for the guests dining outdoors on summer and autumn Prime Rib Wednesdays.  That went from experiment to official part of the schedule each week almost immediately.  Now, musicians are lining up to play once the weather breaks this year. The calendar is already booked through May.

One of the most publicized efforts over the past year was the opening of their kitchen to Jamie Mast, owner of The Original Jimmy’s Jawbreaker concession trailer, another legendary staple of the local dining community.  Several times throughout 2021, Jamie was able to come in and cook alongside the Castaways crew in the kitchen.  On these special nights, the Original Jimmy’s Jawbreaker burgers and homemade cannolis were offered alongside the full Castaway’s menu.  Doing something a little bit different offered a lift to the business.  “Jamie and her businesses have been long time customers so it was a natural fit to partner with her for something like this.  It was great for all of us!”

With seventy years of experience preparing delicious food, Castaways has a loyal fan base beating a path to the off-the-beaten path restaurant above the city. They invite newcomers to follow their lead and discover what all the fuss is about when people gush about their delectable fresh cut meats, homemade dressings and stone baked pizzas.

Visit Castaways at 1500 North High Street in Lancaster. You can also find them on Facebook or Instagram and view their full menu on their website.  Dine in or carry out your dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays and don’t forget to pre-order your Wednesday prime rib feast a day ahead of time!

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.

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.

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.”

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.